Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Ottawa Senators got off to a slow start, were undone by some sloppiness and unforced errors but fought their way back into the game, before eventually succumbing to a one-goal defeat. If there was a game that better represents their season to date than tonight’s loss against the St. Louis Blues, I’d be hard-pressed to think of it. In isolation, it’s the kind of game that you shrug off if you are a good team; on the whole they played at least pretty well, the effort was there, the bounces didn’t go their way. As part of the bigger picture of what this season has been, though, it’s hard not to be at least a little frustrated.
After Saturday’s debacle in Colorado, the Sens had something to prove and the first five minutes of tonight’s game were good if not great. Ottawa had the better of the chances, the zone time, and just generally looked more threatening. Unfortunately, the Blues struck first when Jake Sanderson got beat a bit too cleanly to the outside by the puck carrier entering the zone, Travis Hamonic missed his coverage, and Cam Talbot couldn’t squeeze a very stoppable shot:
It was an aggravating goal to give up, and you could see the wind come out of the Sens’ sails a bit. Five and a half minutes in, and already down 1-0 was an awfully familiar feeling.
Well if the first Blues goal was frustrating, their second, less than ten minutes later, was excruciating. Thomas Chabot was unable to control a bouncing puck in the neutral zone under some dogged pressure from Noel Acciari but the situation seemed like it was under control until:
That’s just one of those plays where there frankly isn’t much to analyze: Talbot absolutely whiffs on a pass and it’s an empty net. It’s a play an NHL goalie should make 100 times out of 100. It’s also just plain bad luck. What do you say: “don’t flub a pass to an opposing forward and give up an empty net goal?” When it rains it pours, I suppose.
The rest of the first period felt like a bit of a death march, as the Sens gave off very strong dead man walking vibes. Even the power play, normally a surefire cure for the team’s offensive blues, looked positively impotent in their lone opportunity. Can’t say it felt too good to be watching as a fan, either.
The good news is that the second period, especially the second half of the frame, featured a lot more fight from the Sens. The top two lines, especially the Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Shane Pinto trio, were starting to string together chances and Tim Stützle got the Sens within one:
Though the Sens trailed 2-1 after forty minutes, there were some positives to build on, namely that the Blues had generated a meagre twelve shots on net. Ottawa wasn’t exactly creating boatloads of chances, but aside from a few broken plays St. Louis were not creating any chances of real consequence. There was also some real energy in the team’s play.
The third period brought with it some moderately sustained Sens’ pressure, but I regret to inform you, dear reader, that noted villain Jordan Binnington was sharp throughout the frame in keeping the Sens at bay. Giroux and DeBrincat, in particular, had a couple of real chances to tie it and both were denied by the St. Louis goalie. The clock ran to zero, and the Sens found themselves losers of four of their last five. As mentioned, there were some moral victories to take from this one, Ottawa had a 60.34 xGF% share across all situations for the game, but I’m also sympathetic to the argument that it’s a bit late in the year for moral victories.
- Jacob Bernard-Docker, playing on the top pair in place of the injured Artem Zub, had solid moments throughout the evening, and his 20:56 of ice time trailed only Chabot’s 26:48. I was particularly encouraged by his crisp passing and defensive reads. He’s not a Zub replacement (who is?) but his play merits a long look with the big club.
- The power play, absolutely lethal just a couple of weeks ago, is now officially mired in a slump. The Sens only had the one opportunity with the man advantage tonight but the play of both units was far from encouraging. For a team that continues to struggle to score at 5v5, a return to form for the PP is a must.
- Speaking of power plays, it was far from the deciding factor in the game but the penalty Mark Kastelic took with just over three minutes left was a real kick in the teeth. You simply cannot be hacking a guy with no hope of getting the puck 200 feet from your goal with your team desperately pushing for a tying goal late in the third period. Just can’t happen.
- Talbot wore the goat-horns on both St. Louis goals, but he was quite also solid after that. In some ways, it was typical of how the Sens’ goalies have played this year: some really bad moments, some really good moments, about average all told. It’s hard to win when your team scores only one goal, but that doesn’t mean the two weak goals against don’t sting.
A full set of highlights from NHL.com: