Well, at least they beat the Leafs. Twice.
The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens took to the ice for the first pre-season game at the Canadian Tire Centre. With Thomas Chabot packing the new contract smell, and Habs fans riling around Nick Suzuki, the two teams squared off for a game of bouncy pucks, sloppy turnovers, and some undoubtedly pre-season hockey.
No goals were scored in the first period, despite Ottawa’s three consecutive chances on the power-play. The Habs struck first on a power play of their own, however, with Jeff Petry scoring at the tail end of a quick passing play. Craig Anderson’s mishandling of the puck put the Senators down by two, further confirming everyone’s anxiety rush every time he leaves the net.
Drake Batherson nearly scored his first goal of pre-season on Keith Kinkaid, although the unintentional contact to the goalie’s head had it immediately waved off by the referee. The second period was especially ugly for Ottawa, who conceded 18 shots on net while only getting six of their own.
Joey Daccord entered in the third period, and things just continued to go downwards. Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault each potted a power play goal each to take the game out of reach, giving the shutout to Kinkaid.
Judging by the pace of this game, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that both teams entered this contest undefeated. The Senators head to Vancouver soon, and given that cuts are right around the corner, I would’ve hoped for a slightly more energetic performance.
I’ll share some more detailed thoughts below, although a disclaimer: this is pre-season!!! Judgements should never be made based on one game, let alone on one where half of the players will be outside the NHL in the next week. Regardless, here are some things we learned from game three of pre-season.
- This was also apparent in his first game against Toronto, but Anthony Duclair was buzzing. He seemed to consistently be generating the Sens’ best chances, and although he tried to be a bit too fancy at times, it often led to success against the less-experienced defenders. He wasn’t given a massive amount of ice time, but he was certainly noticeable.
- Despite giving up a terrible goal, Anderson was overall pretty solid. He stopped 18 of 19 shots on goal, made a show-stopping save in the second period, and seemed to be dialed in all night. If he can at least be decent and keep his save percentage above 90% for the season, that would already be way ahead of where things stood in 2018-19. Age stops for no one, though, so I have my doubts about how long he’ll be able to sustain his play. Having Anders Nilsson and Marcus Högberg as immediate fallback plans certainly helps.
- I wasn’t particularly impressed with Nikita Zaitsev’s first outing as a Senator. What surprised me most — D.J. Smith giving him consistent deployment in the offensive zone. Most of that was surely tied to being paired with Chabot, although my fears of what would happen with the duo already seem to be starting. His transition game was non-existent, often opting for unsuccessful dump-ins. If his goal was to just get the puck to Chabot and see what happens, he wasn’t even accomplishing that.
- The Sens’ special teams were pretty lacklustre, both on the power play (0/5) and penalty kill (0/3). However, I refuse to start putting weight on this for at least another couple weeks, until the roster is more finalized and the players have had more time to learn from the new coaching staff.
- After putting up historically bad defensive numbers last year, the question seems slightly different for Ottawa this year: who will score the goals? Replacing Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel is no easy task. All eyes are pointing towards Brady Tkachuk, who has impressed me so far this pre-season. His line along with Colin White and Connor Brown posted the Sens’ best results this game, on the ice for 13 shots for compared to only 7 against. If Tkachuk can solidify himself as a play driver, and not just a product of being Stone’s linemate, that’s fantastic news for the team’s future.
Well, there’s a positive note to end on for a game that didn’t really inspire much else. It’s still oddly nice to have Senators hockey back, and to get a season of recaps underway. This is pretty new format for the site, so all feedback is welcome and appreciated!
Chart showing the flow of shots (including shots on goal, missed shots, blocked shots) as the game progressed. Increasing upwards means the Senators were controlling play during that time — as you can see, this game mostly belonged to the Canadiens.
Chart showing the density of shot locations for each team (including shots on goal and missed shots). In this case, the Habs were very active in front of the Sens’ net — a very dangerous area.
The Sens take to the ice again on Monday, in Vancouver against the Canucks.