Losing is never fun, and digging yourself into a massive hole to start the season always sucks, but you have to give credit to this year’s Ottawa Senators: at least they’re losing in style.
The Sens rolled into Boston with basically an AHL lineup. Multiple players being placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol and a few others catching a mystery illness meant that fan favourite Egor Sokolov was finally ready to make his NHL debut. On top of that, our saviour Erik Brännström was finally getting a chance to step in and save the Sens’ defense by proving himself to be better than Josh Brown. A high bar to clear, I know.
The odds were stacked against Ottawa, but... winning this game would be a very Sens thing to do, right? I can’t be the only one who thought so.
It would indeed turn out to be a surprisingly winnable game for the Sens, but alas, the curse of Shane Pinto’s injury could not be overcome.
When the lines were first announced, many of us were a little confused to see Zach Sanford on the first line, even if it was his birthday. Not Harvey’s Canada, though, and it appears they may have been on to something. Birthday boy Sanford scored the first goal of the game on the first shift of the game, tapping in the puck after Tkachuk and Norris did Tkachuk and Norris things around the net. 1-0 Ottawa.
Boston is no easy opponent, but the Sens held their own against them. An early powerplay provided a good opportunity for Ottawa to increase their lead, but while they did get a few good chances, ultimately nothing came of it.
After a few minutes of fairly even play, Drake Batherson went to the box, giving the Bruins their first powerplay of the game. Fortunately, though, the powerplay ended up being short lived, as Alex Formenton got tripped on a shorthanded breakaway. Considering how those breakaways have been going for Formenton lately, he’s probably better off drawing a penalty than trying to score. Excellent new strategy. Maybe he should talk to Connor Brown about how to finish those chances.
The Bruins took another penalty very soon after the first one, meaning that the Sens had a 4 on 3, closely followed by a 5 on 3. DJ Smith called a timeout to give his team a better chance to score, but unfortunately the powerplay was unsuccessful.
Erik Brännström was a welcome sight on defense throughout the first period. His speed his and puck-moving abilities were fully on display, and he did a great job on the second powerplay unit. One of my personal favourite moments was when he ducked under a Bruins player to avoid being hit - could a tall player do THAT, DJ Smith? Unfortunately, however, Brännström capped off a generally excellent first period by taking a penalty. I promise I’m not just being a Brännström truther when I say that he didn’t exactly deserve that penalty; he was getting pushed around all shift, and that Bruins player was falling down before Branny even touched him. He was visibly frustrated after the call, and it’s not hard to see why. The guy is on the shortest possible leash right now, and this was his one chance to secure a spot with the big club.
Thankfully, no further damage was done; the Sens held Boston to only one shot on goal during that powerplay. Time ran out soon afterward, and Ottawa went to the dressing room ahead by one goal.
Ottawa got a lucky break to start the second period, as David Pastrnak went to the box for roughing only six seconds into the frame. Unfortunately, that Sens powerplay was just as unsuccessful as all the previous ones, even if it did generate some good chances.
The shots the Sens generated on that powerplay would end up being their last for a long, long time. The Bruins came back strong, and Zub took a cross-checking penalty that would end up giving Boston the momentum they so needed. Pastrnak bounced the puck off a rat, and the Bruins tied the game. 1-1.
In a sight that was becoming all too familiar to their fans, the Sens went flying off the rails as quickly and disastrously as the LRT does every other day. They went almost the entire period without another shot on goal, and sure enough, the Bruins soon took the lead. 2-1 Boston.
Unlike OC Transpo, the Sens did pull themselves together after that initial derailment. Once they were actually losing the game, they picked up the pace. Nick Paul unfortunately went off to the dressing room with what looked like a leg or foot injury after blocking a shot. Still, the Sens were clearly not going down without a fight.
Indeed, the Sens evened the score soon after that Paul injury, and for the first time this season, the goal came from a defenseman. That’s right, Nikita Zaitsev tied the game! 2-2.
This team was already off the rails, but this is where things got weird. For starters, Josh Brown did this:
Now THAT is what you need out of Josh Brown. pic.twitter.com/lrccdlHH2S— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) November 10, 2021
Then Alex Formenton got into a fight after yet another failed attempt at driving to the net, and then more fighting happened. Brady Tkachuk and Brad Marchand were both on the ice, so as I’m sure you can imagine, some things were said. Our rat got the last word, though, don’t worry.
Just as it was looking like the Senators might survive the second period, the Bruins got a lucky bounce that ended up in the back of the Ottawa net, to take a lead that I must admit was well-deserved, even if the goal wasn’t great. 3-2 Boston.
The third period kicked off with a good omen: Nick Paul was back on the Sens’ bench! Miracles happen when your saviour is in the lineup.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Ottawa was awarded a powerplay at a crucial time, but failed to score. The powerplay looked good, with Stützle especially having a few good shots on goal, but the Sens continued to trail the game.
Things started to look up toward the halfway mark of the period. Batherson hit the crossbar on a great scoring chance, and Brännström drew a penalty right afterward. Brännström also got absolutely decked by our sweet boy Curtis Lazar on the delayed penalty. The betrayal.
Did the Sens score on that powerplay? No, of course they didn’t.
Ottawa showed great hustle right at the end of the period, and almost tied it several times. A late icing call against Boston with Ottawa’s net empty should have been an opportunity for the Sens, but the puck just would not go in the net.
Look. Was Ottawa far and away the better team in this game? No. Can we chalk this loss up entirely to puck luck? No, definitely not. But it feels like a game that they could have won, just like they could have won against the Lightning or the Wild or the Capitals or the Rangers or the Sharks. I wouldn’t expect the Sens to win every single one of those games, but a lucky bounce from time to time would be nice.
I’d still take this over staying up until 2am to watch them lose 6-1 or whatever to non-playoff teams, but man, that’s a low bar to clear.
- I know I’ve been mean to Zaitsev in the past, but the man had a great game tonight.
- Sanford was also fantastic all night long. Yeah, that might be the Tkachuk and Norris effect, but the birthday boy had a great game.
- Alex Formenton was also all over the place, in a good way. Too bad he can’t figure out how to bury those chances.
- Matt Murray also made some crucial stops to keep the Sens in the game.
- Obviously, all eyes were on Brännström and Sokolov tonight, and while neither one got a lot of icetime, I’d say they both did about what was expected of them. Sokolov won some puck battles and didn’t look completely overwhelmed in the NHL, and Brännström moved the puck beautifully, although he did get pushed around a lot.
- I don’t think there was any individual player who was noticeably worse than usual tonight, but a big “Sens Zero” goes to the powerplay, which failed to score 6 times. That’s the second straight game where the powerplay has been essentially useless.