Five Thoughts for a Friday
The puck, the pick, and some progress
We got a little spoiled this week with two games against division rivals as we watched Ottawa dethrone the mighty Bruins for but a night and subsequently take the ever-frustrating Canadiens to overtime. All told, the Senators grabbed three points in the standings from teams above them in the Atlantic and, if nothing else, refused to accept the role of doormat in the east (Detroit can have it).
In the capital of chaos, our mayor of mayhem lives to delight in the devilish. I speak of course of Brady Tkachuk and the Primeau puck when I say this. (And if you caught wind of this story then you already knew I would have it right at the top of this article). Following Montreal’s overtime goal on Wednesday night, our beloved son fished the game puck out of Ottawa’s net much to the dismay or the Canadiens’ bench. The Canadiens, post-game, accused our beautiful Brady of trying to make off like a thief in the night with a souvenir of rookie goaltender Cayden Primeau’s first NHL victory.
#Habs Carey Price had to track this puck down for Cayden Primeau's 1st NHL win.— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 12, 2019
Brady Tkachuk scooped it up after the goal in OT. 🐀 pic.twitter.com/rRoda0dWjt
Brady has maintained his innocence and I, for one, stand in his court. We have said it before on the site and we can’t reiterate enough how much joy it will bring us when we get to watch Brady in a future playoff series against a division rival.
As the proud owners of San Jose’s first round pick in the upcoming draft, we in Sensland can’t help but keep tabs on the team in teal. As Dewie reported yesterday, the Sharks dismissed head coach Pete Deboer as they continue to slide down the western conference standings. I would posit, however, that in so doing the Sharks have failed to address their biggest issue. The Sharks continue to lay claim to the lowest save percentage in the league at five on five and the fourth lowest in all situations. With one of the weirdest splits I’ve ever seen, San Jose bizarrely has the best save percentage in the league on the penalty kill though per natural stat trick.
I would go so far as to say that based on San Jose’s efficient penalty kill and still formidable power play, Deboer may have helped the Sharks more than he hurt them. The on-ice results at five on five lead me to question the performance of San Jose’s roster above all else. They rank below the Senators in even strength unblocked shot volume, even strength expected goals, and penalty differential. Given Ottawa’s improved play at five on five (as explained by Shaan here) and strong goaltending, the Senators could realistically finish above the Sharks in the standings if Ottawa could eventually get their own special teams clicking.
Following Ottawa’s inspiring win over Boston on Monday, the Senators’ media tried something new that I believe merits some attention and praise.
Lauren Fine breaks down what you missed at Canadian Tire Centre last night as your #Sens defeated the Boston Bruins 5-2. pic.twitter.com/EyU22Sv1TP— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) December 10, 2019
It might not seem like much, however, I love the way the team opted to break from the usual, generic recap videos posted by league after each game. In hindsight it seems so obvious to utilize these recaps to advertise promotions and provide a glimpse of the in-game experience while going over the usual highlights. I hope this becomes a regular instalment for the Sens, at least after victories, to break from the monotony of league-generated highlight packages that don’t have any commentary or character.
Hope for a beleaguered blueline
Senators fans got some great news on Thursday morning as Christian Wolanin has resumed skating with Sens staff after sustaining a pre-season labrum injury. Wolanin still has about a month of recovery time ahead of him based on initial reports. This provides a glimmer of hope, however, as Ottawa has stretched its defence paper-thin most of the season. Max Lajoie has recently had to ride the pine so that the Sens can have seven healthy defenders on the roster. Pierre Dorion certainly miscalculated or failed to consider a contingency for injuries when the Senators started the season with just five established NHL defenders and six blueliners on two-way contracts.
Ottawa still won’t have the resources to flip a defender like Ron Hainsey or Mark Borowiecki at the deadline with the current roster unless another defender came back in a trade. Ideally, everyone can stay healthy and Wolanin can step back into the NHL lineup (after a probable conditioning stint) and Belleville can enjoy the services of Erik Brannstrom, Max Lajoie, and Christian Jaros concurrently as they push for the playoffs.
All is quiet on the 417 westbound
In the wake of all that has occurred around the league from Toronto to Calgary to New Jersey to Dallas and beyond, it feels like ages have elapsed since Ottawa had the label of league dumpster fire. And I say this with all sincerity and optimism. While I fully acknowledge the unsettling nature of the Zaitsev situation and bear in mind that Eugene Melnyk still has unresolved legal matters to attend to, I actually find myself writing primarily about the on-ice performance of the Senators. The team made a concerted effort to forge a new identity by locking up Colin White and Thomas Chabot this summer, and while the Kids Being Alright earned a fair number of laughs along the way, Ottawa’s prospects have really stepped up this season.
I realize that I likely just jinxed the team by writing that paragraph and that the organization still has a long way to go to regain total fan confidence. Nonetheless, the Senators have some great initiatives lined up and have exceeded expectations on the ice for the past month at least so maybe they’re ready to exceed expectations off the ice too.