Playing the second half of a back-to-back, and behind enemy lines, the Senators would have to compete with fatigue above all else in this one. After a spirited meeting with the cream of the eastern conference Capitals, Ottawa would really need to tap into that bitter sense of rivalry against their provincial foes. Alas, I will forgive anyone who mistook this hockey game for an evening in a museum—or a mausoleum. Neither team really fired on all cylinders and while both goaltenders performed admirably, neither had to stand on his respective head.
Initially it looked as though a high-flying, guns-a-blazing game awaited us as William Nylander broke out all alone for a quality chance on Craig Anderson in the first minute. The Senators, however, kept the ice pretty level for the first five minutes and even established a couple of cycles in Toronto’s end while keeping the Leafs’ to the perimeters in the Ottawa end. Around the seven-minute mark, Anthony Duclair looked to break his extended goal drought to no avail as Rasmus Sandin broke up the play with some solid backchecking.
Toronto took the first penalty in this one with a too-many-men violation in the first ten minutes. Ottawa, however, couldn’t get anything going with the extra skater and, if nothing else, the Senators’ failure to convert merely kick-started Toronto’s offence. The Leafs controlled play at five-on-five for the remainder of the period. Colin White and Drake Batherson connected for a nice rush to draw another penalty with less than three minutes to play in the first. Again, Ottawa couldn’t generate any quality looks with the extra attacker and after starting the period with a 50/50 split in shot attempts, Ottawa ceded plenty in the latter half of period one as Toronto wrapped up the first frame managing two thirds of the shot volume.
I did find that as much as Ottawa gave up lots of attempts early in this game, they maintained their season-long trend of keeping the opposition to the outside and not collapsing defensively. Unlike the Senators of old, this team tends to spend less time screening their own goalie and trying feebly to break up passes from inside the circles. They also spend less time below their goal line chasing pucks and leaving opposing players unchecked in high-danger areas.
Drake Batherson carried over his strong play from the first period and had himself an excellent shift to get the puck deep in the zone and then set himself up in the crease for a bomb from Dylan DeMelo that bounced back to the point and onto the stick of Mark Borowiecki who continued his storybook season:
Vintage Craig Anderson showed up big time to prevent the ever-dreaded goal-against immediately following a goal-for as Toronto came close to tying things up a mere twenty seconds after Borowiecki’s goal. the game appeared to begin leveling out in terms of shot volume when Drake Batherson hooked Rasmus Sandin, sending Toronto to the powerplay. A familiar face found himself wide open in the circle as Jason Spezza blasted one past Craig Anderson to tie the game up with Drake in the box:
In 686 games for Ottawa Jason Spezza did this a total of 0 times. pic.twitter.com/3oM7RJo2Mo— t (@TariqAnwar00) February 2, 2020
Breaking from his long tradition of (drop) passing, Spezza elected to shoot and beat Anderson cleanly glove-side. Ottawa’s young guns created some good looks in the ensuing minutes in response before Brady Tkachuk took a questionable call on our other old friend, Cody Ceci and the Senators found themselves again short-handed. Ottawa ended the period on the penalty kill although to their credit they managed to split the shot volume in frame two and had the majority of the quality attempts at five-on-five.
The fatigue looked increasingly more apparent in period three as Ottawa’s defence found itself shrinking back into those dangerous areas and letting Toronto get some clean looks. And although Ottawa killed off the carry-over penalty from the second frame, the Leafs ran away with the last ten minutes of the game as Ottawa turtled in front of Anderson. I should give coach Smith some credit though as he distributed minutes to his young forwards including Batherson, Filip Chlapik, and Colin White to take some of the burden off his veterans playing on consecutive nights.
Sens fans once again got to enjoy some free hockey as Ottawa and Toronto remained in a stalemate after sixty (and I thought that only happened when Hogberg started). Neither team got much going in the first minute of overtime before Jean-Gabriel Pageau drew an interference call against Tyson Barrie. To their credit, the Senators looked solid on the four-on-three generating at least eight shot attempts without sealing the deal. Regrettably, Mike Reilly took an undisciplined interference penalty of his own on Mitch Marner who would bury the game winner.
- Anthony Duclair continues to play well despite the scoring slump he has experienced since his injury back in January. I do believe that lately he looks more like the player we saw in December and that we will see his shooting percentage regress to the norm.
- Drake Batherson also continues to trend in the right direction with three individual scoring chances last night and a nifty spin-o-rama in overtime. He has the potential to rectify what ails Ottawa’s often fallible powerplay and like Duclair, the Drake looks poised to break out. Drake also led the Sens in five-on-five score- and venue-adjusted corsi-for percentage -rel.
- Craig Anderson had a perfect game at five-on-five and looked like the same goalie who stole our hearts a decade ago with a shutout in Toronto to start his Senators career. I do find, however, that Andy lacks the same rebound-control we have recently enjoyed from Marcus Hogberg.
- Scott Sabourin played 2:31 in this game. No comment.
- Jason Spezza probably had the most entertaining performance of any of Toronto’s highly-touted forwards and as much as it pains me to commend a blue guy, it gives me solace knowing that Spezza may have a chance to finish his career as a full-time NHL forward getting meaningful minutes. He deserves that much.
- One last thought: As I write this, a line brawl just broke out during the battle of Alberta and it really made me appreciate how non-confrontational the battle of Ontario has become. Granted, the stakes remain low and neither team has any real motivation to provoke the other. Just imagine though if I told you fifteen- or twenty-years ago that a game between these two teams would end without so much as a roughing call.