After a four-day layoff, we all hoped for a reinvigorated Senators squad tonight while unconsciously fearing some rusty Sens. And we got the rust, folks. The Senators played a strong first period and looked prepared to offer ample support for rookie netminder Filip Gustavsson—and then they just sorta keeled over in the two subsequent frames. Despite the inability of Ottawa’s skaters to stay in gear for the full 60 minutes, goaltending found a way as Gus set the tone with this beauty near the midway mark of the first:
The Flames established their pattern of hemming the Senators in their own end (so much for supporting your rookie ‘tender!) but the new (old) comer himself, Ryan Dzingel negated the pressure from Calgary as he converted on a 2-on-1 with fellow former-Hurricane Clark Bishop:
From this point on, several confluent factors conspired against the Senators for the remainder. And, with all consideration for DJ Smith’s relative inexperience as a head coach in the NHL, he’ll have to clean up his act somewhat to demonstrate that he belongs in Ottawa when this team looks poised to contend. Score effects certainly contributed with Calgary looking to even things up. Ottawa, however, seems to struggle in the second period regardless of the score, from what we’ve seen this season. Coach Smith also shortened up his bench somewhat, giving Josh Brown and Christian Wolanin far fewer shifts after the first period, leaving a massive burden on the shoulders of his four other defenders who looked cooked by the third.
Ottawa got looks on the powerplay in both the first and second periods with little to no success as Calgary had all the answers for Ottawa’s ineffectual breakouts and spent almost as much time in Ottawa’s end as they did defending in their own. Again, DJ Smith will have to work on this over the next year if he wants to prove he can act as more than just another stop-gap coach in Ottawa. Around a quarter of the way through the third, the broadcasting crew over at TSN took it upon themselves to jinx Gustavsson’s shutout bid and, like clockwork, Johnny Gaudreau found himself all alone deep behind Ottawa’s coverage and Gus had no chance as the Flames tied it up at one-apiece.
Miscommunication from the Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, and Brady Tkachuk line (who struggled to find chemistry all night) likely led to the broken play that led to Gaudreau’s tying goal so I can only imagine the relief Tierney felt when he re-established Ottawa’s lead less than three minutes later:
The Flames threw everything they had at Gustavsson after pulling Jacob Markstrom and, ensuring maximum chaos, the Senators made a point not to add an empty netter because that just ain’t sickos. For one of the first times in the post-Craig Anderson era, Ottawa won a game thanks primarily to a goaltender who kept them in a match-up they probably had no business winning based on shot volume. Without a doubt, Gus gets all three stars tonight:
- This team sorely misses Erik Brännström on the powerplay. Without getting into the larger conversation about Bonestorm’s role with the team, Ottawa’s powerplay runs so much more smoothly with Brännström operating the point. He remains the Senator’s best powerplay operator (quite a statement when Ottawa already has Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub!).
- Even if they didn’t put up big numbers on the scoresheet, the trio of Josh Norris, Tim Stützle, and Drake Batherson looked perfectly lethal again tonight. I don’t remember the last time Ottawa had a trio of forwards for which the opposition simply had no answer.
- Clark Bishop has made a solid impression thus far as a depth forward with the Senators. And, for good measure, Max Lajoie has has success with AHL Chicago. Sometimes players maybe do just need a change of scenery?
- The legend of Nick Paul grows as the defensive dynamo led Sens forwards in ice time tonight and rocked an ‘A’ on his jersey.