At first, it was looking like the Ottawa Senators had finally found their groove in tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. Firing twenty-three shots on goal, and allowing only seven in the first period is extremely impressive, and even though the game was tied at one after the period ended, Sens fans couldn’t be upset about their play up to that point.
Some poor rebound control from Marcus Hogberg led to the opening goal by Tyler Motte, and Josh Norris would tie the game on a power-play which looked better than it had in games prior.
Great pressure on the PP and Josh Norris finishes it off! pic.twitter.com/pXdViStRy7— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) January 28, 2021
Colin White, after back-to-back healthy scratches, was deployed on the team’s second line with Nick Paul and Evgenii Dadonov, and the three were buzzing in the Canucks’ end. The Tkachuk Norris line we all know and love was getting some offensive support. That line, of course, dominated as well. The best player in the opening frame, however, was Canucks’ goaltender Thatcher Demko.
Demko, famous for almost beating the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs last year single-handedly, was in bubble mode once again, and I was reassuring myself that it wouldn’t be a travesty if they failed to score on him in the final 40 minutes. Hopefully, the team could put together 60 minutes they could be proud of. They came out in the second period and Tkachuk promptly deflected a shot between his legs, which Demko once again turned away.
It was at this point when the team deflated. First, Mike Reilly was hooked, leading to J.T. Miller scoring the go-ahead-goal for Vancouver.
The Senators’ subsequent breakdown was glorious. Erik Gudbranson failed to clear the puck out of the zone with under thirteen minutes to go in the frame, and Miller picked up the rebound off the ensuing point shot, putting up Vancouver 3-1.
For the rest of the period, the team was lifeless. Zero presence in the offensive zone outside of point shots that only Matt Murray could be beaten by, while the Canucks were having their way with them in the offensive zone. With three minutes to go, after a Thomas Chabot penalty, Elias Pettersson made it 4-1 Vancouver.
While the Senators had generated over 74% of the 5v5 expected goals in the first period, they only drove 9.6% in the second.
The Sens were fine in the third, generating a few solid chances, highlighted by this one from Drake Batherson:
Ottawa allowed a fifth goal over halfway through the frame, and from there they just played things out until time mercifully ran out.
- The good news? The future of the team looks bright. Tkachuk - Norris - Batherson all finished with a 5v5 xGF% of over 74 percent. Paul - White - Dadonov all finished with over 60 percent. It seems we’ve finally found two solid forward lines we can run in each game.
- The bad news? Chabot was the only other player to put up positive results; Nikita Zaitsev was fine, but the rest of the lineup struggled mightily. Players such as Braydon Coburn, Erik Gudbranson, and other veterans who were added to insulate the young core have been woefully ineffective at both ends of the ice. Mike Reilly had his worst game ever in a Senators’ uniform. And the team may need to look at whether or not they want to burn a year of Tim Stutzle’s entry-level deal. He was the team’s worst forward tonight, with a 5v5 xGF% of only five percent.
- The solution to the defense may already be in the organization. Artem Zub hasn’t played a single game for Ottawa yet, and I can’t imagine he’ll be much worse than what we’ve seen from the back end already. Christian Wolanin sustained a lower-body injury in tonight’s game, and Zub is someone who could fill in for him.
- If you’re reading this recap the day after, it’s another Senators Game Day! January 28th, at 10:00 PM EST. It’s against Vancouver, but you knew that already.