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Game 38 Preview and Open Thread: Columbus Blue Jackets at Ottawa Senators

The worst of the East comes to town

NHL: APR 22 Senators at Blue Jackets
It’s a Kelly sandwich!
Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After splitting their games over the weekend, the Ottawa Senators remain in town to take on the lowly Blue Jackets. While the Sens sit 7 points out of a playoff spot, #Lumbus sits 20 (!!) points behind the Penguins and Islanders. While nobody is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, the Jackets’ odds already sit at 0.009%. All this to say, the Sens are the definite favourite tonight and need to play like it.

The Sens re-assigned Jacob Bernard-Docker to Belleville with the return of a healthy Erik Brännström, meaning the Sens have no spare healthy players with the big club. Forsberg is the likely starter. Here are this morning’s lines:

Thoughts:

  • Not only did Lucchini score his first NHL goal last game, he also was a #fancystats darling, with the Sens garnering 57.9% of the 5v5 shot attempts and a whopping 72.6% expected goals-for (all stats from Natural Stat Trick) while he was on the ice. Considering two-thirds of the Sens finished below 50% in these categories, that’s an impressive showing. You can also add in that fully a third of his 5v5 ice time was against the Skinner-Thompson-Tuch line, so it’s not like he was particularly sheltered.
  • Both against the Sabres and against the Red Wings, we saw the Sens turtle once they had the lead. Against the Wings, it did them in and they couldn’t recover. Against the Sabres, they held on and iced it with an empty-netter. All teams will play more cautiously with the lead, but collapsing completely is a bad idea. When trailing, the Sens are 6th in the league with 56.1% expected goals-for, showing they’re pretty dominant when trying to get back into a game. In general, the Sens are 5th in the league for expected goals when leading (53.2%), but in their past 10 games they’ve dropped to 23rd in the league (42.6%). One of the signs that the Sens are ready to take the next step will be when they are able to more consistently continue to carry the play when they have the lead.
  • What a difference having Artem Zub back makes in terms of deployment. The three games before Zub’s return (admittedly, two of them with overtime), Chabot played 28:42, 31:04, 29:57; the last two games, he played 25:44 and 23:35. Maybe more importantly, Zub soaking up PK minutes means that Holden and Hamonic are playing not even half as much down a man. Thank goodness we’ve got this man for four more years.
  • Patrik Laine has been out with Covid-19 for Columbus, which I admit was a bit jarring to see
  • On the one hand, Johnny Gaudreau chose his situation. On the other hand, I do feel a little bad for him. I’m guessing he was expecting to be on a line with Patrik Laine, who has missed half the season. His most common linemates have been Boone Jenner and Gustav Nyquist, then Laine, and then Kent Johnson. Not only is this team last in the East, I’m not sure how or when they get better, with three more years of Gudbranson, their top prospect Cole Sillinger already on the roster... though I’ll take that back if they get Bedard.
  • Game gets underway at 7 pm ET, with TV coverage on TSN5, RDS, and Bally Sports Ohio

Stats (via NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick):

Teams

Game 38 Ottawa Senators Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 38 Ottawa Senators Columbus Blue Jackets
Category # Rank # Rank
Goals/GP 3.00 24th 2.69 27th
Goals Against/GP 3.14 17th 3.91 31st
Shots/GP 33.2 6th 29.4 27th
Shots Against/GP 32.5 22nd 35.3 31st
Powerplay % 27.7 4th 15.8 29th
Penalty Kill % 81.7 9th 78.6 16th
Corsi % (5v5 SVA) 51.01 16th 43.79 29th
xGF % (5v5 SVA) 51.15 15th 43.40 28th

Player Stats

Game 31 Ottawa Senators #Lumbus Blue Jackets
Game 31 Ottawa Senators #Lumbus Blue Jackets
Category Player # Player #
Goals Claude Giroux 15 Boone Jenner 11
Assists Brady Tkachuk 25 Johnny Gaudreau 27
Points Brady Tkachuk 38 Johnny Gaudreau 37
Shots Brady Tkachuk 160 Johnny Gaudreau 97
Time on Ice/GP Thomas Chabot 26:08 Zach Werenski (inj.) 23:36