All losses are frustrating. Especially ones to the Maple Leafs.
In spite of that, however, tonight’s 2-1 loss was a step in the right direction for the young team. What they lacked tonight, we can expect to come in due time. And until that happens, we can always laugh at the Leafs blowing a 5-1 lead in the span of twenty minutes and ten seconds.
The Senators had clearly gained loads of confidence from that win, as they looked extremely competent on defense early on, and throughout the first period. They made very few turnovers, and when they did, they were desperate and retrieved the puck without giving up a quality chance. On the other end of the ice, Freddy Andersen didn’t have to make too many big saves, but getting 21 shot attempts at 5-on-5 while only allowing 6? This isn’t the same team that gave up sixteen goals in three games to the Canucks, that’s for sure. Matt Murray included, he looked sharp all night. He did get beat twice by Joe Thornton, but both goals were disallowed, first due to Murray being pushed into the net, and then due to a high-stick.
Unfortunately, in the second period right after the disallowed goal, a failed attempt to clear the puck led to the Sens being outnumbered down low, and Auston Matthews took a pass from Justin Holl, and easily found the back of the net, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Up to this point, the Senators had given themselves a chance to win this game, and their push for the tying goal began with this wonderful individual effort from Tim Stützle:
Tim Stützle. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/4tG7DVGAE6— Everyday.Sens (@EverydaySens) February 18, 2021
And there wasn’t anything notable from the Senators from that point on. Until this:
Another defensive zone steal for Tim Stützle. It leads to a penalty drawn in the offensive zone. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/zAk2jBN7iF— Everyday.Sens (@EverydaySens) February 18, 2021
God, I love Jimmy. Anyway, Norris draws the penalty on this play, and the Senators scored! Well, they scored just after the hilariously ineffective power play. A fumbled shot from Justin Holl led to an odd-man Ottawa rush. From Josh Norris to Chris Tierney, then to Brady Tkachuk, and it’s a tie game!
Tierney? Tkachuk? #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/9UrhMNIKqe— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 18, 2021
The Senators has been the better team through forty minutes, but that was about to change. The Leafs had their best chances in the third period, and although they had nine shot attempts in the frame, the quality of those shots was what doomed the Senators. After keeping the Sens hemmed in their own zone for several minutes, including on a power play, Alex Kerfoot would bang the puck off of Murray and into the net, for a 2-1 Toronto lead.
After yet another pitiful excuse of a power play, Ottawa pushed for the tying goal with the goalie pulled, but to no avail. Despite the 2-1 defeat, it was a great effort overall, as even though they were brutally outplayed in the third period, the game ended with the shots at 28-28.
- There simply isn’t enough talent in the forward corps to run two good power play units. The Kids Are Alright, then you’ve got Dadonov and White. D.J. Smith doesn’t have a ton to work with beyond that, but I’d definitely urge him to remove either Artem Anisimov or Derek Stepan and put in Nick Paul instead. The eventual arrival of Ryan Dzingel should help to address this issue, as well as the team’s overall inability to finish on their scoring chances.
- Considering how dangerous Toronto’s power-play has been, this was a solid game for the PK units. Connor Brown and Austin Watson both had modest shifts in which they killed off power play time whilst carrying the puck outside of the Senators’ own end.
- The pairing of Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev has had very little success recently. Both finished with a 5v5 xGF% of below 50 percent, and Zaitsev’s numbers overall have been much better with Mike Reilly. Reuniting the two and deploying a Chabot-Zub top pair is a change I would make as soon as possible.
- I didn’t notice Erik Brannstrom much at all, and that’s a compliment. Whenever the Sens were trapped in their own end, the young Swede was nowhere to be seen. The numbers back this up, he posted a sparkling 76.92 5v5 CF% and a 78.15 xGF%.
- I’d like to see what a defense corps with Christian Wolanin instead of Erik Gudbranson would look like. He did post positive shot metrics tonight, but he was caught on a lengthy shift in the third period, and moments like that highlight his weaknesses as a player. He doesn’t add anything offensively and clearing the puck out of the zone becomes more difficult whenever he’s on the ice. Bringing Wolanin back in would also let the team look at how Brannstrom plays on the right point where he’s apparently quite comfortable.
- The second half of a back-to-back, tomorrow night (Feb. 18) at 7:00 PM EST marks the end of this three-game series against the Leafs!