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Sens Snakebitten in First Road Game of Season

Is Brady ready yet?

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Given some of the absolute clown shows we saw early last season from the Senators, this loss in Toronto didn’t seem excruciatingly bad, but it still left something to be desired. Even if Toronto didn’t look like a powerhouse of a team on Saturday night (or Thursday night for that matter) Ottawa looked a step behind for the most part and just didn’t have that extra gear necessary to get back into it after digging their grave early with some sloppy defensive play.

Without unfairly putting this loss on any individuals, I can’t overlook the fact that the Nikita Zaitsev and Victor Mete pairing conceded all three Toronto goals and didn’t fare any better by shot volume. They had moments (like Toronto’s third goal) when it looked like they could shut it down and then found a way to cave. I still think this pair has time to find some chemistry and get on the same page because Mete has a track record for putting up solid numbers and he still has upside, but the Senators have struggled in the past to get the most out of Zaitsev for stretches of time.

The numbers don’t really do Anton Forsberg justice after this one. Looking at his save percentage and goals against, I would dismiss it as an off night but at times, Forsberg did stand on his head and he kept Ottawa within striking distance for most of the night, especially on the penalty kill. Again, Ottawa sealed their own fate early and it looked unlikely they would find the solution but Forsberg did his best to keep the game worth watching. He also did this:

On the positive side of the ledger, and continuing the trend established with Forsberg, Ottawa’s penalty kill (and special teams in general) deserves some praise for its performance. Despite a lot of short-handed ice time and lots of chances against, Ottawa didn’t allow a goal against on the penalty kill (including an extended five-on-three) and if we buy into the cliches then I would argue that Ottawa parlayed those kills into momentum at the other end of the ice. And speaking of those special teams, for the first time in what feels like years I found myself thinking, “if Ottawa gets a powerplay here, then they can get back in this”. What happened to the powerkill? This actually looks good!

I would argue that on the flipside to Ottawa’s improved special teams, they just look thin at five-on-five. They struggled to generate offence without Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub on the ice and only the obvious shooters like Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Tim Stützle looked especially threatening with the puck. Credit also to Tyler Ennis who had a solid game. While I would usually lament a player of Ennis’ capacity taking minutes from younger forwards, I just enjoy the way Ennis plays with patience and composure and always seems to buy a few extra seconds in the offensive zone when a less mature player would simply dump it in and head off to the bench.

Now, that special teams momentum should have carried all the way into the second intermission with Ottawa having squared things up at two goals-apiece but for a bad luck offside that saw a Batherson goal recalled very late in the second period. (Thanks a lot, Matt Duchene!)

Ultimately, whether due to lack of depth, poor match-ups, or just a rough night on the road, Ottawa couldn’t sustain pressure at five-on-five, made too many critical errors right in front of Forsberg, and simply didn’t have the offence going, and ended up dropping their first road game 3-1.

Game Notes:

  • While I immediately dread that DJ Smith will likely scratch Victor Mete from the defenders who dressed tonight to make a change, he needs to shake up his second and third pairings. I can’t imagine Michael Del Zotto sits much longer after signing a meaningful contract this summer. Josh Brown and Nick Holden could also probably use a day off.
  • Ottawa’s fourth line struggled mightily at times in this one with Logan Shaw and Parker Kelly watching much of the third period from the bench. Neither forward registered a shot and Kelly took an ill-advised offensive zone penalty. For what it’s worth, Shaw did the best in the faceoff circle among Ottawa’s centres and Zach Sanford had on okay night despite ranking third last in forward ice time.
  • At the other end of the ledger, Shane Pinto got lots of meaningful ice time in this one as he continues the trend he established with his strong training camp. I expect his linemates to shuffle a bit more over the next few games so we’ll see if that translates into scoring.
  • A final thought about Forsberg, with his strong play through the first two games, he’ll at least provide Matt Murray with the healthy internal competition to keep both goalies motivated in what could still turn out a long season in Ottawa unless the defence pairings can work out.
  • We want Brazy.

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