At the start of this season, Sens fans understood this team wasn’t going to be competitive in the sense of winning a lot of games. The hope was always that the kids would develop, and the team would get a good draft pick while not being too horrendous along the way. Everything else was gravy. When we get entertaining games like tonight, it’s some of that delicious, proverbial gravy.
Anthony Duclair opened the scoring for Ottawa by receiving a lob pass from Thomas Chabot in stride, breaking in alone on Johnathan Bernier, and beating the Red Wings’ keeper with a quick move in tight. It was the type of skilled play we’ve come to expect from both Chabot and Duclair.
The Red Wings seemingly equalized less than a minute later off the rush, but the goal was called back after the Sens successfully changed for off-side. In what was eventually a tight game, this moment proved to be crucial in deciding the outcome.
The two sides exchanged power play opportunities without generating much by the way of danger. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, both teams were more threatening on the penalty kill. More on that in a second.
First, I am bound to let you know that Logan Brown put a puck in his own net to give Detroit the equalizer.
And then minutes later had a goal of his own disallowed after it was ruled that Tyler Ennis interfered with Bernier. It was that kinda night for Brown.
The Sens went back to the power play after Taro Hirose took an interference penalty with 2:39 remaining in the first frame. Unfortunately for Ottawa, it was Detroit who scored during their man advantage.
The second period was one of the Sens’ best all year, as they responded well to Detroit’s late short-handed goal by bombarding the Wings. All told, they notched 17 shots in the frame, and Duclair, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and finally Brady Tkachuk all found the back of the net to give the Sens a 4-2 lead. Duclair’s goal, in particular, was a thing of beauty:
The Sens controlled the neutral zone very effectively in the middle frame, and perhaps most importantly they were able to transition from defense to offense with ease thanks to some crisp passing. The Sens have a few game-breakers in the open ice, Duclair not least among them, but their offensive game will sometimes break down if they aren’t able to generate offense in transition. Tonight, for twenty minutes at least, everything was humming.
The third period probably brought back some bad memories of the last couple of years under Guy Boucher. Ottawa took defensive responsibility to something of an absurd degree, and Detroit responded to the extra space by peppering Anders Nilsson with 16 shots. All of the crisp passing from the middle frame was gone, and virtually every trip through the neutral zone resulted in the player carrying the puck dumping it in to start a change. Detroit is not a particularly good team, but after Anthony Mantha made it 4-3 with a little over two minutes to go you would have been forgiven for gripping your armrests a little more tightly.
Thankfully, the Sens hung on for the two points. Despite the lackluster third there was still lots to like from tonight’s game, which is really all we’re looking for as fans this year.
Thoughts on the game:
- I’m not normally one to complain about the officiating, but the sequence that led to Detroit’s short-handed goal needs to be addressed. On the play, Connor Brown was trying to close the gap on Filppula to defend a 2-on-1 but Filppula effectively trips up Brown before receiving a pass and scoring on Nilsson. It’s awfully hard to shake the notion that the referees turned a blind eye to the obvious infraction because the Red Wings were already short-handed. Refs are loathe to make calls that put teams down 5-on-3 but this attitude simply needs to change. Call the game as you see it, if a team takes ten straight penalties so be it; they shouldn’t have committed all those infractions. It’s a totally backwards way of thinking about officiating and only feeds into perceived biases when you get blown calls this like this because of it. Enough.
- When Duclair gets free in the open ice, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the league. His first goal of the game, on a breakaway, was one thing but the play he made to get around the Detroit defenseman and beat Bernier on the second was some world class stuff. More of that, please.
- At this point, I think it’s fair to say that Anders Nilsson has locked up the starter’s role until further notice. Nilsson was steady throughout, and his save on a Detroit 2-on-0 in the second period was a big part of the reason the Sens came out of the frame leading 4-2.
- The Sens were defending a two goal lead in the third period, but the total lack of offensive chances during the final frame was somewhat worrying. Shots were 16-3, and the Sens didn’t get their first shot until there were only five minutes left in the frame. There’s going to be a certain amount of score effects at play, even against the worst teams, but a better team than Detroit might have come all the way back.