Five Thoughts for Friday

Alex Burrows’ first game in a Senators uniform, Chris Neil’s role on the team moving forward, a chat with Freddy Claesson and more!

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

Early Impressions of Alex Burrows

Well, that was quite the first game from the new guy.

Senators forward (get used to it) Alex Burrows may have been a tad fortunate to score from where he did on his first goal of the night, but his second tally was anything but lucky. And when you add it up in the end, no one really cares how the pucks went in when you’ve scored both of your team’s only goals in a 2-1 victory.

Senators fans were treated to quite the inaugural performance from the 35-year-old.

The way he received a pass from Mike Hoffman, toe dragged an Avs forward and wired a quick wrist shot over the glove hand of Calvin Pickard all in one motion was a sight to behold. The Pincourt, Quebec native also looked very much at home on the power play, a couple times making confident, power moves to the front of the net with possession.

It’s a small sample size, but watching him last night, it’s odd to realize he only recorded nine goals with the Vancouver Canucks this season.

Another element of his game that stood out: compete level.

It’s a phrase that has become taboo in the world of analytics and the bloggersphere, but it’s something the Senators outrightly lack when matching up against the bottom dwellers of the league.

Burrows’ continual pursuit of the puck and enthusiastic forecheck was absolutely a catalyst for Ottawa on Thursday night. There were times when the home team was playing a bit too loose and opened the door for the Avalanche to get back in the game. Burrows’ outstanding effort every shift was a big reason the Senators were able to gain back momentum at certain times.

Playing alongside Mark Stone and Derick Brassard for most of the night, the trio seemed to have no trouble creating offense and finding each other in Colorado’s end, but fell well short of the mark with defensive positioning and breakout procedure. Thankfully, fancy stats mean nothing early on when you’ve got a player going through a complete change in scenery, linemates and system.

Burrows had a minus-7 Corsi rating last night. Whoops. Try again.

Who Comes Out When Ryan is Healthy?

It might not be a question Senators head coach Guy Boucher has to answer for the next little while - Bobby Ryan’s diagnosis wasn’t exactly day-to-day - but when late March rolls around and the Senators are in must-win mode, it’s going to be a key decision to make.

The way it should be? That’s up for debate, but as the season gets longer and the games get tougher, you’ve got to wonder if Chris Kelly at age 36 will be able to keep up.

At times this year, Kelly has shown obvious signs of aging with his lack of acceleration and endurance when asked to play above 12 or 13 minutes a night. There still lies a great deal of talent in the Senators’ current fourth line centre, but the physicality of the final stretch of the NHL’s regular season and playoffs might prove to be a little overwhelming.

Though Tommy Wingels may not possess the skill Kelly holds, the former San Jose Shark can bring speed, stamina and a big body presence. He’s only recorded a single point in his first 16 games with the club, but Wingels might be the Senators’ best option for that final spot in the forward corps when the team is all healed up.

And this likely won’t be the last time this topic is discussed if Colin White has anything to say about it.

Have We Seen the Last of Chris Neil?

When days turned into weeks for Chris Neil and his broken finger, and Pierre Dorion decided to acquire two top-nine worthy forwards at the trade deadline, the 37-year-old’s place in the lineup came into question.

It’s no secret that Kelly is above Neil on the Senators’ forward depth chart, and if we’re wondering whether or not Kelly is going to play, then it’s safe to say Neil is going to spend his fair share of nights in the press box.

When Neil is healthy and Ryan is back in the lineup, then the remaining games against the big, bad Boston Bruins may be Neil’s only opportunity to play past the warmup.

And hey, the Senators’ most likely playoff matchup is against Boston, so maybe there’s a chance.

But you’ve got to think: If Boucher was feeling “like a kid under a Christmas tree” with the brand new forward depth he received earlier this week, then would he risk taking a better player out of the lineup in order to get Neil in simply as an intimidation factor?

Neil’s upcoming unrestricted free agent status is a conversation for another day.

A Quietly Successful Season for Claesson

It may be old news now, but Senators defenseman Freddy Claesson was beaming about his brand new contract when asked about it on Thursday morning. A week ago, the 24-year-old signed a one-year, one-way extension worth $650,000.

The Stockholm, Sweden native is most pleased with the fact it’s a one-way deal.

“For me, it’s security for sure,” said Claesson. “That’s something I’ve been working on for a long time.

“I’m really happy that they believe in me and they want to invest in me. It’s a stability. I’ve been worrying about getting sent down and all of that, so I’ve got to keep working and when I get a chance I’ve got to take it.”

This season has been quite the transformation for Claesson. He’s gone from being a regular in Binghamton to a consistent NHL call-up, and now has a concrete spot on the Senators’ NHL roster.

After management told him he was staying put for the rest of the season, he got himself a place and stopped anxiously looking over his shoulder.

“When you’re living in a hotel - and I was in one for four and a half months or more - every day you have it in the back of your mind,” said Claesson of getting sent back to the minors. “So now, I’m not really thinking about it, just trying to enjoy it here.”

The positive reviews from management and the shiny piece of paper with his signature on it, was a calming combination on March 1.

“I wasn’t thinking about it too much,” said Claesson. “It’s always fun to watch Sportscentre and follow everything. One of my best buddies is here tonight, Landeskog. So we went for dinner and talked about everything.

“He wanted to stay in Denver, obviously.”

Re-Signing Viktor Stalberg

He still needs to build a resume with his new team, but maybe there are a couple of special people in the organization that could influence Viktor Stalberg to sign with the Senators in the offseason

For one, he’s friends with Erik Karlsson.

“He’s a good guy and I know him pretty well from back home,” said Stalberg after yesterday’s morning skate. “We skate and work out together a lot in the summers, played World Championships together. We’ve been friends for a while, so it’s fun to be part of this team.”

And secondly, he largely admires Daniel Alfredsson.

“He’s from the same hometown,” Stalberg explained. “Obviously Alfie’s one of those guys you look up to if you grew up playing hockey and wanting to be like him. I’ve got to know him the past couple years and it’s great to see what he’s done for this city and this organization.”

The 31-year-old is likely going to garner a contract in the summer with a similar AAV to his current contract if he stays on track to finish with around 15 points on the season.

With the recruiting team of Karlsson and Alfredsson, it’s possible the Senators could ink Stalberg to a cap friendly deal.

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