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Ottawa Senators Lose 4-0 to Calgary Flames as More Players Join COVID-19 Protocol

At what point does the NHL step in and cancel the games?

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

When it comes to the Ottawa Senators, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed loss. In fact, if you spend enough time watching this team, eventually you come to realize that guaranteed losses are usually actually guaranteed wins. Still, even coming off their first win in what felt like forever, it was clear from the start that the odds were stacked against Ottawa in this one.

An overview, for anyone not in the loop:

  • The list of players on COVID-19 protocol had just hit 10, with Drake Batherson as the latest addition. Did I mention that he hugged the entire team yesterday?
  • Shane Pinto was back on injured reserve.
  • It was the second half of a back-to-back, with less than 24 hours between games.
  • They were facing a team that got off to a fantastic start to the season, but had been struggling of late and needed a win.

So, yeah. No surprises there.

Tkachuk vs Tkachuk games are always fun, but this game still sucked.

First Period

All things considered, the Sens got off to a pretty good start in the first period. Calgary had most of the possession, but the Sens had the lead in shots. The line combinations were… chaotic, to say the least, but guys like Sokolov and Sanford had a chance to step up. Egor even got the first really good Sens chance of the game, just under two minutes in.

The first penalty of the game went to Michael Del Zotto, for crimes against the bad Tkachuk. Really, can you blame him for wanting to high stick that face? Despite missing almost all of their regular penalty killers, the Sens held their own against a very good Calgary powerplay. I wonder why the penalty kill is suddenly clicking now that Josh Brown is out of the lineup. What a mystery.

Matthew Tkachuk actually got high sticked again later in the period, this time by his brother’s bestie Josh Norris, but no penalty was called on that play. Good call. Matthew deserved it.

The Sens’ first powerplay of the game happened just before the halfway point of the period, when former Senator Gudbranson elbowed our captain. Rough night for Tkachuks. Calgary took another penalty just as that first one expired, so the Sens basically got a four minute powerplay. Despite some great looks, though, Ottawa did not manage to pull ahead.

Unfortunately, the Flames got the first goal of the game right at the end of the period. Former Ottawa 67 Sean Monahan had the shot, but Mangiapane tipped it in. 1-0 Calgary.

The frame ended on a good note for the Senators, with several excellent scoring chances for the roommate line of Tkachuk, Norris and Stützle. It was, however, not enough for them to tie the game.

Second Period

The second period has consistently been a very bad one for this team, but after the excellent 20 minutes they put together yesterday, there was hope that they’d be able to pull it together and come back in this game.

Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed pretty early on. Ottawa got hemmed in their own zone for a while, and Calgary pulled ahead just under five minutes into the period. The Sens hadn’t been playing very well in their own zone up until that point, but Forsberg absolutely should have had that shot. It was certainly a disappointing way to fall even further behind. 2-0 Calgary.

The Sens did not give up after that second goal. They didn’t look amazing, but they stayed in the game, and Nick Paul and friends created an excellent scoring chance, which unfortunately ended in a scrum, with Sanford going off for interference.

This penalty kill was not nearly as successful as the first. The Flames got one heart stopping chance after another, eventually resulting in a goal for the wrong Tkachuk. First on the scoresheet, perhaps, but still last in his parents’ hearts. 3-0 Calgary.

The game was clearly starting to get out of the Sens’ control, so it was not great to see Sokolov go to the box soon after that goal. It was a pretty weak call, but still a potential backbreaker.

Although the Flames had some good looks on the powerplay, the Sens’ penalty kill did the job this time, and we were back to even strength.

Thankfully, the next two penalties went to the Flames: one for too many men on the ice, and another for delay of game as the seconds wound down in the period. Ottawa didn’t score on either powerplay, but they did look pretty good.

Third Period

Any hope of a miraculous third period comeback were dashed pretty much immediately. The Sens powerplay yielded no results, and the Flames scored an absolutely awful goal right after it expired. To say that Forsberg should have had that one would be a massive understatement. 4-0 Calgary.

Ottawa was decently good after that goal, but not nearly good enough to mount a comeback. Another powerplay chance very nearly gave the Sens a goal several times over, but they just could not quite bury one. The Tkachuks mouthed off a bit, though not at each other, and each team got a few good chances. The game was very obviously slipping away from Ottawa.

The Senators completed another successful penalty kill, and immediately put together one of their best shifts of the night. I don’t know how the puck stayed out of the net.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. The Sens failed to score, and to top it all off, this happened:

The good news is that he still finished the game.

It was a tough loss, where the other team was just better all around. Forsberg wasn’t great, but at the end of the day the team ahead of him didn’t do the job, and really, can you expect them to do much given the circumstances?

It’s funny. The hockey world has spent the last few weeks talking about how teams shouldn’t prioritize winning over the health and safety of their players. A lot of NHL executives told us that situations like what happened with Brad Aldrich in Chicago in 2010 would not happen in today’s NHL, and yet here we are in 2021 and players are being asked to keep playing while a deadly virus spreads through their team. Not only do they have to watch their teammates battle the virus; they also have to go to work every day knowing that they might catch it themselves. I know it’s not the same thing, but this is a part of hockey culture that needs to change. Seriously. Cancel the games.

Notable Performances

  • I’m going to be honest here: I don’t feel comfortable highlighting any bad performances here. Yes, this is a professional hockey game, and no, not everyone had a good night, but these were exceptional circumstances. We don’t know how many of these guys are going to test positive for COVID tomorrow, a lot of them have been playing heavy minutes with little practice lately, and I can’t imagine what they’re all going through mentally. This is a scary thing to have happen. There’s a limit to the kind of challenges a player should be expected to play through, and we’ve passed it.
  • Some positives, though: Tim Stützle was probably the Sens’ best forward tonight. It’s good to see his confidence back up.
  • The young replacements on defense all continued to impress. Thomson made several fantastic defensive plays and did not look at all out of place in the NHL - to the point where I don’t know how you can justify sending him back down after this is all over. Bernard-Docker and Heatherington both had less ice time but were quite good as well.
  • It was a good night for the defense all around, actually. Micheal Del Zotto has had a rough start to his time in Ottawa, but he looked good on a pairing with Zub. I’m not sure if that’s the Zub effect in action, or if he’s just turned over a new leaf, but it’s good to see him playing better.
  • Even if he did take two penalties, I liked what I saw from Sokolov tonight. He might need a bit more time in the AHL, but he’s a joy to watch, and he’s going to turn into a great player.

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