5 Thoughts for Friday

Ryan Dzingel’s solid start, the second pairing’s not-so-solid start, goaltending troubles and more!

No time to waste. Thoughts. Five of them. Now!

Best Forward So Far

Coming into training camp, Ryan Dzingel still had a lot to prove. Playing only 30 games with Ottawa last season, he was a good option from Binghamton, and looked like a full-time NHLer most nights, but with a brand new coaching staff and change in management, there was work to be done.

Training camp went well. So did preseason play. And now we’re a week into the 2016-17 campaign and he’s got four points in four games.

And gosh darn it, he’s been the most impressive forward on the team so far.

No, that doesn’t mean we’re declaring him the best player in the forward corps - if that was the question, he’d likely come in around No. 6 - but as for those punching above their weight class, Dzingel is at the top of the rankings.

His speed and responsibility fits into Guy Boucher’s system perfectly. Not only does he have the legs to keep up with a quick transition game, but he plays with focus and urgency in the defensive zone. It certainly helps that Dzingel likely has the mindset of a young player that feels like any game could be his last with the NHL group, but because of it, he won’t be coming out of the lineup for the entire season.

Last Year’s Sens, This Year

Let’s check in, shall we?

And don’t try and make this a “we won the trade!” or “we lost the trade!” kind of discussion point, okay? It’s early. So early.

Mika Zibanejad may have five points in four games and already be the Rangers’ No. 1 centre, but how has his possession game been? No one was worried about the 23-year-old’s ability to put up 50 points after trending upwards in the scoring department since he came into the league. It was about his all-around play.

Ah. So it’s going well.

Yes, Zibanejad is fitting in just fine at Madison Square Garden. His 64.2% CF rating is the second best amongst Rangers forwards, and he’s a plus-13 when it comes to scoring chances.

Patrick Wiercioch is also finding himself on the scoresheet quite often to start the season. In just four games, the Burnaby, BC, native has a goal and three assists.

Playing just under 16 minutes a night in Colorado, Wiercioch has yet to be scratched from the lineup, and if he keeps up his solid play with the puck in the offensive zone, he’ll stay in the top six.

The season started with a bang for Alex Chiasson in Calgary. He scored the Flames’ first goal of the season. Ever since that game against the Oilers, Chiasson has yet to find a way back into the point column, but he does lead the team in CF with a rating of 63.6%.

Milan Michalek is keeping up with the young guns in Toronto with a couple assists in the first week, Tobias Lindberg has been sent down to the AHL to begin his season with the Marlies, and Jared Cowen is, well, trudging along.

We won’t find out the arbitrator’s decision until late November. It’s been quite the few years for Cowen.

Goaltending Gaffs

Good news: the Senators have scored 17 goals in their first four games. Bad news: the Senators have allowed 16 goals in their first four games.

Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond have a combined .868 SV%. Ottawa’s offense is saving them.

While Hammond let in a couple softies against the Wings on Tuesday night that completely deflated the team en route to a 5-1 loss, Anderson has been in between bad and alright for his three starts this season. The club is currently relying on their firepower up front and their fast-paced system to get them by in these high scoring games.

The Second Pairing

One of the team’s more highly anticipated features of the 2016-17 season was supposed to be a full 82 games of Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci on the second pairing. A duo that was sure to be an improvement on last year’s edition of the blender that was Wiercioch/Ceci/Wideman/Borowiecki/Cowen for the first few months.

It is only four games into the season, and all things considered, that might be a good thing, but Ceci and Phaneuf aren’t looking like a solid twosome.

Though Phaneuf’s skating seems to have taken another hit over the summer, it’s Ceci that critics are claiming to be the sore spot on the pairing. His positioning in the defensive zone has been all over the place and the confidence, or just plain ability, with the puck during the breakout has been lacking.

The scoring chances and high danger shot attempts have been overwhelming.

Again though, it’s early. Maybe they’re both still adjusting to Boucher’s style and need a few more games to get comfortable.

But there’s also no sense in sitting Thomas Chabot if there are a couple defensemen struggling like this right now.

Senators Must Lower Ticket Prices

With a total of 11,061 fans at the Canadian Tire Centre, Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes was the most poorly attended game since the opening of the building in Kanata.

You’ve probably heard a handful of takes on why the Senators are struggling with attendance early on. But how do you fix the problem? Well, one solution is win games, but that’s not a plan the organization should feel secure with. The on-ice product is hovering around a bubble team again this year, and when you set out to simply just win games in order to get more butts on cushions, sometimes you fail.

So go with something that is more guaranteed to attract the crowds.

When it comes to the Senators, the two most common complaints amongst Ottawa sports fans are that they don’t win enough, and the tickets are too expensive for such an inconsistent product.

What are the Senators right now? An average NHL team. Yet ticket prices don’t mirror those of one.

It’s impossible to keep up with the much larger fan bases in other Canadian markets. They’ve been around too long. The growth seems exponential at this point, and you’re not going to match the tantalizing atmosphere at a Winnipeg Jets game or the history that engulfs the Bell Centre or ACC.

Right now, the hottest ticket in town is the Ottawa Redblacks. They’re leading their division, a shoe-in for the playoffs and have a solid shot at a championship.

They play 10 home games a season, nearly every game is sold out (or 100 seats away from a sellout) and the tickets are still more affordable. Let’s not even mention the fact their stadium is downtown (but you just mentioned that?).

The upper bowl for both teams are around the same, but as you creep closer and closer to ice and field level, they begin to differ. For a Friday night game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the Redblacks’ lower bowl maxes out at $131 per ticket, while the Senators’ 100-level sections are nearly a third full of single seats that cost between $191-256 for a Saturday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Until you get an arena downtown or a team that consistently wins playoff series, there won’t be sellouts unless the Montreal Canadiens are in town for Hockey Night in Canada.

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