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Five Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts on Stützle’s “diving” reputation, the B-Sens playoff push, Gustavsson’s play, and more!

NHL: APR 16 Maple Leafs at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just the second last ‘Five Thoughts’ before the end of the regular season! Here they are:

Stützle’s reputation

I feel like this topic could be talked about for an entire essay...What’s fascinating about Tim Stützle is that he’s so good at drawing penalties (he’s tied for fourth in the league) because of his shiftiness, yet he’s still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to officiating. There’s no doubt that he’s earning a reputation as a diver, and it’s frustrating to say the least. Here’s exhibit A for something that he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt on, even though it’s a clear trip/interference:

Now, does Stützle make things look worse sometimes? Probably, yeah. But a lot of the time he’s just falling down either because he’s going so fast or because he’s still only a 20-year-old kid who weighs 190 pounds. Brady Tkachuk also fell down every shift in his rookie season but has since gotten much stronger. I think Stützle could probably learn to not react as much as he does, but from his perspective, it must be pretty frustrating to have so many infractions happen towards him but they don’t get called.

What’s craziest about this narrative is that it really exploded after the game against the Montreal Canadiens...despite having to miss the next two games with a knee injury. So much for that being fake. This whole thing can be frustrating because I know a lot of it is because he’s a European player—you almost never see this being said about a young Canadian player. Nevertheless, it isn’t a bad thing that the league has a disdain towards Tim, if anything, it makes his success even more fun.

Parker Kelly’s role

Parker Kelly has played in 36 NHL games this season, putting up 10 points (on pace for 23). I don’t think he’ll ever be a top-9 player because offense isn’t his game, but I do like him as a future fourth line mainstay for Ottawa. That’s not necessarily exciting, but it’s nice having a hard-working “glue guy” player you can rely on, and we know how much the Senators value that archetype.

He won the Sens Development camp “hardest worker” trophy in back-to-back seasons, and we know they believe in him because he’s signed for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $762,500. That’s a very cheap contract, but they know he’ll provide exactly what they need—energy, hits, blocks, killing some penalties, and simply good vibes. He’s held his own overall too, sitting 13th/21 Senators forwards in goals above replacement (0.7), which is not bad considering GAR is a cumulative stat. I like his future role on this team.

B-Sens playoff push

The Belleville Senators have won five straight games heading into tonight’s game against the Syracuse Crunch, and they’re sitting in a good spot to make the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. They would’ve easily made the playoffs in 2020 before COVID hit, and they missed by just two points in 2019, so it’s surprising to realize that this would be their first appearance.

Here are the standings after Thursday night’s games (sorted by PTS%):

https://theahl.com/stats/standings

They have just three games left, and if they win one or two, they should be safe, since the top five teams in the division will make it in (and 22 make it in overall). Syracuse, Rochester, Laval, Belleville, and Toronto are all incredibly close, with varying games played totals, so it’s a bit confusing figuring things out. 4th and 5th place have to play in a best-of-3 series before the “real” first round, so if they can stay in 3rd place, that would be huge. Regardless, the B-Sens have a very good chance of making the playoffs, and that’ll be exciting to watch as prospects such as Egor Sokolov, Lassi Thomson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Roby Järventie, Viktor Lodin, and Mads Søgaard get a chance to play in some important games.

Gustavsson conundrum

Filip Gustavsson got the win on Tuesday in Vancouver, although he looked quite shaky and was giving up a ton of juicy rebounds against the Canucks shooters. He started off the season well, but overall has a weak .888 SV% in 16 NHL games. However, he’s been solid in Belleville with a .913 SV% in 18 games, so it’s not as if it’s been a lost season. The conundrum is that he’s on a one-way contract next season alongside Anton Forsberg and Matt Murray.

Murray’s health might make this situation very straightforward, but even if Gustavsson is given a spot on the team to begin 2022-23, does he deserve it? I think he can be an NHL goaltender, but he isn’t exactly giving me much confidence whenever he gets into a game for Ottawa. If the Senators want to push for a playoff spot next year (and they better), Gustavsson needs to turn things around, otherwise they might have to move on from him. A lot still has to go wrong for him for that to happen, but decision-time is sooner than we think.

Sens fans in Vancouver

Lastly, as most of you know, I was born and raised in Vancouver. There’s no real reason why I’m an Ottawa Senators fan other than the fact that I liked them on TV when I was very little. Every year though, I’ll go to the game when the Senators come to Vancouver, and Tuesday night was the first time I’ve been able to see them live since December 2019, so it was a great experience. There are always way more Ottawa fans than you’d expect, and I’ve even gotten to know quite a few people here, which is very cool.

The atmosphere there was excellent, thanks in large part to the “Larscheiders” supporters section, which got the crowd into the game. It was a strange game because the Senators had some bursts of great play but also couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone for minutes at a time. After a shootout win though, it was all worth it—especially because of the bragging rights with friends and family.

Also, I made sure to pay tribute to Nick Holden during the warmups: