After losing to the Canucks by a combined score of 12-2 over the past two games, as well as riding a six-game losing streak seven games into the season, you’d be forgiven for expecting little of the Ottawa Senators entering this game. You also would have been right.
See if this sounds familiar: in the first period, the shots and chances were pretty even, but some questionable goaltending and defending put the Sens down 2-0. Now, see if this sounds familiar: the Sens actually took over the shots and chances, but their lack of finishing ability meant the goals that period were one apiece. Thomas Chabot got the Sens’ lone goal, converting on a beautiful solo effort:
I’m sure Chabot doing it all himself had nothing to do with the aforementioned lack of finishing ability.
The third period featured a medley of the team’s greatest hits: poor defensive puckhandling, questionable goaltending, great chances with no finish. They then brought back an oldie-but-no-goodie: a putrid 5-on-3 powerplay. They had 1:45 of 5-on-3 time, and had nothing to show for it but some fanned shots. All I could do was laugh. Even my wife, who knows so little about hockey that 10 minutes after a game is over and I’ve shut off the TV will look over and say, “Wait, is the game over?” commented that they were looking awful. Rather than recapping all the moments of not glory, I’ve just put together some overall thoughts on this game.
- Brady Tkachuk is the battery that drives this team. He finished the night with 5 shots and 10 hits. Remember how Chris Neil (ca. 2007) could get the team going with a big hit? Tkachuk is like that, except also way better with the puck.
- The team’s best players were again their best players. Chabot is the only defenceman who doesn’t handle the puck like it’s a grenade, and Drake Batherson had some sweet hands.
- Connor Brown and Nick Paul are having some great seasons, and these are necessary guys to build a Cup contender. The problem is that they can’t be top-six guys. In a cap world, you’re never going to have teams of superstars like the 2000-01 Avalanche or the 2001-02 Red Wings; you need third-liners who are defensively responsible, can kill penalties, who aren’t liabilities when on the ice. The problem is that they are among the Sens’ best players, and they don’t have the high-end offensive skill this team needs its best players to have.
- The Sens’ defence is Chabot, and then five guys who can’t handle the puck. If I asked you who was the most disappointing d-man tonight, you could say Josh Brown, Braydon Coburn, Erik Gudbranson, or Mike Reilly, and you’d be right. With Christian Wolanin hurt, I think the team should really consider calling up Brännstrom just so anyone other than 72 can break the puck out.
- Credit where credit is due: the Sens did manage a lot of shots, even if they weren’t all high-quality, and goalies do need to be sharp for all chances. The Canucks’ goalies posted a combined .974 save percentage across three games. You’re not going to win any games against numbers like that.
- POSTIVE: DJ Smith is playing all of the healthy “young guys” who aren’t on the AHL team. We said we’d be much happier watching the Sens lose ugly ones if it was at least the young guys playing, and hey, we’re mostly seeing that now. (Now let’s see if Logan Brown and Alex Formenton get consideration.)
- NOT-A-NEGATIVE: The lack of practices is probably hurting this team. Things like PP and PK are very structural. I’m sure if I, a casual fan, can see the glaring holes in the Sens’ special teams, so can the coaches. But with three games in four nights, when are you going to work on these things? This season may stay ugly because this team that hasn’t played much together before won’t get a chance to gain any sort of familiarity with the systems.