In recent years, watching the Ottawa Senators lose hockey games has been akin to pulling off a Band-Aid as slowly as possible, it’s an excruciating process that only the most devoted fans can get through without turning off the television halfway through.
Tonight’s loss was different. We watched our beloved hockey team smack the Winnipeg Jets all over the ice for nearly 60 minutes, only to leave with one measly loser point thanks to a red-hot backup goalie and some questionable coaching decisions.
Both teams were coming off of losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and were missing key players up front, Tim Stützle for Ottawa and Patrik Laine for the Jets.
Stützle may not have been in the lineup tonight, but in the first few minutes, another Senators rookie would follow his example on the power play for his first NHL goal:
Josh Norris struggled a bit in the previous game, but he certainly looked like an NHL player on this power play, starting off the play which ultimately led to the game’s first goal, a pretty soft one on Laurent Brossoit. To his defense, those goals tend to happen a lot with Brady Tkachuk making friends in front of the net.
Speaking of going to the net, that’s a strategy that’s worked especially well for Ottawa early on this season, because for whatever reason, Nikita Zaitsev has the magic touch right now. Every puck that comes off his stick hits a Senator in front and finds its way into the net. Today’s lucky winner was twofold, as Chris Tierney and Connor Brown both touched the puck before it entered the net, giving the Sens a 2-0 lead.
Ottawa continued to generate chances at a rapid pace, but an Adam Lowry deflection on a Neal Pionk point shot would cut the lead in half with under two minutes to go in the first period, which ended with the Sens up in shots 18-9, and up in 5v5 attempts 17-9.
The Senators continued their strong play in the second period. Notably, of the fourteen 5v5 shot attempts Winnipeg had in the frame, half of them were blocked by the Senators’ sturdy defense. Ottawa would go on the power play around halfway into the game, thanks to a delay-of-game penalty by Sami Niku.
A major factor in the improved power play was the addition of Alex Galchenyuk into the lineup. The wandering forward was a healthy scratch in both games against Toronto, and he clearly didn’t want to make it strike three:
That absolute bomb from Galchenyuk would be the peak of the game for the Senators. First, the Jets went to work on their own power play, and with four minutes left in the period, Kyle Connor would finish a pretty passing play to cut Ottawa’s lead in half once again:
The third period saw the Jets push for the tying goal, but the Senators did well to hold off their attempts for most of the period while generating quite a few of their own. A Josh Norris giveaway on the powerplay led to a 2-on-1, but Chabot was there to quash that opportunity. Zaitsev has a brief relapse and coughed up the puck in his own end, but Connor Brown bailed him out with a timely clear.
Unfortunately, the Jets would break through for the tying goal, as, with the goalie pulled, a Josh Morrissey point shot found its way through traffic and past Matt Murray with 1:17 to go. The game would need 3-on-3 overtime.
In the extra frame, neither team was unable to generate much of anything, until a nice setup from Thomas Chabot led to a good chance for Drake Batherson, which was stopped by Brossoit. The puck would go the other way, landing onto the stick of Nik Ehlers, who promptly ended the game in overtime:
Although Ottawa had outshot Winnipeg 41-28 by the end of the game, they had lost in extremely frustrating fashion, with the final score at 4-3.
- Taking another look at the overtime goal, you can see right around the end of the Batherson chance, he has Morrissey covered, while Chabot can easily shut down Andrew Copp. Ehlers, however, is allowed to walk past Artem Anisimov, and the Jets are free to execute a 2-on-1 for the goal. Anisimov was struggling to bury chances all night, that’s not someone who should be on the ice in sudden death.
- Part of the reason the Senators have looked legitimately good early on in the season is the system D.J. Smith has put into place, as well as the mentality he has instilled in his players. This quote, however, was a bit perplexing:
DJ Smith (via 1200) if he would change anything in the last 5 minutes: "No. For sure not. We made a lot of young mistakes. Trying to score rather than defend."— Paül (@PaulGb_) January 20, 2021
- If he’s referring to “young players” making mistakes, I didn’t really notice many at all. The top line of Tkachuk - Norris - Batherson posted a 93.75% 5v5 Corsi For% tonight, and none of them were on the ice for the tying goal. Smith could just be referring to older players making rookie mistakes, but in the end, actions speak louder than words. We’ll see how the lines look next game, for now, I’d swap White in for Anisimov and replace Coburn with Wolanin.
- Also, it’s time for Marcus Hogberg to make an appearance in the Senators’ goal. Not that Murray was bad tonight, but he was greatly outperformed in the goaltending duel. He just didn’t make the same big saves that Brossoit made for the Jets.
- Because it’s worth mentioning again: The top line of Tkachuk - Norris - Batherson posted a 93.75% 5v5 Corsi For% tonight. The kids are a whole lot more than just alright.
- Nikita Zaitsev and Mike Reilly were the team’s top pairing at even strength tonight, as both had a 5v5 Expected Goals For% above 80%, and both chipped in with an assist. Zaitsev has been legit in the three games he’s played thus far.
Ottawa dominated in the first period, with both teams trading bouts of possession for the rest of the game.
Both teams focused on the front of the net with respect to shot attempts, but the Senators generated a whole lot more from that spot. The Brady Tkachuk effect, ladies and gentlemen!
Thursday, January 21st. Same time, same channel, different result. Count on it.