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Three Stars of the Week: Holiday Edition

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Weeks 12 and 13 were, shall we say, not good

NHL: Washington Capitals at Ottawa Senators
It often felt like the Sens needed twice as many players to stop the opposition
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Since we last did this on December 17th, it’s not been pretty. After beating the Predators 4-3 in overtime, coughing up a three-goal lead before salvaging it late, the Senators lost four in a row, only the most recent of which (a 3-2 loss to the Capitals) felt particularly close. Losing starting goalie Craig Anderson to a concussion definitely hurt things, and now we look forwarding to Thomas Chabot and Christian Jaros out for weeks as well. This mess of a team is turning into even more of a mess of a team. With 39 points on the season, they’re tied with the St. Louis Blues for second-last in the NHL. The good news is that losing every game and being last in the NHL is about as bad as it can get. So things can only improve from here, right?

Three Stars

  1. Mark Stone. When things are rough, pick the easy picks, right? Stone is nearly always the Sens’ best player. The fact that we all remember his giveaway that led to a Mathew Barzal goal tells you how rarely he makes mistakes like that. Over the five games, Stone tallied two goals and four assists, and generally did his best to hype up the team. Most of this team’s offence flows through him.
  2. Matt Duchene. This is about the only other guy the team’s offence can flow through. Three goals in five games isn’t amazing, but he also worked hard to drive the offence. His edgework was on display throughout the games, reminding us again what a great skater he is. Guy Boucher also tried very hard to make either Zack Smith or Bobby Ryan work on Duchene’s wing, which probably didn’t help the offence.
  3. Nick Paul. This may seem like an odd choice, but he’s actually doing what fourth-liner should be doing. Paul played three games this week, and his 5v5 shot attempt numbers were 79%, 60%, and 50%. in seven, nine, and 14 minutes respectively (all numbers via Natural Stat Trick). That’s what you want from a fourth-liner: keep the puck out of your own zone, giving your other lines a chance to go to work offensively. Considering neither Pyatt nor Paajarvi could crack 50% on the week, I’d like to see Paul continue in this role. (Though it’s hard to forget to bobbled pass that led to a goal for the Islanders.)

Trending Up

  • Marcus Hogberg was OK in his NHL debut, and will get the start again tonight. If he can turn into a viable NHL backup option, that will be a huge improvement from being the third-string goalie in Belleville he was to start the season.
  • Mark Borowiecki was surprisingly in the team’s top-third for 5v5 shot attempts in every game he played these weeks. Considering he was overstretched with 1.5 games without Thomas Chabot, it’s nice to see him more than hold his own. A couple years ago he looked like he shouldn’t be an NHL defenceman, whereas the last couple seasons it’s looked he can be a sixth defenceman. That’s improvement.
  • Cody Ceci’s most recent game against Washington was the best game we’ve seen from him in a while. We still have about 394 games that say he’s not good and about seven where he’s looked good, so I’d lean towards him not being very good. Still, credit where credit is due. And if he can somehow pry Jesse Puljujarvi or something free from the Oilers, then we’ll all agree he’s been very good.
  • Brady Tkachuk went eight games without a point, so nice to see him put up four points in his last six games, including two assists in the most recent game. Not to mention he scored three goals against Nashville, just only one of them counted.
  • Honourable mention to Guy Boucher for keeping Tkachuk on the bench in garbage time against the Isles because he (Tkachuk) wanted to fight. Christian Jaros had just broken his hand, so it was probably smart of Boucher to not feed Tkachuk to the wolves.

Trending Down

  • The aforementioned Tom Pyatt and Magnus Paajarvi have not looked good all season. Pyatt gets the brunt of the criticism, but Paajarvi was a reasonable offseason move that now just looks like it’s blocking prospects from seeing NHL chances. A quick reminder: just because you don’t score doesn’t mean you’re good defensively. Players who don’t score are sometimes just not good.
  • I hate to put Mike McKenna here, because he’s been serviceable I guess, but allowing four goals and five goals in his two starts has not been helpful. He seems to not quite have his angles right, because he gets beaten cleanly when square to a shooter who’s in the faceoff circles. We’ll see if Hogberg gets a chance to see if he can be the starter for a bit.
  • Injuries are gross. Anderson and Justin Falk are both out with concussions, Thomas Chabot is out for three weeks with something, and Jaros is out a month after breaking his hand in a meaningless fight. The injury list for the franchise is something to behold (and also a reminder that Jim O’Brien is still part of the franchise):

Who to watch

As the main noisemaker of the Marcus Hogberg fan club, I’m really hoping to see him impress this week.