Well, that was the kind of game that I was expecting more of this season. A tight-checking, scrappy, low event effort that saw the Senators struggle to generate much in terms of high-danger scoring opportunities. Over the last month, the team has won their fair share of close contests. Sometimes, they don’t go in your favour.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a similar position. After an offseason exodus of star power that saw Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel leave for greener pastures, Columbus has been forced to rebuild with a younger core. Many of their established players — ex-Sen Nick Foligno, 40-goal scorer Cam Atkinson, and power forward Josh Anderson — have all struggled to start the year, and their lack of point production continued tonight.
All it takes is one or two goals to win a contest like this, and this game featured just one — a goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand 21 seconds into the third period off a won faceoff by Boone Jenner.
The Sens best chance of the game came with 10 seconds left, when Anthony Duclair had a puck bounce to him in the slot with the extra skater (Anderson was pulled with 2:20 remaining) but was denied by Joonas Korpisalo. The 25-year-old Finnish netminder turned aside all 25 shots he faced, including a shorthanded breakaway from Connor Brown in the third period, to give the Jackets a much-needed victory.
What else happened?
The Sens played well without the puck.
The backchecking was noticeable tonight, and the team’s best scoring chances came off supporting each other in the offensive zone, and tracking the puck through the neutral zone. The team’s best shift of the game came near the end of the first, where Thomas Chabot, Nick Paul, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau picked off three consecutive CBJ attempts to clear the puck and kept the cycle game going. Chabot also had the team’s best chance of the opening frame, where he took the shot on a 4-on-1 instead of overpassing, but was robbed by Korpisalo.
There was little offence generated, from both teams.
Natural Stat Trick has 5-on-5 high-danger scoring chances as 9-7 for the Jackets, with Columbus generating 1.57 xG to Ottawa’s 1.61. It’s a middle-of-the-pack number for the Sens this season, and they’ve only won two games with lower xG totals (v. Montreal and v. Philadelphia).
Outside of the occasional flash from Anthony Duclair — who was moving his feet all night — Tyler Ennis, Connor Brown, Logan Brown, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the team was in tough all night. Duclair and the two Browns finished tops in CF%, with all around 60% or higher.
Colin White is playing on the wing... for now.
Bruce Garrioch was interviewed in the first intermission, and noted that the Sens have White on the wing as they try to shift some defensive responsibility off of him in hopes of generating some more offence. White’s been solid defensively all year, and had a couple of scoring chances that started with him circling back to make a play in the neutral zone before heading up ice.
The fourth line struggled.
Ottawa finished the game with ~55% of the shot attempts at 5-on-5, with the line of J.C. Beaudin, Filip Chlapik, and Mikkel Boedker putting up some of the worst shot metrics in their <10 minutes of ice-time.
Chlapik made two noticeable giveaways — a failed clear to Seth Jones in the first and a failed dump-in that resulted in a Sonny Milano partial break (and the team’s first of two extra skater penalties). That didn’t stop him from getting minutes similar to what he’s generally played, but certainly won’t help his case as he fights to stay in the lineup with Rudolfs Balcers and Alex Formenton playing well in Belleville.
In the second, Mikkel Boedker made a silly play at the line that resulted in an extended fourth-line shift that saw the Sens running around in their own zone. Later, in the third, Boedker jumped on the ice unprompted, leading to the team’s second extra skater penalty. It’s an unfortunate situation for Boedker, who hasn’t played in 10 games and is clearly out of sync with game speed. With some forwards banged up or away from the team, there’s a chance for him to get some consecutive games for the first time all year. This wasn’t a good first step.
The platoon continues to deliver results in net.
You can’t fault Craig Anderson for the team’s defeat. The 38-year-old turned away 18 of 19 shots, and made a number of high-danger stops, including:
- A two-on-one with Bjorkstrand and Jenner, where a stretch pass by Ryan Murray caught the Sens sleeping. While Anderson didn’t stop this puck — his post did — his quick lateral movement prevented Jenner from seeing an open spot to shoot at.
- A stop on Bjorkstrand after a Dean Kukan bomb from the point bounced off of the boards and into a dangerous area.
- After Anthony Duclair did a fly-by in the neutral zone and Dylan DeMelo stymied the ensuing 2-on-1, Anderson played his part by stopping Bjorkstrand (AGAIN!) in the high slot.
- In the third, with the Jackets up a goal, Anderson made three big stops on Alex Wennberg (high deflection), Seth Jones (slapshot from the middle of the ice), and Pierre-Luc Dubois that kept his team in it.
The Boston Bruins at home on Wednesday. Expect Erik Brännström to return from injury and attempt to ignite some offence back into this group.
After the first 10 minutes of the first, the Sens either generated more shot attempts, or brought the game to a standstill with their strong neutral zone effort.
Both teams generated attempts in close, with the remaining ‘hot spots’ being the left point (Ottawa) or the right point (Columbus).