Even thirteen months ago — thirteen — I thought the only time I’d ever have to write “Erik Karlsson returns to Ottawa” would be a decade from now, on the night the Senators inevitably retired the jersey of the greatest player in franchise history.
Well, as we all know by now, Stuff Happened (and for a summary of my feelings on said Stuff, please read Ross’ morning piece here). Hence, the city of Ottawa is abuzz, and the atmosphere around the Canadian Tire Centre for a Saturday afternoon matinée is palpable.
Let’s get to the lines, shall we? Fresh off of their best performance of the season, there will likely only be one change to the Senators lineup, with defenceman Maxime Lajoie nursing a minor injury. He joins Mark Borowiecki in the day-to-day camp, and if neither can go, expect newly signed defenceman Justin Falk to get his first action with the Sens. Erik Burgdoefer has been called up from Belleville — who played last night — but isn’t expected to play, per TSN’s Brent Wallace:
Dzingel - Duchene - Batherson
Boedker - Tierney - Ryan
Pyatt - Smith - Paajarvi
Chabot - DeMelo
Falk (?) - Ceci
Harpur - Jaros
Meanwhile, the Sharks are currently on a three-game losing streak, and are expected to roll with these lines:
Hertl - Couture - Labanc
Sorensen - Thornton - Goodrow
Radil - Suomela - M. Karlsson
Ryan - Burns
Dillon - Karlsson
Vlasic - Braun
Extras: Timo Meier (inj.)
- The first thing you may notice about the Sharks lineup is how they’ve spread out their depth. The top two lines are filled with established talent or promising young players, and Joe Thornton — still a very good second-line centre — is managing the team’s third-line. While the forward corps are dandy, Sharks fans have been concerned with how head coach Pete DeBoer have been utilizing his defencemen. Again, the team have opted to spread out their talent, separating (likely the league’s top defence-pair) in Vlasic and Karlsson. Those two, along with 2017 Norris Trophy winner (!) Brent Burns, still play the most minutes among Sharks D, but it is curious usage and may be one of the reasons why the Sharks haven’t run away with the Pacific yet.
- San Jose’s middling record of 12-9-5 really isn’t indicative of how well they’ve played, and it’s put some extra pressure on Erik Karlsson as the team’s newest star. They’re top-five in both generating shots for and in preventing shots against, with a 55.6% CF%, and 55.5% xGF% at 5-on-5 play. However, they’ve shot 6.85% (7th worst) and only stop 0.898% (worst) of the pucks at 5-on-5 — two marks that will ultimately doom your record. Like Ross mentioned in his piece about Karlsson, I fully expect the Sharks’ team shooting percentage and goaltending to shore up, and certainly wouldn’t want to face them in a 7-game series.
- Also playing their former teams tonight are Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Mikkel Boedker, and, to some extent, Marcus Sorensen. Tierney’s putting up far better production (0.69 PPG) than his previous season with San Jose (0.49 PPG), and has settled into a similar role as the Sens’ third-line centre. His shot impacts are struggling — which is what happens when you move from a team who’s doing this at 5-on-5 to one that’s doing this — but even relatively speaking, Tierney’s been having a rough go lately. DeMelo has been paired with Thomas Chabot for a majority of his minutes, filling a need for the Sens as a capable right-shot defender, while Boedker is currently alongside Tierney and fellow overpaid, getting older dude, Bobby Ryan.
- On the Senators end, it’ll be interesting to see how Boucher matches up his lines at home. Against the Rangers, the Smith line matched up against Zibanejad, leaving Stone to the Hayes/Vesey and Duchene against the kids. The Sharks have three experienced centres — Pavelski, Couture, Thornton — that will be tough matchups regardless, so I’m curious to see where Boucher tries to find holes.
- It’s also hard to look at Hertl, Labanc, or (the injured) Meier, and not think how nice they’d compliment the Sens forward unit. Many wouldn’t have been surprised if Karlsson returned one of those players.
|Penalty Kill %||74.5||28th||79.2||16th|
|Corsi (5v5, Score & Venue Adjusted)||42.91||31st||49.86||15th|
|Fenwick (5v5, SVA)||43.25||31st||51.42||11th|
|Goals||Mark Stone||18||Cam Atkinson||23|
|Assists||Thomas Chabot||28||Artemi Panarin||29|
|Points||Mark Stone||43||Artemi Panarin||41|
|Shots||Thomas Chabot||100||Cam Atkinson||149|
|TOI/GP||Thomas Chabot||23:52||Seth Jones||26:18|