Welcome to a somewhat abbreviated edition of NKB’s Notebook, as the Ottawa Senators have played a mere two games since last week’s writing: Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, and last night’s 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Despite the paucity of games, here are a couple of things I’ve been noodling over this last week:
- The Sens’ fourth line has been a bit of a sore spot for virtually the whole year, but the trio of Clark Bishop, Ryan Dzingel, and Austin Watson have shown some promise in their time together. Obviously Dzingel’s goal scoring binge will paper over a lot of issues, but the line’s been a net positive in their time together even outside of his tallies. One of the most obvious differences between this version and previous iterations of the fourth line is the speed of Dzingel and Bishop. Watson is a weaker skater, through no lack of trying, but that deficiency in his game can be mostly masked when paired with two burners. Maybe even more encouragingly, Dzingel’s shown a level of defensive awareness and responsibility that wasn’t always on display during his first sting with the Sens. Clark Bishop was a total mystery to me when he was acquired, and I’m not ready to go all in on a guy I’ve seen play in less than ten games, but he’s looked the part so far. Even a good team’s fourth line is unlikely to be major contributors, but if Ottawa can continue to get positive results from this group then that’ll make DJ Smith’s life a lot easier when he’s trying to roll four lines. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
- When Chris Tierney broke his 29 game goalless spree last night, one of the season’s worst slumps came abruptly to an end. Unfortunately another one that continues is Evgenii Dadonov’s struggles to produce on the power play. In the third game of the year, against the Winnipeg Jets, Dadonov notched an assist with the Sens on the power play. Since that time, Dadonov has somehow (almost miraculously) failed to register a single power play point. Part of this is because the power play is structured to flow through Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson, and Tim Stützle; even Brady Tkachuk has a meagre six power play points for the season. Dadonov’s skillset is also vital to making the power play go when it’s working properly: he has great puck skills in close quarters, and his work with Stützle in particular has shown real promise. Watch how the two of them exchange five foot passes to open up lanes, or even just to string a possession along, and you can see what Smith values in Dadonov to keep him on the top unit. Besides, I’m not sure there’s a better option available right now as no one else has the same skillset as Dadonov. Josh Norris would be the obvious choice here, but his time on the top unit to start the year didn’t make me believe he was quite ready for that role. Besides, if Dadonov was swapped out, the power play’s whole configuration would likely need to be changed.
This isn’t to absolve Dadonov, he’s missed far too many chances from the slot that he simply has to bury, but there are some positives to be had and I’m also not sure there’s a better configuration available at this time. For now, the best thing very well might be for Smith to just keep riding it out. Let’s hope the scoreless streak doesn’t hit forty games.