At a time like this, no one wants to hear the glass half-full take on yet another Ottawa Senators loss. Well too bad, it's my blog so I'm gonna do what I want.
The Sens fell 6-4 to the Colorado Avalanche tonight despite holding a 4-2 lead with less than a minute to play in the second period. If you want to find fault with the team's performance, there are plenty of places to look:
-A penalty kill that surrendered four goals in five opportunities
-A power play that went ice cold down the stretch and ultimately only converted on one of six opportunities on the night, including missing three times in a crucial stretch of the third
-Yet another blown third period lead
-Joonas Korpisalo posting a not-so-stellar .871 SV%
If you'd like to stop your analysis there, I don't blame you. It's been SIX YEARS since we've seen play-off hockey around these parts. This season was supposed to be different. You want real, actual triumphs and not moral victories? I won't argue with you there.
I will say this, though: tonight's game was absolutely electric. The Vegas Golden Knights are the defending Stanley Cup Champions for a reason, but for my money the Avs are just as much a model of what excellence in the NHL looks like today. And the Sens were full value for hanging with them punch for punch.
After a disjointed beginning where Nathan MacKinnon tallied less than three minutes into the first period, I was bracing myself for the Sens to fold like a cheap chair. To my delight, they did not. In fact, they rallied and exited the first frame tied at 2.
Where the second period has been something of a bête noire for this squad, they instead delivered a sterling performance in the middle stanza against the Avs. Did Colorado generate numerous grade A chances? Yes, absolutely – but the Sens got even more of 'em, and, importantly, converted two as compared to the Avs' one tally. Most encouragingly, the Sens broke out of their own end with speed and attacked Colorado with control. Offense off the rush came fast and frequently: Drake Batherson tallied in transition but Tim Stützle and Vladimir Tarasenko both each had golden chances as well. Tarasenko was also absolutely robbed with the Sens up a man:
Still, a tenuous lead heading into the third? What could go wrong? Well if you've followed this team at all this year, you'd probably say a lot. Alas you'd be right again on this night: Colorado notched the tying goal just over six minutes into the third on the power play, giving MacKinnon his hat-trick. The Sens challenged the goal for off-side, and, after a lengthy review, the goal stood. Back to the power play the Avs went and, well, you'd never guess what happened next: they scored again.
The Sens fought hard for an equalizer, but a combination of power play ineptitude, stellar Colorado goaltending, and just plain bad luck combined to thwart any possible comeback. MacKinnon would pot his fourth into an empty net to cap the scoring. A 6-4 defeat in an incredibly dramatic game that sucked to lose but which featured the Sens playing objectively good hockey for long stretches. Take from that what you will.
-The penalty kill continues to be an absolute disaster, but one thing that the Sens could have done to help out is not take so many foolish penalties: Ridly Greig, Parker Kelly, and Drake Batherson's infractions were all un-necessary.
-I'm not sure if I agreed with the decision to challenge MacKinnon's tying goal or not: on the one hand, erasing a tying goal would have been absolutely massive, but the angle on the replay was, at best, a total coin flip. Considering the current state of the penalty kill, taking a gamble in that spot felt pretty risky even before the worst came to pass
-This hasn't been a sentence I've typed out too many times this year, but the fourth line had a legitimately good outing. They were on the ice for Jacob Bernard-Docker's goal, and had several productive shifts – including Parker Kelly drawing a penalty late that had the potential to get the Sens the equalizing goal. All three of Kelly, Mark Kastelic, and Jiri Smejkal had good moments; it was nice to see
-There is something up with Jake Sanderson. He has not looked like himself for a couple of weeks now, and tonight he got absolutely roasted to the outside twice in the same shift. Not sure what's going on, but something's not right.