Five Thoughts For Friday
Is the newly-minted HST line amongst the league's best? I talk Ottawa's top line, giving Chris Wideman a shot, allowing too many shots against, and more!
Well, last night wasn't exactly the most encouraging of games for the Senators. However, they were coming off the second half of a back-to-back against a top team in the East, so it's understandable. Still though, there are some worrying trends going on. Anyways, here are my five thoughts for today!
Shots, Shots, Shots
Ottawa gave up another 36 shots against last night, which marks the fourth time in five games that they have allowed at least 34 shots, and the Senators have yet to out shoot an opponent thus far. Yes, even Buffalo had more shots in the season opener. This doesn't give me a lot of hope for what's to come this season, as we saw the exact same thing happen early last season.
They seemed to get better once Dave Cameron took over, but perhaps that was just an aberration. This is still a team that doesn't have a very good defence corps, and the pairing of Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki are predictably getting hemmed in every single game.
Ottawa has played the most games in the league, but they are easily in dead last in shots against with 178. They are also last in SF%, 2nd last in CF%, and 2nd last in FF%. They simply won't be winning games if this trend keeps up, and something needs to be done.
HST Line Amongst League's Best?
It was always known that Ottawa has some "nice" forwards like Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, etc. But I don't think anyone actually thought of those players as legitimate forces. I beg to differ. Looking around the league, they compare quite well with other top lines. There are lots of teams that have amazing one-two punches like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, or Daniel and Henrik Sedin, or Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, or Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, etc. However, there aren't that many teams that have three fantastic players like Ottawa does.
I'm not sure if any of Stone, Hoffman, and Turris is quite in the category of those aforementioned players (just yet), but they all certainly look to be quality first line players. The Sedin's are playing with Brandon Sutter right now, which drags down that lines value a lot. It just goes to show how hard to get that third player that puts teams over the top.
Looking around the league, there are about 6-10 top lines that I would say are probably better than Ottawa's current trio. It certainly helps that all three of them look fantastic right now, and there isn't a real "weak link" that many other teams top lines have. Even to get into the top-15 is amazing, as this would have been unprecedented just one year ago.
Disregarding the rest of the lineup, it's great to see these three emerging as key pieces for years to come.
Give Chris Wideman A Shot Already
I know some people probably get tired of me (and others) talking about how poorly Ottawa's bottom pairing is playing, but it bears repeating because of how much of an issue it is. It's a very small sample so far, but the 3rd pairing has been unplayable so far. Jared Cowen has a CF% of 37.60% at 5 on 5, and Mark Borowiecki has a CF% even worse at 35.24%.
I know some people have said that Cowen has looked a bit better by watching him play, and I'll agree that he has shown flashes of competence. However, I'll die on my hill that he just isn't a smart player. That won't change as he "develops," and it doesn't help that the underlying numbers aren't backing him up early on. Borowiecki has had similar issues, although if I had to pick my poison I would choose him.
The thing is, they have an option in Wideman, but he has yet to play a single game. At the age of 25, he deserves a chance at some point. I thought he would've played in at least one game in these two back-to-backs, but for some reason he saw no action. He may not be a great shot suppressor either, but he may be a player that contributes so much to the offence that his best defence is contributing more in the offensive zone.
It would be silly to not at least give him a chance, as he's yet to play an NHL game. Just put him in already.
Can't Afford To Lose MacArthur
Clarke MacArthur missed yesterday's game, and it appears that it's to do with his head that he injured a couple weeks ago. The team will be very vague about his injury, but I'd be willing to bet it's a concussion. Hopefully it isn't too much of an issue, although he needs to be 100% and will have to miss at least a couple weeks to fully recover.
Maybe Ottawa can hold their own in the short run, but they really can't afford to have him out long term. He has been a solid possession driver his entire career, and he keeps everybody in their right spots in the lineup. Alex Chiasson had to start on the second line last night, and that predictably failed. I'm not really comfortable having Milan Michalek or Curtis Lazar in his spot either, as they are better suited for the bottom two lines right now.
Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan have shown they need a good possession player on their line, and they essentially need either Hoffman or MacArthur in that spot. Ottawa's depth will be quite decimated if he's out long-term, and perhaps Bryan Murray will have to go out and get that top-six forward.
The Senators started the season with five games in eight days, which is quite the workload, especially with four of those being on the road with two back-to-backs as well. Luckily for them, they will only play four games in the next 14 days. Furthermore, all of those games are at home so everybody should be able to get some well deserved rest. Their opponents include the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and Calgary Flames, so they should be able to pick up some points during this two week stretch.
It's imperative they win more games early in the season, because a month like December looks particularly grueling.