We knew tonight was going to be a little weird. For the first time in forever, the Senators dressed 11 forwards and 7 defenseman, due to injuries (long-term) to Milan Michalek and (hopefully short-term) to Mika Zibanejad. Cameron primarily played three lines and six defensemen, with Colin Greening, Chris Neil, and Patrick Wiercioch getting the short end of the stick. You knew that a team with as much skill as the Hawks would take advantage of some matchups tonight (they did!) but overall, it's nice to squeak a win by the defending Stanley Cup Champions... even though both teams came in with the same number of points.
The Senators best plays of the game came at the very start and the very end. At the very start, it's like we saw the Dave Cameron Senators of last year: strong neutral zone forechceck, good backcheck from the forwards, and a ton of forced turnovers. The Senators played textbook hockey, and got duly rewarded for it. First, Mike Hoffman -- a name you'll hear a lot tonight, just like you've been hearing it for the past 10 games -- used his speed to gain separation in the neutral zone and send the puck to Kyle Turris. Turris is able to send a thru-puck to Bobby Ryan, who takes a floater to his opposite side that Crawford can't handle neatly. A pinching Erik Karlsson retrieves the puck and sends it to Turris, who finds Bobby again. Ryan fires the puck harder this time and Turris, who's crashing the net for any rebound, retrieves the puck again and circles around to find Hoffman on the left side. Before you know it, Hoffman is on his butt but the puck is past Crawford and into the net for a 1-0 lead. A textbook example of a strong cycle and the players using all of their strengths to their advantage.
The Hawks continued their sloppy play, with some defensive zone turnovers leading to scoring chances for a newly-formed line with Shane Prince - Zack Smith - Alex Chiasson, and a poor penalty from Marian Hossa (!) on Mark Borowiecki (!!!!!). I said that it was a weird game, and one of the reasons why was due to a long delay because of something called the kickboard (?) getting a chip in it from a Cody Ceci shot. The long delay didn't seem to do much harm to the Senators though, as the first unit capitalized quickly on the ensuing powerplay. Again, a pretty textbook tactic: Karlsson walks the line and sends the puck to Hoffman, who uses his deception to change the angle before faking it back to Karlsson. The Captain then distributes the puck to Ryan, who fires it past Crawford. Although it was a *good* shot from Bobby, it's something Crawford would've liked to have back. Perhaps the delay cost him here.
After this point, we start to see a gradual shift in the pace of play being dictated by the Hawks. The Sens did well defensively early, with Jared Cowen recovering to tip the puck high after Marian Hossa had a partial breakaway after a slick two-line pass by Teuvo Teravainen. Artemi Panarin, a name we also heard a lot tonight, danced into the offensive zone a couple times this period, but was mainly stymied by the defense pair of Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson closing the gap on him quickly and eliminating his time and space right after the zone entry.
The Hawks continue to apply pressure for the remainder of the period, with a notable ~2 minute shift for the Borowiecki - Ceci pair and the Turris line and a couple chances by the Kruger - Shaw combo. The aforementioned Shaw took a needless penalty at the end of the period on Borowiecki (two drawn penalties!!!!!!) after he exploded upwards with his forearms to the upper body of Borowiecki late, thus leading to the Sens starting the second period on the powerplay.
If I could give a summary of the first, it would be that the Sens started off executing their gameplan: a strong neutral zone forecheck, physicality on the Hawks skilled players, and managing the puck well in the offensive zone. They strayed away from this in the latter half of the period, and seemed to admire the Hawks -- giving them time instead of eliminating their space. Shots ended 11-8 in favour of the Hawks, who also had ~60% CF% in the period.
P.S. Chris Neil also dangled the crap out of one-time Sens training camp invitee Trevor van Reimsdyk
Much like their second period against Philadelphia, the Sens completely took the foot of the gas here. I really don't know *why* this happens so frequently, especially because you'd think the players understand or that the coaching staff will address. Thus, it really seems like the problem is a lack of talent or poor usage of players on Dave Cameron's part.
The Sens had a couple chances on the carry-over powerplay, but afterwards, the Hawks got a 5-on-3 opportunity after Methot closed his hands on the puck trying to hold the offensive zone blueline and Jared Cowen shot the puck over the glass even though the Sens had won the defensive zone faceoff and he wasn't under much pressure. The Hawks, who entered the game with the league's most productive 5-on-3 unit, capitalized quickly, with Patrick Kane extending his franchise record point streak to 21 games after snapping a shot through the five-hole of Craig Anderson after he was given time and space by Curtis Lazar and Mark Borowiecki.
The period didn't get much better for the Sens. One thing the Hawks do really well is that they can stretch the opposing teams forwards due to their passing ability. Add that onto having smooth-skating defensemen who are able to carry the puck, and you get a pretty relentless offense that doesn't allow the opposing team to generate much neutral zone pressure at all.
According to the folks over at War On Ice, the Hawks had 13 (!) scoring chances in the period, compared to 8 in the first and 7 in the third. Thus, despite the Senators trying their best to hang in there, you just knew that another goal was coming. Late in the third, Kane and Panarin execute a flashy high-cycle play, where Panarin picks up the puck at the left point, drops his shoulder to fake a vulnerable Curtis Lazar, and fires the puck past Craig Anderson for his second point of the evening.
A minute after, Marian Hossa almost put the Hawks ahead with a breakaway generated by an Erik Karlsson blocked shot, but the Captain recovers in time to force Hossa to his backhand. Craig Anderson is able to seal his pads together and keep the puck out so that the game can enter the third period tied at 2-2. After a decent first period, the Senators were completely outclassed in the second and were outshot 16 - 6 with a cool 28% CF%.
The game was a bit more even in the third, with the Senators managing to end the period with a 12 - 11 lead in shots, though they did lag a little behind in scoring chances (7-4) and Corsi (42%). Despite only playing 4:00 of ice-time, Colin Greening had a decent shift with Chris Neil and a double-shifted Kyle Turris. A lot of that had to do with being on the ice with Erik Karlsson -- a feeling Greening knows well from 2011-12 -- but the Hawks did end up taking a too many men penalty after some good offensive zone pressure.
The ensuing powerplay ends up being important, with Magic Mike holding the line beautifully despite being matched up with Jonathan Toews. Hoffman sends the puck to Turris, who isolates a Hawks PKer before sending the puck back to Hoffman. Opposite to their first powerplay, the puck ends up going Hoffman -> Karlsson -> Ryan -> Karlsson, who shoots the puck hard to the top-right of Crawford. Critically, Mark Stone waits before using his excellent hand-eye coordination to bunt the puck in so that the goal counts for a 3-2 lead.
I really can't believe that anyone is worried about Mark Stone over his goal totals when the Winnipeg native is almost at a point per game.
The Sens continue to play well, with Shane Prince -- who should be playing in the top-six over the offensively-limited Curtis Lazar - generating a couple of scoring chances after stealing the puck at the offensive blueline. Karlsson almost generates something out of nothing, a frequent occurrence, with almost 10 minutes left in the period after racing down teh right wing boards and drawing two Hawks to him, before sending a behind the back pass to the middle of the ice for a streaking Sens player.
After starting the period with a 27 - 14 deficit in shots, the Senators made it 31 - 22 at the halfway mark of the period, showing the improvement in offensive play. However, with almost seven minutes left, the Hawks strike back. Patrick Kane ends up with the puck on the left wing boards and draws some attention from the Sens defenders AND Craig Anderson, who looks the other way. Kane takes advantage of this by backhand passing it short-side to Artem Anisimov, who sneaks past the check of Ryan and Karlsson to tap the puck into an open cage and tie the game at 3.
The teams trade chances for the rest of the night, with Toews streaking down the left side to beat Anderson with a bullet of the shot -- but hitting the post, before Hoffman goes the other way and generates a chance due to some slick passing with Turris and Karlsson. Jared Cowen and Cody Ceci, who were terrible tonight, were left exposed by Panarin and Kane, but Craig Anderson was there to shut the door with the left pad. Then, with four seconds left, Karlsson grabs the puck from the defensive zone and skates it all the way to the slot area, where he sends the puck to Hoffman on the left wing. Hoff snaps it short side past Crawford, but this time it's the Hawks goalie who's thankful for the post -- grabbing the Hawks a well-earned point with just 0.2 seconds left.
This one was over quickly, with Erik Karlsson grabbing the puck in the defensive zone and skating past not only Duncan Keith but also a backchecking Kane -- two tremendous skaters -- to send the puck to Hoffman, who beats Crawford AND the post this time for his second of the night and a 4-3 OT win.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
I feel like Hoffman could have 3-4 hat-tricks over the last 10 games. The 25 year old has been on fire lately, and has definitely "showed" the Senators that he's has the team's best offensive skills at forward. In addition to his 9 goals and 15 points, Hoffman also has 36 shots over his last 10. It's really weird to think that the team jerked him around in Binghamton, put him through waivers, gave him poor linemates, but that he still managed to excel. He's obviously not going to shoot the 40% or whatever absurd number he's at during this point streak, but it's clear that the team is better with him on the ice.
Hoffman was playing with Legwand last year lol— Kevin Lee (@BringBackLee) December 4, 2015
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
The Senators shot attempts with Erik Karlsson on the ice at even-strength tonight: 24 for, 25 against. With Karlsson off the ice? 12 for, 38 against. That's a +24% in comparison to his teammates, and makes me really sad that the team hasn't insulated Karlsson with any other capable defensive talent. A treat to watch, with three points on the night, and some magical bursts of speed late in the game to set up Hoffman's almost-goal and then his actual-goal.
Honourable Mention: Mark Borowiecki
I mean, okay, I know the guy had poor possession numbers on the night due to spending a ton of time in his end, but I do feel like giving him credit for getting under the Hawks skin and drawing not one but TWO penalties -- one of which resulted in a Sens goal. I think that he loses more puck battles than people think, often because he starts off the encounter with poor positioning, but... TWO DRAWN PENALTIES.
Honourable Mention: this guy
Sens Zero(es): Jared Cowen, Cody Ceci
When caught on the ice vs. Panarin - Anisimov - Kane, this pair had a CF% of 10-20%. When the Panarin line was up against Erik Karlsson, they were only at 55%. The point here isn't to compare Karlsson to Cowen/Ceci, but when the gap between your #1 and your #3/4 is that big, there are some big issues. Cowen and Ceci were way in over their head tonight, and without a reliable second-pair, the Senators are doomed to have this happen over and over.
With certain players on the ice, the Senators look okay, and due to Craig Anderson, they seem to survive most nights. However, playing seven defensemen clearly doesn't seem to work, and playing Curtis Lazar in the top-six also doesn't really seem to work. The positives are obvious: Erik Karlsson is 4th in league scoring, Hoffman and Ryan are tied for 10th, Stone and Turris are tied for 23rd. The top-six is great, albeit lacking some depth at the moment. The bottom-six, despite decent production from Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, have been disappointing in terms of game-to-game consistency in two-way play. The defense, beyond Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson, is horrid. Changes need to happen, personnel be damned, for the Senators to have any hope of succeeding in the playoffs. I'm really grateful to bank some points though, especially against the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
P.S. Mike Hoffman forever
hoff snappin' ankles https://t.co/kLXJl8tIo1— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) December 4, 2015