This seems familiar. It was just on Saturday that the Ottawa Senators were facing off against the Arizona Coyotes — two teams who were battling at the bottom of the standings, trying to grab the best possible odds at the first pick in the 2018 draft.
They returned home to play the Buffalo Sabres, who after this game, sit only two points behind them for the league’s second worst position. The players don’t care about the tank, however, as they’re all still trying their best to earn every dollar. It made for a tight and hard-fought match, with Buffalo ultimately coming out ahead, 4-3 in the shootout.
The first few minutes foreshadowed what the rest of the game’s story would be for Ottawa, as Ryan Dzingel rushed in on a breakaway to be denied by Robin Lehner. The Sens were also given nearly four full minutes of power play time, but couldn’t quite get it working.
Buffalo scored first late in the frame. Mark Stone turned the puck over to Nick Baptiste, who rushed in for a shot on Craig Anderson. Cody Ceci couldn’t quite clear the rebound, as Marco Scandella was able to regroup it at the blue line, spin, and take a quick knuckleball shot. Anderson wasn’t aware, and it slipped by for the game’s first goal.
This was the start of another theme from the evening — sloppy defensive play, and no shortage of turnovers. This applied to both sides, as although they combined for 19 giveaways, it seemed like way more.
Moving into period #2, Ottawa was quick to get on the board, with Ryan Dzingel’s wrist shot alone in front beating Lehner. Justin Falk made an errant pass behind his own net, with Duchene picking it up and sending it to Dzingel in front.
Less than three minutes later, Dzingel hit the ice again, and scored again, to bring his season total to nineteen. A Sabres defensive breakdown set up Mike Hoffman with the cross-crease pass to Dzingel, who made no mistake burying it to give Ottawa the 2-1 lead.
The back-and-forth of scoring continued, with Buffalo getting the next one. Sam Reinhart, the younger brother of Belleville-Sen Max Reinhart, had the easy tap-in. Thomas Chabot’s clearing attempt was no success, as he couldn’t hold his feet going into the corner. It started a small chain of passes closing into Ottawa’s crease, with the puck ending up in the back of their net.
Chabot would make up for the error, however, regaining the lead for Ottawa with a nice wrist shot three minutes later. A couple Sabres players were late getting back for the rush the opposite way, giving the rookie defenceman ample time to calculate and execute his shot.
MAGNUS PAAJARVI TALLIES HIS 100TH POINT WITH THIS FEED TO THOMAS CHABOT WHO SLAMS ONE HOME! 3-2 SENS! pic.twitter.com/x4Oi9wd6N6— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) March 9, 2018
Dzingel nearly completed the hat trick, sliding the puck right across the goal line. A tap from Mike Hoffman didn’t do quite enough either, as the puck was mere centimetres from fully crossing when Lehner scooped it up.
I’d like to interrupt this recap for a brief moment. Reader, meet Gold Drafting. Gold Drafting, meet reader. It’s a rule the NHL should be taking into consideration, which would make a game like this one much more exciting to watch.
The premise, which was popularized by Micah McCurdy, is that in order to receive the first overall pick, a team must accumulate the most standings points after they have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This allows the worse teams more time to accumulate points, while also incentivizing them to win later in the season when it may already seem gone. Draft slots 1-15 are determined at the end of the regular season based on this — no more draft lottery that keeps changing the rules every couple of years.
A potential twist to Gold Drafting could be allowing teams to declare themselves out of the playoffs, in order to start accumulating Gold Drafting points even earlier. It would deem them ineligible to make the playoffs, even if they go on a historic run afterwards. But even in that case, they’d likely be rewarded with the #1 draft pick with all their accumulated points.
This brings up some interesting scenarios. If a team is tearing everything apart, would they dare declare themselves out of the playoffs before the start of the season? It would also create more high-stakes games later in the season — for instance, Ottawa plays Buffalo again in the last week of the season. How interesting would it be to see them duking it out with the winner drafting Rasmus Dahlin.
Anyways, just thought I’d share this, as ultimately this was a meaningless game in the middle of a dreadful season that could be made more exciting. The NHL Board of Governors is usually adverse to big changes, but hopefully this one can work its way into the league. Back to the third period.
Holding the lead heading into the final 20, the Sens didn’t sustain it for long, succumbing to the Sabres 27 seconds after the opening faceoff. Ryan O’Reilly passed the puck to Scott Wilson in front, who was stopped, picked up his own rebound, and got his second try in the net. Zack Smith was tying him up, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the game-tying goal.
Fast forward to the end of the period and on to overtime, where despite some good chances for both teams, the game was headed to a shootout.
Matt Duchene was up first, who went five-hole on Lehner to give Ottawa the upper hand. It didn’t last, though, as Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman were subsequently stopped, while the Sabres’ second and third shooters, Reinhart and Jacob Josefson, both scored on Anderson.
Final score: Ottawa 3, Buffalo 4.
- Dzingel was the star of the show. His two goals and many more chances made him a constant threat.
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau had eight shots on goal, one away from being the most by a Senator in a single game since 2013. It also broke his previous career high of seven.
- Another game, another assist for Mark Stone. Make that ten games in a row with at least one helper.
- Bobby Ryan took a bit of a beating, favouring one of his hands early on, and then later colliding with Kyle Okposo. Hopefully he’s alright and good to play again tomorrow.
- Robin Lehner, in his nine games against Ottawa since being traded by them, has a record of 6-0-3. He has yet to lose in regulation in nine starts, and this is against a Sabres franchise that has been in the league’s basement for a few seasons.
Individual Expected Goals (from MoneyPuck.com)
The Sens play their second half of the back-to-back tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., hosting the Calgary Flames.