I can’t imagine too many folks predicted that the Ottawa Senators would be ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference standings as we approach the quarter point of the season, but that’s where we find ourselves today. So while the Sens’ mediocre record has been a pleasant surprise given pre-season expectations, the Pens’ current position stands as a serious disappointment. Pittsburgh might not be the powerhouse of yesteryear, but they’re just two years removed from a Stanley Cup banner, and they were one of the ten or so best teams in the league last season. A lot of their familiar faces remain, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, but the results just haven’t been there so far. The underlying numbers don’t tell the story of an unlucky team ready to break out at any minute, either: the Pens are 17th in CF% at 5v5 and are sub 50% for the year. They just....haven’t been that good. Are they in the midst of a slow start, or are we witnessing the beginning of the end of this iteration of Pens’ dominance of the East? These are the kinds of questions that get asked when you’re tied for last in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, Ottawa comes into tonight’s game fresh off a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings that was punctuated by Drake Batherson’s first career goal and Craig Anderson stopping two penalty shots in the same period. The Sens don’t quite have play-off aspirations just yet, but a .500 record is buying them some amount of goodwill with the fanbase.
Guy Boucher confirmed this morning that Ottawa will go with the same line-up as Thursday night to start this one:
Boedker - Duchene - Batherson
Dzingel - Tierney - Ryan
Pyatt - Smith - Paajarvi
Chabot - DeMelo
Lajoie - Ceci
Borowiecki - Wideman
Extras: Max McCormick
As for the Pens, here’s how we expect they might line up courtesy of fellow SB Nation blog Pensburgh (though these lines have yet to be confirmed):
Guentzel - Brassard - Kessel
Simon - Sheahan - Rust
Wilson - Cullen - Aston-Reece
Johnson - Letang
Dumoulin - Ruhwedel
Maatta - Oleksiak
-Derick Brassard is expected to play his first game back in Ottawa since the trade last spring that sent him to Pittsburgh. Although his tenure with the Sens was short-lived, he played a key role in the run to the Conference Finals in 2017 and I expect the fans will give him a nice ovation.
-Sidney Crosby remains out of the line-up with an unspecified upper body injury. The Pens’ captain skated this morning at the Canadian Tire Centre but was ruled out shortly thereafter.
-It seems strange to say, but with Chabot’s breakout season and the emergence of some of the team’s young talent, Mark Stone’s stellar season has been perhaps a bit overlooked. Stone’s gone for 21 points in 19 games and the Sens are getting more of the shots when he’s on the ice at 5v5. To put that in context, as a team the Sens have a horrid 42.89% share of the shots at 5v5 but when Stone is on the ice that number jumps all the way up to 52.62%. Ottawa’s basically playing two different games: one when Stone is on the ice, and one when he’s off of it. He should be a candidate for the Selke this year, I’m just saying it now.
|Goals||Matt Duchene||10||Mikael Granlund||10|
|Assists||Thomas Chabot||19||Mikko Koivu||14|
|Points||Matt Duchene||27||Mikael Granlund||19|
|Shots||Thomas Chabot||62||Matt Dumba||67|
|TOI/GP||Thomas Chabot||23:27||Ryan Suter||25:53|
|Penalty Kill %||68.2||31st||84.9||3rd|
|Corsi (5v5, Score & Venue Adjusted)||42.92||30th||49.39||19th|
|Fenwick (5v5, SVA)||43.65||30th||40.45||15th|