A little behind-the-scenes look at the creative process here at Silver Seven: an earlier iteration of today's Five Thoughts was a lot gloomier and rooted in an analysis of how the Sens seem to have somehow gotten even worse since making a mid-season coaching change. But then last night's shellacking of the Montreal Canadiens went down and I thought to myself: life is too short to be serious all the time, let's just enjoy some breezy banter. So kick back and enjoy nothing but good vibes as we head off into the weekend.
Rivalry Wins Always Feel Good
Last night's triumph over the Montreal Canadiens was the type of life-affirming experience that keeps me coming back as a Sens fan. Is this season looking like a total write-off, maybe the biggest bummer of the last 10 years? Yes. Does wiping the floor with the Habs, particularly in such a thorough thrashing that the visiting supporters were fleeing for the exits halfway through the third, still feel amazing? Also yes.
I've written at length about the myriad ways to the keep the flame of your fandom alive when things are looking dire for the local heroes, and winning rivalry games remains near the very top of the list. This kind of pettiness? Hook it up to my veins!
We can all go back to debating who needs to get traded to send a message to the core or whatever tomorrow, but at least until Saturday's game I'm just going to keep hitting "Repeat" on the highlights package from last night.
This Shtick is Getting Old
Speaking of rivalries, at this point I'm really tired of Brendan Gallagher's failed attempts at making himself relevant by going after Tim Stützle. Last night, Gallagher went out of his way to try to do...something, I'm not sure what exactly, with the game far out of reach. Afterwards, Stützle was quoted as saying:
Is there some rule in The Code that obliges Stützle to fight Gallagher in the final moments of a blow-out over a petty beef that's been stone cold boring for at least a year now? What are we even doing here? Why do we need to entertaing this stupidity at the risk of Stützle potentially getting injured.
Have some respect for yourself, Gallagher. This thing's over.
The Talent is There
In a December edition of our subscriber newsletter, I wrote that "The 2023-24 Ottawa Senators can still be really good, actually, and they can be lot of fun along the way". Boy, December 6th, when the Sens were 10-10, feels like a long, long time ago now, but the sentiment remains the same: there is ample talent across this group. We can quibble about whether there are some flaws in the construction of the roster that make it less than the sum of its parts, and the team's current goaltending arrangement does tend to provoke its fair share of anxiety, but when they get going they have the top gear of a play-off team. Last night we saw that level – may we see it a few more times before this campaign is out.
Ridly Greig: Premium Puck Mover
Speaking of talent: I've been on the Greig is Good Train for quite some time now, but even I have to admit I'm pleasantly surprised by just how competent he's looked in his time centering Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroux. One of the biggest challenges facing any centre that wants to play big minutes in the NHL is distributing the puck in a way that creates offense but, as it turns out, Greig's got that skill in spades. Not only does the young pivot rarely make a bad play handling the biscuit, but I'm often impressed by his ability to find the incisive, attacking pass. Being a good passer is partly about the skill to hit small gaps, but it's also about reading the play quickly enough to see the window you have to hit in the first place.
Greig goes through his reads rapid fire, and then moves the puck decisively. Get it, find the attacking angle, move the puck, move your feet to get to an open spot – that's how the offense happens, and next time you watch Greig, look for how well the puck flies around when it gets to him.
To say Jake Sanderson "struggled" with Thomas Chabot out and the role of #1 Defenseman thrust onto him would be overstating the thing a bit, but he was not his usual self for much of the 13 games in December that Chabot missed. To my eye Sandy looked like he might have been suffering from some minor nicks as he just wasn't escaping forecheckers as easily as we're used to. The giveaways were also a bit more plentiful. The Sens managed a meagre 44.43 xGF% in that time frame, as well. This is not to say Sanderson was alone in his struggles, far from it of course, but the downturn was noticeable.
Well, the good news is that players with Sanderson's talent rarely stay down for long. He was great in last night's triumph over the Habs and his on-ice numbers for the season are back above break-even both in goals and in expected goals. Some of that is deployment, but his pairing with Artem Zub has always had the potential to be a real game-changer for the squad. One of my big hopes for this season is that 85 can carry this strong play through to the end of the year.