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Game 65 Preview and Open Thread: Florida Panthers @ Ottawa Senators

It’s the long-awaited return of Drake Batherson!

Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Coming off of a 5-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Ottawa Senators will face a real Stanley Cup contender tonight, and one of the best in the league in the Florida Panthers. It’s hard to imagine things going as bad as the last meeting between the two, as the Sens lost 3-0 in what was perhaps the most dominant performance I’ve ever seen from an opposing team. But hey, they also beat the Panthers 8-2 earlier in the season, so who knows?

Fixing the wealth of mistakes the Panthers have made over the years has been no easy task, but Bill Zito has done a fantastic job bringing in players such as Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, and Mason Marchment to finally give their core some much-needed support. And with their trade deadline acquisition of Claude Giroux, it’s going to be all the more disappointing when they lose in the first round yet again to Boston or something like that.

In all seriousness, this will be Giroux’s best opportunity of his career to win a Stanley Cup since the 2009-10 season, but looking beyond this year, there could be mutual interest between him and the Senators. Elliotte Friedman has indicated that at the very least, the Senators are one of the teams that Giroux would consider signing with. Should the club add a player of his caliber without detracting from their current group, it’s hard to not get excited about them next year, from an offensive standpoint at least.

One player who could sell Giroux on a stint in the nation’s capital is Tim Stützle. The 3rd overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft has 12 points in his last 11 games, and a quality veteran scorer on his wing would do wonders for his development going forward.

With Anton Forsberg starting in goal, expect the lines to look something like this:

Game Notes:

  • The glaring defensive errors we’ve seen may stick out in our minds, but the stats indicate they’re happening much less frequently than before — as of March 1st, the Senators have allowed 2.34 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (from NaturalStatTrick), which is good for 8th in the NHL. Offensively, they rank 18th in this same stat. By far the biggest reason for the team’s 4-9-0 record this month has been an inability to finish on scoring opportunities, indicated by a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 5.34%, third-last in the league.
  • With that in mind, perhaps a single addition can make a difference. Especially when the addition is Drake Batherson, who’s scored at over a point-per-game pace this season. It’ll be his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain on January 25th against the Buffalo Sabres. He’ll return to the top line alongside Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk, while Colin White will move to the third line. Adam Gaudette will be a healthy scratch.
  • Connor Brown has 7 points in his last 10 games, and 37 in 50 overall. That’s a pace of 60 points in a full season, and while he hasn’t come close to replicating his goal totals from last year, he’s tied his career-high in assists in 21 fewer games and has been able to significantly improve his transitional play to the point of being a positive influence at both ends of the ice.
  • New additions Mathieu Joseph and Travis Hamonic will hope to build on their respective starts with Ottawa, against a much tougher opponent. Joseph scored his first point as a Senator on Thursday, while Hamonic was a plus-1 in 18:39 of ice time, with shot metrics that were neither good nor bad.
  • Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST, and the game is available on Sportsnet One and CityTV, as well as TSN 1200.

Stats:

Team Stats

Game 65 Ottawa Senators Florida Panthers
Game 65 Ottawa Senators Florida Panthers
Category # Rank # Rank
Goals/GP 2.59 28th 4.06 1st
Goals Against/GP 3.25 23rd 2.84 13th
Shots/GP 30.2 19th 36.8 1st
Shots Against/GP 33.0 25th 30.9 11th
Powerplay % 18.9 23rd 23.5 9th
Penalty Kill % 80.2 13th 80.0 15th
Corsi % (5v5 SVA) 47.80 22nd 57.67 1st
xGF % (5v5 SVA) 47.41 23rd 56.53 3rd

Player Stats

Game 65 Ottawa Senators Florida Panthers
Game 65 Ottawa Senators Florida Panthers
Category Player # Player #
Goals Josh Norris 26 Aleksander Barkov 27
Assists Thomas Chabot 28 Jonathan Huberdeau 67
Points Brady Tkachuk 46 Jonathan Huberdeau 88
Shots Brady Tkachuk 221 Aaron Ekblad 180
Time on Ice/GP Thomas Chabot 26:23 Aaron Ekblad 24:55