One of the statistics that’s been thrown in my face the past few weeks, is that the Tampa Bay Lightning hit 100 points before the Ottawa Senators hit 50.
I don’t think there’s anyone who would dispute the fact that Tampa Bay is a vastly superior team, but until you see the two side by side, it can be hard to grasp how great the disparity is. From the coaching staff through to the goaltender, the Lightning are miles ahead of Ottawa in every single metric.
Tonight, it was evident.
Ottawa managed to use low-percentage opportunities to outshoot the Lightning 37-34, but Tampa Bay’s superiority propelled them to a 5-1 victory, and extended the Senators’ losing streak to seven games.
Nikita Kucherov tallied a goal and an assist, and every Tampa Bay defenceman recorded at least a point on a, frankly, ragtag group of Ottawa Senators. If you needed any more indication as to just how good the Lightning are, Steven Stamkos played barely 15mins, and had no points.
Ottawa started off well, outshooting the Lightning to begin the contest. Unfortunately for the Sens, Tampa turned into the eventual President’s Trophy winners that they are.
The Lightning began to take control, and 7:17 in, Victor Hedman fired a rebound past Craig Anderson, and opened the scoring in favour of Tampa Bay.
Andy was completely screened by Anthony Cirelli, and had no chance on the perfectly-placed shot.
Tampa Bay’s offensive prowess would continue to be on full display 1:34 later. With possession in the Ottawa zone, a gorgeous cycle and Erik Černák pass found Ryan McDonagh all alone in the slot, and his quick shot beat Andy to put Tampa up 2-0.
That’s just Ottawa being out-classed. Nothing more.
With the game looking as if it were about to spiral out of control, the Senators answered back.
Less than a minute after the McDonagh marker, Ottawa turned the puck back up ice, and a 2on1 materialized. Brian Gibbons made a brutal pass to Anthony Duclair, but Duclair took the pass off his skate, and roofed his second goal in four games.
Great play by Duclair to make something from nothing. He’s making a great case to be re-signed by Ottawa.
The Senators would end the first period up in the SOG totals, but down 2-1.
The Lightning’s superior speed and skill would take over to begin the second.
Tallying his second point of the night, Černák would walk in from the point, and rifle a rocket of a shot top shelf to make it 3-1 Lightning.
Again, Anderson couldn’t see a thing on this play. Also a gorgeous shot by Černák.
Ottawa would have a glorious chance to close the gap not long after, when Bobby Ryan streaked in on a breakaway. Ryan couldn’t convert on the play, and took a nasty spill into the end boards that he was slow to get up from. The official ruled that he was fouled from behind by Nikita Kucherov, and Ryan was awarded a penalty shot, but was turned aside by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
A little while later, Brian Gibbons fell behind the Ottawa goal, and took out the legs of Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos. The Tampa captain took an awkward fall, and would head to the locker room for the rest of the frame, but return in the third period.
This is one of those times where you realize how good the Lightning are, and how far the Senators have to go before they get anywhere close to that level.
It didn’t. Slow them down. A bit.
With just under five minutes to go in the second, the puck came to Kucherov on the half boards at the top of the circle, to the right of Craig Anderson. The NHL’s leading point-getter snapped a seeing-eye shot, that found its way past Andy before he knew what was going on.
The third period started with Ottawa still maintaining the SOG advantage, but that hardly matters when they’re all low-percentage and you’re down 4-1.
If you thought it was going to get better in the third...first of all, why? And second, it didn’t.
Not two minutes into the third period, Mikhail Sergachev blasted a bullet of a shot by Anderson, to grow the Tampa lead to four.
With the marker, all Tampa defenders had a point in the game.
The rest of the period is honestly not worth describing. Ottawa was completely out-played, out-gunned, and out-coached by the best team in hockey. Both teams had some half-decent chances the rest of the way, but the score ended 5-1 in favour of Tampa Bay.
The Lightning are good. They’re damn good. The Senators are not. This game went exactly as anticipated.
- There is no discernible difference between a Guy Boucher-coached team and a Marc Crawford-coached team. The Senators still showed a complete lack of structure, and the lineup decisions were equally as confusing. Intensely frustrating similarities.
- Craig Anderson looked exhausted, fed-up, or both between the pipes tonight. One has to wonder whether or not he’ll be around next season.
- Anthony Duclair has been the Senators’ best forward over this nightmare stretch. He has two-goals in two games, and has made somewhat effective linemates out of the likes of Brian Gibbons. The book on him as of now is that he starts hot and then tails off, so hopefully he can keep it up and find a home in Ottawa.
- Thomas Chabot and Dylan DeMelo are the only defenceman that should have a guaranteed lineup spot over Christian Wolanin. The fact that he’s been a healthy scratch the last two games is a joke, and if he’s not going to play, he should be sent down to Belleville where we will.
- Speaking of Chabot, he hasn’t looked good since the Big 3 were traded. He’s as good as ever in the offensive end, but his defensive play screams of a young guy trying to do too much. He must be feeling immense pressure without Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel, but he needs to simplify his game./