After dropping their opening game to Buffalo, the Ottawa Senators attempted to break even on the road prior to the upcoming home opener. They were unsuccessful, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game in which Ottawa struggled to maintain any sort of puck possession.
While Toronto spent a lot of time early in Ottawa’s end, a Mitch Marner holding penalty would give Ottawa the first power-play opportunity of the game, and the unit was clicking more than in the last game.
Following some quality puck movement wore out Toronto forward David Kampf, he’s late picking up Claude Giroux’s pass to Shane Pinto, and Ottawa takes a 1-0 lead 9:09 into the game.
Late in the period, Mark Kastelic clears a puck out of the front of the goal, straight out of play, but the officials luckily miss the delay of game penalty. I know what you’re thinking. Luck? *Good* luck for the Senators? I know, I couldn’t believe my eyes. But thanks partly to that non-call, Anton Forsberg kept Ottawa up 1-0 going into the intermission, while down in shots 11-13.
The second period gave us more of the same, as the Leafs continued to hound the Senators in their own end, but for the amount of time they were trapped, they didn’t let too many dangerous pucks get to Forsberg. They also managed to expertly kill off a Tim Stützle hooking penalty, which definitely wasn’t a make-up call for the missed non-call on Kastelic earlier.
Stützle would draw Ottawa’s second power-play of the night after being held back by Kampf. Leaf fans will no doubt point at Stützle and accuse him of going down too easily, mistaking him for Matt Murray’s glove hand, but alas.
On the ensuing power-play, Brady Tkachuk had the best chance of the period for Ottawa, ringing a shot off the post, but the Leafs responded with a shorthanded chance as Anton Forsberg had to stop Nic Aube-Kubel in-tight to protect the lead.
Eventually, the Leafs began to pull away on the shot count (which stood at 24-18 TOR at the end of the frame) and were rewarded for their effort with a Kampf equalizer with 16 seconds remaining in the period.
The third period was Ottawa’s best of the night, as they had several good looks at Ilya Samsonov. Josh Norris was stopped twice in tight, and Tyler Motte knocked a puck away from T.J. Brodie that almost ended up in the back of Toronto’s net.
Unfortunately, it would be the Maple Leafs who would break the tie, as after a bad interference penalty by Parker Kelly, and a failed clearing attempt by Josh Norris, William Nylander made them pay.
The Senators refused to give up however and found themselves with another good chance in front of the net. Claude Giroux, the poster boy of the Summer of Pierre, got ahold of the rebound front of Samsonov, and scored his first of many goals as an Ottawa Senator.
FIRST AS A SENATOR FOR CLAUDE GIROUX ‼️ pic.twitter.com/ZFXk7tWpPr— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 16, 2022
With the game even once again, it was looking like the Senators were going to stagger across the finish line and earn at least a point. But no, they let it slip away in frustrating fashion. The defensive group, which had bent but not broken the whole game, collapsed as Justin Holl of all people found a gap between two sloppy Ottawa defenders, creating a 3-on-2 which Holl finished off. With just under two minutes to go in regulation, the score was 3-2 Toronto, which as you read in the title, was the final score for tonight’s game. Ottawa managed 28 shots to Toronto’s 32 as they drop their second game in a row to a division rival.
- So, a lot of issues between these first couple of games, we all seem to be in agreement there. But the stats seem to contradict the perception that D.J. Smith’s system is holding back the team’s top forwards. According to NaturalStatTrick, the line of Alex DeBrincat, Josh Norris, and Claude Giroux did well against the Leafs’ trio of John Tavares, William Nylander, and Denis Malgin, as each Senator had a 5-on-5 expected goals share of at least 62%. Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, and Tim Stützle also each out-chanced their opponents at even strength tonight.
- What’s really plagued the team, beyond the obvious issue of the top forwards not converting on their chances as much as we’d like (two 5-on-5 goals through two games, not great!) has been their bottom six. Last season, Mathieu Joseph was arguably Ottawa’s best player following his acquisition at the trade deadline. In these two games, he and the rest of the third line have been abysmal, Pinto’s power-play goal notwithstanding. The fourth line hasn’t been much better. Don’t let the top six distract you from the simple fact that depth matters — a bad game from your supporting cast will cost you a hockey game if your top players aren’t clicking, and it’s happened twice in a row to start the season.
- For the second straight game, Jake Sanderson played over 20 minutes and looked like an NHL defender. Both he and Hamonic were Ottawa’s best-performing D with a 5v5 xGF of over 63%. I’m still not convinced this is a decent second pair, but Hamonic so far has been a veteran presence for the 20-year-old without noticeably dragging him down.
- I don’t want to alarm anyone but the team’s top pair of Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub has not looked good through these two games. They’ve got poor 5v5 metrics, and I haven’t really noticed Chabot take control of breaking out the puck, especially compared to Erik Brännström, who’s been a bright spot thus far.
Stats (from NaturalStatTrick)
- It’s the home opener! The Sens face the 2-0-0 Boston Bruins on Tuesday, October 18th, at 7:00 PM EST.