Winning six of their last nine, the Ottawa Senators had a great deal of momentum going into tonight’s tilt against the struggling Montreal Canadiens. Against the best-play-drivers in the league, the Senators worked hard to keep the game and shot clock close, but they came up short, losing 3-1.
The Habs outshoot their opponents nearly every game, and with the glorious tailspin they’ve been in recently, you knew they were going to turn the desperation level up to eleven. They love to keep the puck in the offensive zone and generate loads of chances from all over the ice.
Early on, Erik Brännström would draw a high-sticking penalty. While they were unable to score on the four-minute power-play and their zone entries weren’t up to par, upon entering the zone they fired everything but the kitchen sink at Carey Price, who for once, played up to his contract. Drake Batherson almost secured the record for the longest goal-scoring streak by a U-22 Sens player, as his attempt was denied by the post.
The Senators did an okay job with limiting quality chances against, but they would need a great performance in goal to keep this game close. God bless Joey Daccord. He stopped all 13 shots he faced in the period and kept the puck under control all night.
Ottawa was unable to give him any offensive support at even-strength in the first period, as the Habs were extremely sound in their own end.
The 2nd period saw things improve for the Senators at both ends of the ice. Not only did they retrieve more pucks in the offensive zone, but they were also able to generate some decent chances off of them. In the defensive zone, breakouts were much cleaner. Turning the puck over in your own end is especially dangerous against Montreal, so it was encouraging to see this improvement from the first period.
Then, things proceeded to unravel.
First, Erik Gudbranson opted to dump the puck in from behind the red line. A weird decision, considering doing that leads to a faceoff in your own end without a line change, but you’re the one wearing the ‘A’. I’m sure you know what you’re doing.
Jokes aside, it was a pretty bad mistake, followed by another, in the form of a Brännström high-sticking penalty. That’s alright, hopefully, Gudbranson can bounce back after a quick breather - wait, HE’S BACK ON THE ICE FOR THE PENALTY KILL? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING D.J. - AND THEY’VE ALREADY SCORED - GOD DAMN IT, OF COURSE IT’S BRENDAN GALLAGH - AND NOW YOU HIGH-STICK HIM??? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU - AND NOW IT’S TWO-FREAKING-NOTHING!!! CALL FOR THE TRAINER TO CHECK YOUR FOOT BECAUSE YOU JUST UNLOADED A ENTIRE CLIP INTO -
Alas, the Sens had done a good job up to that collapse, and they were only down by two. They were able to end the frame on a positive note, thanks to Artem Zub. Special shout-out to the Habs player who gave Zub all the time he needed to score, as he was preoccupied with attempting to end Tim Stützle’s career for the eighteenth time this season.
Down by a mere goal at the start of the third period, the opportunity to win the game was still present. Early on, the fourth line got hemmed in their own end for an extended period of time, but some great puck tracking from Daccord as well as a couple of huge blocks by Austin Watson kept the Sens within one. Watson took it a step further, nearly tying the game in alone, only to hit the post. Tkachuk also found iron minutes later.
Ottawa continued to push for the tying goal, pulling Daccord with just over a minute left, but Tyler Toffoli would end the comeback bid with an empty-net goal. Despite a solid effort on the second half of a back-to-back, the Senators would lose 3-1. Daccord stopped 30 of 32 shots, while Price turned away 26 of Ottawa’s 27.
- Not to make any rash judgments after a single game, but the situation in the Senators’ crease looks a lot better than it used to. Joey Daccord was Ottawa’s best player tonight, and he’s earned at least a few more starts in the near future. If Matt Murray can find some consistency, expect an improvement in the team’s save percentage.
- The line of Brady Tkachuk - Chris Tierney - Connor Brown was Ottawa’s best tonight at driving play, with a 5v5 xGF% of over 84 percent, but none of the three are particularly great shooters, so I’d opt to break them up for the next game. Ryan Dzingel will hopefully add improve the team’s finishing ability when he enters the lineup.
- Why play Michael Haley, when you can just put a full-face cage on Tim Stützle instead?
- Considering what the Habs have done to other teams on the shot clock this season, the Senators should be proud of their performance tonight. They weren’t bad, one may even say they were slightly good. But in order to be great, D.J. Smith is going to have to make some adjustments. We’re not asking for much, just a single game to see how the defense corps look without Erik Gudbranson. Even it’s for the sake of nothing more than giving him a night off.
- Remember the Calgary Flames? They’re back, this time for a showdown in their building on Thursday, March 4th, at 9:00 pm EST.