Tanking might not be fun for some, although personally, I don’t mind it.
Lose, and you get the gratification of knowing your team just gained better odds at snagging the draft’s biggest superstar. Win, and you still get the instant joy of beating your opponent!
The Sens have been doing some of the latter lately (maybe a bit much for those firmly in Team Tank), defeating the New Jersey Devils by a convincing score of 5-3. Ottawa’s now won three of their four games so far in February, while still holding firm in the league’s third last position.
At a pre-game glance, this looked like a matchup that was set up to be a stomping by the Devils. Ottawa’s depth at forward was razor thin, and the Devils were much higher in the standings and in the middle of a winning streak. It appeared to be heading that direction early too, as Travis Zajac gave New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Dion Phaneuf made a bad giveaway to former Sens first round pick Stefan Noesen (remember him?), who made the pass to a wide open Zajac. It was a classic Phaneuf-Ceci goal against, putting the Sens down by a goal two minutes in.
Interestingly enough, the pair was split up for most of the game afterwards, with Phaneuf going next to Borowiecki while Ceci played with Chabot. Is it possible that Boucher has finally had enough of his infamous second pairing? Maybe, but this happened a few times in November and December as well. I’m not getting my hopes up yet.
Penalties to Blake Coleman and Kyle Palmieri gave Ottawa 53 seconds of a two-man advantage. The Senators went back to basics, taking the all-too-familiar page called ‘pass the puck to Mike Hoffman’. It worked, because of course it did, it’s Mike Hoffman, as his slap shot from the circle could’ve won him the competition at the All-Star weekend.
In somewhat-related news, and to the delight of the fanbase, it sounds like Pierre Dorion may be reconsidering the possibility of a Hoffman trade. With goals in consecutive games, six points in a four-game streak, plus a shootout winner as the cherry, The Hoff has been on fire.
Because Hoffman’s goal came on the two man advantage, the Sens were still left with power play time on the clock. The second unit capitalized as well, with Chris DiDomenico’s shot deflecting off Sami Vatanen and squirming past Keith Kinkaid to give the Sens the lead.
DiDomenico played a total of 9:34 and 7:46 at 5v5, both of which were second last on the team behind recent call-up Max McCormick. For a player that had ‘Boucher signing’ written all over it, it’s still a bit surprising to see the way he’s been handled within the organization. His stats in Switzerland were significantly better than Tom Pyatt, and at 28 years old, he still has some prime hockey left in him. His points-per-game is higher than Pageau and Smith, and although his 25% shooting percentage won’t be sustained, he’s been far more competent than many of the other depth regulars.
With the lead, the Sens didn’t slow their scoring one bit, with Hoffman and Duchene displaying their chemistry to put Ottawa up 3-1 on home ice. Duchene’s power move to the net plus backhand shot was his ninth as a Senator.
McCormick made his presence known early in the second, dropping the gloves with Ben Lovejoy. The young and feisty forward, who leads the Belleville Senators in penalty minutes (11th in the AHL), was benched for most of the game’s remainder, including the last 12:48 of the third period.
The story of the night belonged to the Sens’ top line of Hoffman, Duchene and White. The trio was responsible for two of Ottawa’s first three goals, and they rounded it out as Colin White scored his first career NHL goal! Duchene entered the zone and fed the puck to Thomas Chabot, who sent a crisp pass to White on the other side. The young forward scored a goal that he will never forget, one of which will surely be many in the NHL. It was so good, in fact, that the Devils replaced Kinkaid for Eddie Lack, who hadn’t seen NHL ice since November 15th.
Not too long afterwards, Taylor Hall tossed a clean hit on Alex Burrows, who went bonkers are started throwing punches every which way. It was a sequence of events that would make you scratch your head at why he’s being paid $2.5 million to do this, resulting in two minors for cross checking and roughing. Keep an eye out for a hearing from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
And in a sweet moment of revenge, Taylor Hall scored on the first of two minors to bring the Devils within two.
Late in the frame, Zack Smith took a penalty for hooking. The Sens killed off the penalty pretty handily, and with Smith escaping the box, the perfectly timed pass from Pageau sent him flying in on a breakaway. He scored, restoring the three goal lead.
The pace slowed down significantly in the third period, as the first shot on goal didn’t even happen until five minutes in. It was a goal, too, with Pavel Zacha’s pass finding an open Palmieri in front. That was all the third had to offer, as the teams combined for 11 shots on goal the entire period. For comparison, each team had at least 11 each in both the first and second.
The Sens were victors again, taking this one by a final score of 5-3.
- Hoffman-Duchene-White provided plenty of offence in the absence of Stone and Brassard.
- Craig Anderson had an overall solid night, as two of the goals against were nasty shots from the Devils, with the third being abandoned by his defence.
- Kudos to Chris Wideman for hopping on the broadcast, as he shared an update following his first skate post-surgery. He said he anticipated to be back before the end of the season, after the initial reports claimed he was done until 2018-19.
- Taylor Hall is an absolute monster. Playing in his 500th career game no less.
Individual Expected Goals (from MoneyPuck.com)
Duchene’s three points were only a warm-up for the next game, as Kyle Turris makes his return to Ottawa with the Nashville Predators on Thursday.