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Sens start with a bang, but fizzle in 5-3 loss to the Leafs

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Brady Tkachuk, Scott Sabourin (!!!), and Bobby Ryan had goals for Ottawa in their opening night defeat

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Coming into the season with five straight opening night victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators were feeling good about themselves after the first period. Unfortunately, any good vibes quickly disappeared after a controversial second period, and by the third — players were just going through the motions.

The game couldn’t have started any better, with Brady Tkachuk outmanoeuvring Morgan Rielly and out-battling Cody Ceci for a puck in front of the Leafs net to put the Sens in front just 25 seconds in. Connor Brown got the primary assist for finding Brady from the right side, and Colin White got the helper for the zone entry.

The rest of the opening period was mired with penalty trouble for Ottawa, with Tyler Ennis — a player who only took one minor penalty all of last season — being called for tripping one minute in; White taking a similar penalty on William Nylander; and Brown being called on a questionable goaltender interference call soon after. The Sens PK came out of the period with a perfect record, but gave up 8 shots on goal and was fortunate that two posts didn’t turn into goals. On the Sens’ end, the Leafs were fortunate that Fredrik Andersen was up to the task, stopping Colin White (5-on-5) and Anthony Duclair (PK) on breakaways.

The second period was a doozy, and where the game went downhill for the Sens. After entering the period up a goal, and down two in the shot count, the Sens ended the period down 4-2, and outshot by a margin of 17-3. Craig Anderson had to face his first breakaway of the evening courtesy of Nylander, which he stopped, but continued to get flooded shift-after-shift. Eventually, Gauthier scored his first goal of the season — winning a puck battle with Nikita Zaitsev and Drake Batherson, and giving Tyson Barrie and Dmytro Timashov their first points as Leafs. The Leafs took the lead soon after, with another former Leaf — Ron Hainsey — losing a puck battle to the right side of Anderson with Mikheyev, leaving Trevor Moore open in front of the net to pot the puck.

The Scott Sabourin Story continued, with the prettiest goal of the night being one that he’ll remember for a long time. Hat-tip to Jean-Gabriel Pageau for the entry, and Filip Chlapik for making the quick one-touch pass over to Sabourin in front of the net:

The Sens thought they had the lead soon after, with Hainsey sniping off of a Bobby Ryan pass after the forward slowed the play down just enough to find the trailer, but Ryan’s skate was just offside on the entry. The Leafs’ successful challenge on that play took any remaining wind out of the team’s sails, with two goals from Auston Matthews, one at 5-on-5 from Nylander and Rielly, and one on the powerplay from Mitch Marner, giving Toronto a commanding lead heading into the third.

In the final frame, Tyson Barrie gifted Mikheyev his first NHL goal after dancing around Drake Batherson and catching the rest of the Sens puck watching. With 2:15 left, Bobby Ryan made the scoreline more respectable with his first goal of the season, after Fredrik Anderson tipped a Chris Tierney shot right onto Ryan’s stick in front of the net.

Thoughts on the night

  • After the first, Sean Tierney made this observation on D.J. Smith’s tactics, noting that the Sens were doing a good job cutting off of the neutral zone when Toronto was attempting to break out the puck. In the second and third, Toronto’s overall team speed and pace of execution just outmatched any defensive attempt, and the team looked lost trying to fight back. It’s hard to play with short shifts and pace — Smith’s game plan — when you can’t exit your zone with control. Toronto’s sustained offensive zone time just zapped any energy out of the team.
  • The Sens had three powerplays, and generated a total of two (2) convincing looks at the net. Thomas Chabot’s unit on the team’s first attempt was the only one to generate consistent pressure, while the Erik Brännström-led unit had trouble gaining the zone, to no fault of the young Swede.
  • Two of the Leafs’ four powerplays were questionable calls, especially the trip by Brady Tkachuk that led to the Matthews dagger.
  • Keeping on the trend of special teams, I thought the Pageau — Duclair combination looked line the team’s best yet again. I’m not a fan of Jack Capuano’s tactics so far, as the team looked passive and didn’t pressure the attackers, leading to great looks at Craig Anderson. Let’s see if this pattern persists, and if the team can adapt. Being stubborn was one of Guy Boucher’s biggest... downfalls.
  • The team was outshot 42-26 overall; 32-21 at 5-on-5. Shot attempts by period (5-on-5): 45.71% in the first, 24.24% in the second, 51.72% in the third. Bobby Ryan and Colin White were the only Sens above the 50% mark; Hainsey, Brown, and Tierney close by. On the flip side? Drake Batherson was on the ice for two attempts for, and 23 against. In terms of shots on net: 0 for, 15 against.
  • It’s only one game, but his line with Anisimov and Ennis looked slow all night. While Batherson’s struggled so far through camp and the preseason, you have to let his play last year in Belleville count for something. I hope D.J. is able to work up his confidence without having to send him to the AHL for a refresher, but I expect that it’ll come to that after a month or so if this continues.
  • Ice-time looked a little messy given all of the special teams play, but Zaitsev and Chabot were the only Sens above 20 minutes. The forwards, outside of the fourth line and Drake Batherson, were pretty evenly managed, too.

Game Flow

Chart showing the flow of shots (including shots on goal, missed shots, blocked shots) as the game progressed. You’ll see the Sens having a pretty even first and a solid third, but putting up a massive stinker as soon as the Leafs got their first goal early in the second period.

Heat Map

Chart showing the density of shot locations for each team (including shots on goal and missed shots). Ottawa had a tough time generating any offence from dangerous areas in front of Andersen.