In their first week sans Guy Boucher, the Ottawa Senators yielded much of the same. Their level of play has improved, sure, but it’s hard to win games when much of your lineup is not NHL-calibre. They went 1-2-1 over the past seven days, with back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders capping the week off.
There was good and bad to take from this week, so here are Five Thoughts for Friday, March 8th, 2019.
As the Cro Flies
Marc Crawford is the head coach behind an NHL bench again, for the first time since 2011. The team seems to have somewhat responded to the firing of Guy Boucher, with stronger efforts against a good Islanders team and win over the Florida Panthers, but much of the lineup decisions have been the same.
Anthony Duclair hasn’t been played much with Ottawa’s remaining skill players, Christian Wolanin is only seeing consistent time as an injury substitution, but there are positives too. Rudolfs Balcers has seen an increase in icetime over the past few games, and Brady Tkachuk and Colin White are still being used in Top-6 roles.
It’s uncertain if Cro is the coach of the future, but at least there’s something to hang on to right now.
Thomas Chabot has struggled in the absence of the Big 3. Since that fateful game against the Devils, he’s registered just two assists in the last eight contests, and has had trouble with turnovers and defensive zone miscues.
To me, this screams of a young player who’s just trying to do too much. With Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel gone, Chabot is easily Ottawa’s most-skilled player. That’s a big weight to put on the shoulders of a 22 year-old, and it’s understandable that he’s making mistakes.
I wouldn’t worry about his development, as I recall another former Senator dman being criticized for his defence in his youth, but it’s a shame that management’s incompetence has thrusted such a huge responsibility on a young player.
Million Dollar Brady
A player who has stepped up for the new-look Senators is Brady Tkachuk. Our beautiful baby boy has registered four points in his past eight games, including this gorgeous little deflection last night.
What kind of tipper is Brady Tkachuk? Pretty good one. pic.twitter.com/VXUMqxHSbI— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) March 8, 2019
He also introduced himself physically, if you had any doubt, when he checked Brock Nelson through the glass.
If you’re struggling for a reason to watch this team right now, Brady Tkachuk is it. The kid is a treat to watch, and he’s a future star that hopefully the Senators can actually hang on to.
The Nilsson Will Come Out Tomorrow
While he’s begun to turn it around after his past two starts, Anders Nilsson has been struggling of late. His last two appearances have yielded a collective SV% of of .919, with a win against Florida to show for it, but in his six starts prior he posted an average SV% of 0.822.
Getting lit up by the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks didn’t help those metrics, but Nilsson didn’t look like the same starter-calibre goalie he had initially appeared to be following his acquisition.
With two solid performances in his past two games, let’s hope he can turn the tide the rest of the way.
Like a Stone
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the Vegas Golden Knights (and who could blame you?), Mark Stone is fitting right in.
The line of Pacioretty-Statsny-Stone looks like it could be one of the best ones in hockey, dominating possession ever shift. While Stone himself hasn’t found the back of the net, he’s chipped in two assists in his first five games in Nevada.
This is a Vegas team that, if they stay healthy, is a surefire Cup contender thanks to the addition of Mark Stone, and they’re damn fun to watch. If you can stomach it, treat yourself to some good hockey down the stretch.