Mike McKenna stopped 42 of the 44 pucks thrown his way on Sunday evening, pulling out all the stops while trying to earn his first home victory in a Senators uniform. He’ll have to settle for a well-deserved point.
A spirited affair with both teams on the second half of a back-to-back, the Bruins had the extra energy left in the third period to take the game to the Sens, and ultimately prevail off a Torey Krug overtime winner.
Credit where credit’s due: the Senators played a much better game tonight with an incredibly depleted roster. I mean, I can’t imagine the team icing a worse defence corps than Thomas Chabot, Cody Ceci, Maxime Lajoie, Justin Falk, Ben Harpur, and Erik Burgdoefer — four of the six weren’t even expected to be on the team’s already porous opening night roster. They did play as a unit, though, and it was clear that the team’s gameplan was to channel a bit of old-Boucher and flip pucks out of the zone to relative safety unless Chabot was on the ice. With an extra left shot in the lineup, Ben Harpur often played the right side, and found it hard to do anything but send the puck back down the boards in the offensive zone due to the awkward handedness — stymieing the team’s ability to generate offence when he was on the ice (9 CF).
All through the night, the ragtag trio of Dzingel - Smith - Paajarvi played like the team’s best line. On their opening shift, Dzingel had two high-danger scoring opportunities by himself, taking the puck to the middle of the ice and firing shots on Tuukka Rask while Zack Smith wrecked havoc in front of the net.
Not to be outdone, the Tkachuk - White - Stone line were all positive shot drivers tonight, and unsurprisingly generated the team’s only goal. Colin White continued to show his impressive (and newfound?) speed, first winning the draw against Ryan Donato and then flying down the right side with the puck off an intelligent zone exit from Brady Tkachuk. White’s speed opened a gap, leaving space for him to thread a sweet lateral pass to Mark Stone for the one-timer past Rask for a 1-0 Sens lead.
Mike McKenna was tested in the opening frame, turning aside three high-danger chances (via Natural Stat Trick). All came from poor zone exits, first with Lajoie and Ceci getting mixed up and letting David Krejci find a streaking Marchand through the middle; then with Ben Harpur trying to do a diagonal exit that’s picked off by the silky David Pastrnak.
The Sens ended the first with an extended 5-on-3, coming off some great puck pursuit work from White and Tkachuk leading to a Chris Wagner cross-check on Thomas Chabot, and then Marchand taking an elbowing penalty after jousting with Lajoie. This led to this strange, lateral positioning you can see below, which tactically limits options, but perhaps surprised the Bruins to the point where the first unit generated three good chances. None got past Rask, though.
The rough stuff escalated in the second, with Ben Harpur getting the best of Sean Kuraly in a fight, but receiving 17 penalty minutes with an instigator. On the ensuing powerplay, an unlucky shot block led to the puck going straight to — guess who — Marchand, who wired it past McKenna to knot the game at 1.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. pic.twitter.com/5dU6Qn8xCL— NHL (@NHL) December 9, 2018
The goal seems to wake the Sens up, as Zack Smith — who was excellent tonight — had yet another physical shift where he buzzed around the net, knocking Torey Krug down with a clean hit near the boards. The Sens have a good stretch where the hem the Bruins into their zone with three consecutive icings, but were unable to generate any real dangerous opportunities.
In the third, Ottawa’s legs (and lack of depth) caught up to them, with the Bruins starting to circle around McKenna — eventually putting 14 shots on goal over the course of the period to the Sens’ 4. Ottawa’s best chance to pot the winner came from Cody Ceci, who made a create defensive play to clear a rebound in front of McKenna, jumped into the play, and took a nice backhand feed from Dzingel through the middle but lifted the puck wide.
The Pastrnak-Marchand combination started to come alive, with the Dzingel line continuing to play physical but slowly losing their ability to bottle them up as the night wore on, and if not for a lazy Pastrnak penalty to cancel out a Bruins powerplay, chances are that the Sens don’t get the point that Mike McKenna deserved.
After 40 saves in regulation, the Sens don’t do McKenna any favours in overtime. From the start, the team looks disjointed, with Ceci, Dzingel, and Smith not able to control the puck, and Pastrnak carrying the puck with Chabot and Stone on the ice to limit any offensive opportunities. At the end, a nice spin move from Marchand pick and roll with Krejci opens up Torey Krug backdoor, and the diminutive defenceman gave the Bruins a deserved extra point.
- Mike McKenna, obviously, giving the Senators their second straight stellar performance in net. He had a two-pad stack in overtime that was vintage 90s, and I really wish the team was able to pull this one out to give him his first home win
- Although they faded in the third, Dzingel - Smith - Paajarvi looked a lot better as a checking line than any combination featuring Tom Pyatt or Chris Tierney. With Paul, Pyatt, and McCormick playing less than 6 minutes on a back-to-back situation, it’s clear Boucher looks as this team as a three-line team, and I expect that trio to stay together to give Ottawa two defined lines/
Off tomorrow, the Sens head on a three-game road trip with visits to Nashville (Tuesday), Detroit (Friday), and Montréal (Saturday).
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