After last night’s win in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Senators have just one more exhibition game and then before you know it we’ll have some honest-to-god NHL coverage back here at S7S. I still feel somewhat anxious considering the regular season starts in just one week and a Sens lineup that bears likely 85% resemblance to the actual opening night roster couldn’t win more convincingly against a mediocre Habs squad. Does the pre-season matter? Probably not. Should I put a lot of stock into numbers from exhibition games? Absolutely not. Will I sleep better at night if the Sens win by multiple goals while handily outshooting Montreal on Saturday? You bet.
Ultimately, you take the one-goal victory all the same, and the Sens still managed to outshoot their opponent on a night when they took a lot of uncharacteristic penalties. Anton Forsberg stopped the pucks that he needed to and I can’t really judge his performance beyond that because Montreal didn’t really test him all that much. Considering all the penalties Ottawa needed to kill, Forsberg played perfectly adequately and I expect to see him further improve his game once the season gets rolling in earnest.
Of course, heading into last night’s game, we all had our attention on Ottawa’s top-two forward lines in their new configurations. Considering all six forwards on those units had at least one point in the game—mission accomplished? Throughout an 82-game season, the coaching staff will shuffle their lines up as needed to suit the moment, and as we hypothesized, you can’t really go wrong with any alignment when you have players with this kind of talent working together. With that in mind, the powerplay still needs some tinkering and that too will likely continue well into the regular season before DJ Smith settles on two units he relies on regularly. You certainly won’t catch me complaining about Ottawa’s scoring capacity at even strength in the meantime though. Also, I love Tim Stützle so much.
With just one game left to tinker, and having already experimented with his forward lines, I’ll have my eyes first-and-foremost on Smith’s defensive pairings at practice tomorrow to see if he goes all-out splitting up Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub or something else to that effect. The current pairings have certainly looked adequate to date, but as we’ve discussed at length around these parts, good enough probably isn’t good enough if Ottawa wants to make the postseason. And if Smith can squeeze a couple extra wins out of this roster by re-distributing the talent on the blueline then now seems like a good time to experiment.