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Senators shutout by Howard, Red Wings; lose 2-0

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Wings now six points up on the Sens as we head into the last two weeks of the regular season.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it looks like the Ottawa Senators are getting a top-five pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. A win over the Red Wings would’ve put them in line with the Habs and Wings, but with just four games left, it’s hard to see the Senators passing three teams pre-lottery. A big four-point win, if you will.

The game certainly looked like it was being played by two non-playoff teams this afternoon, as it was a low scoring, low scoring-chance affair. The shots on goal, 31-28 Ottawa, show the Sens with a slight edge, but I’d say that the Wings looked a step ahead for most of the contest.

In lieu of trying to analyze an uneventful game in paragraph form, here are some bullets with significant thoughts and analysis:

  • This was Jimmy Howard’s first shutout since October 22nd, 2016 (!), and dare I say, the Senators made it pretty easy for him. Mike Condon also had a relatively solid night in net, being beat on two goals that he had absolutely no chance on. Natural Stat Trick had the high-danger scoring chances (HDCF) at six a piece at 5-on-5, which sounds right. Corsica had the Sens ahead on expected goals (xGF) but it was mainly due to their four powerplay opportunities.
  • Speaking of the powerplays, the Senators were 0 for 5. The good? Chabot, White, and Wolanin all played 3+ minutes on them, while Alex Burrows only got 39 seconds. The bad? There really doesn’t appear to be any kind of strategy other than a) give the puck to Karlsson and see what he can do, and b) hit Hoffman for a one-timer. Wolanin, who has a rocket from the point, wasn’t set up once; neither was Chabot. It must be frustrating for Karlsson to have it all on him, and I genuinely hope the coaching staff is asked about this at their end-of-year presser.
  • The Senators penalty kill managed to keep Detroit off the board on their four powerplays. The veterans (Pyatt, Burrows, Smith, Paajarvi, etc.) received the bulk of the time here. I gripe about the powerplay more than the penalty kill, but the Wings were able to take advantage of a couple of Sens miscues positionally, especially by Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, and Max McCormick.
  • The Wings’ opening goal is a doozy, and it’s easy to want to blame Wolanin for jumping up or Karlsson for missing the pass. However, I’m more shocked at the bad change, with two Sens players heading slowly off the ice before the puck was safely in the offensive zone. Now I know generally speaking you can assume that Karlsson et al. are going to execute a play, but Erik ended up as the lone player back as Nick Jensen quick-upped the puck to Anthony Mantha, whose fake-shot then slick pass fed Larkin for the tap in.
  • The Wings speed was on display all night. There was one sequence at the start of the second where Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Dzingel traded breakaways on the same shift. The Wings two fastest forwards — Larkin and Athanasiou — are the ones who scored, too. It routinely looked like Thomas Chabot and Erik Karlsson were the only two defenders capable of making plays. On one chance, Darren Helm (a noted speedster) had a breakaway but Karlsson’s speed forced him to rush it. Helm managed to stay with the puck and nearly gifted Athanasiou his second of the night but the Greek forward missed it on his backhand. Colin White was the next closest player, but it says a lot that this play happened in transition and Karlsson was the only one able to react. Two of the Sens quicker players — Karlsson and Hoffman — combined for 11 of the team’s 31 shots on net.
  • Once again, Christian Wolanin led all Senators defencemen in CF% (61% on the night at 5-on-5). He played the least among Sens defencemen with just above 13 minutes, but once again showed his capabilities offensively and defensively. I continue to be impressed with his awareness of his body defensively. In the third period, he used his body and its position relative to the boards to shield the puck numerous times, and helped the Sens transition the puck up the ice. At 23-years-old, Wolanin looks like a modern-day NHL puck-moving defenceman and if he’s going to be an NHLer, it’ll likely be sooner rather than later. Too bad he wasn’t able to get his first NHL point after he set Ryan Dzingel up for a one-timer on the Sens final powerplay of the afternoon.
  • Ice-time update for the other Sens rooks? White (17:06; 1 shot on goal; 35% CF%), Chlapik (7:36; 2 shots on goal; 60% CF%), Chabot (20:22; 2 shots on goal; 48% CF%).

Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick

Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick