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NKB’s Notebook: Daccord puck handling, defending leads, Colin White’s improved play

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Some stray thoughts from the last week

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back friends, to another edition of NKB’s Notebook where I share some observations from the last week of Ottawa Senators’ games. We’ve got a little bit of everything this week, from goalie play, to team strategy, to some pontification about Colin White.

Let’s get to it:

  • I wrote about this a bit on Saturday, but to my thinking Joey Daccord has played well enough to merit a long look this year — even after a bit of a rougher outing last night in Edmonton. I’m not a goalie expert by any stretch, the clever among you might also remark that I’m not an expert on skaters either, but one of the most pleasant surprises of Daccord’s early success has been his ability to credibly play the puck. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of goalies playing the puck unless they’re borderline elite. There are just too many things that can go wrong, and most of the time the best possible outcome is that the goalie gets the puck off the glass and out. For all of his other merits, Craig Anderson was the walking embodiment of why most goalies shouldn’t play the puck. Daccord, on the other hand, has so far shown off skills that could make him a real asset when the Sens are looking to break out. Perhaps the best thing I’ve seen Daccord in this regard has been his patience. I’ve never gotten the sense that he was rushed, or that he was going to panic himself into a turnover. Obviously when it comes down to it, stopping the puck is a lot more important for a goalie than playing it but it’s a nice little bonus.
  • Sunday night’s win against the Calgary Flames was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but one thing that stood out to me was how passively the Sens played in the third period while they were defending the lead. Part of the failure to generate offense could be explained by the seemingly unending parade to the penalty box, but Ottawa was also seemingly content to merely chip it into the Flames’ end and get a change at 5v5. The end result was that Calgary was coming at Ottawa in waves, and eventually the levy broke. Though Sunday night was one of the more egregious examples in recent memory, the Sens this year have failed to generate any kind of offense in the third period of games they’ve led. Friend of the site Micah McCurdy kindly produced the below analysis of the Sens’ play in the third period this year:
hockeyviz.com

The sample is, of course, small: the Sens have only played 33 minutes at 5v5 in the third period when leading by 1 but the numbers match the eye test in this case. On the one hand, if this is a deliberate coaching choice I can understand the rationale: the Sens aren’t exactly defensive juggernauts at the best of times. On the other hand, there’s a danger in going too far and just parking the bus. As the team gains confidence, I’ll be looking for some attacking initiatives in the third period when they’re leading; that’s the mark of a truly good team.

  • Lastly, I’ve been really impressed with Colin White’s play the last little while. I’ve written previously about the success of his line alongside Nick Paul and Evgenii Dadonov but given his early season struggles I think it’s worth re-iterating how well he’s done to grab a prominent role on the team. White’s skating and his willingness to attack defenders with the puck have been two big bright spots; rarely can I recall White wasting a rush in the neutral zone, and he’s been able to leverage his speed to get the corner on several defensemen throughout the season. He’s also made good use of his skating to help on the backcheck by generating backside pressure on the puck carrier. White may never quite live up to that first round pick billing, but he’s showing that he can be a positive contributor on a good team. Given everything that’s gone on with him over the years, I can’t say I’ll complain about that outcome.