Heading into tonight’s game, there were a number of storylines to follow. Would Brady Tkachuk be up to game speed? Which Matt Murray is going to show up in the crease?
Tkachuk answer his question relatively early, getting a primary assist on the opening goal of the game. The puck made it’s way up the boards and Tkachuk chipped it to a streaking Drake Batherson who netted his first of the 2021-22 season.
Shortly thereafter, Kevin Labanc took a drop pass from Brent Burns and fired an absolute beauty past the glove of Murray to tie things up. Fortunately for the home team, the play was challenged for offside and the goal was called back.
Into the second period, with the Sens leading by one, the Sharks turned this into a game. Logan Couture scored his first of the season into a wide open cage.
Labanc made up for the first goal getting called back by firing a one timer past Murray - once again high on the glove side. Based on where the Sharks were shooting tonight, it’s clear their coaching staff instructed them to target the high glove - and it definitely worked.
The third period was all Ottawa, all the time. The Sens completely took over the possession game, wildly outplaying the Sharks in chances. Noted Sens Killer James Reimer stood tall, turning aside everything the Sens could throw at him in the third. The Sharks ended up taking this one 2-1.
Overall, the big players came to play tonight. Your five leaders in even strength CF% were exactly who you’d hope they’d be: Josh Norris, Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub, Tkachuk and Batherson. Norris, in particular, was dominant at even strength, seeing 23 shots for and only 9 against while he was on the ice.
A familiar theme bleeding in from last season was Chabot’s ice time. The workhorse played a total of 29:01, 22:30 of which was at even strength. In the third period, down a goal, it felt like Chabot was on the ice pretty much all the time. For me, this is an indication that DJ Smith really needs to consider getting one of (or both) Victor Mete and Erik Brännström in the lineup. If you’re looking to score a goal late in the third and you only really have one offensive defenseman you can send out there, that’s going to become a problem more often than not. Having a transition king like Brännström or Mete to give Chabot a break could have been a difference maker tonight.
All eyes were on Murray, of course, as he made his season debut and he was relatively solid. Besides getting beat twice high glove - only one of which counted - he managed to turn aside 22 of the 24 shots he faced for a 0.917 SV%. Add that to how well Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson have played this early in the season and maybe - just maybe - the Sens will have some reliable goaltending to lean on throughout the year.