Mika Zibanejad’s Hat Trick Sinks Ottawa Senators 4-1

The former Senator couldn’t be contained in team’s second straight loss.

The Ottawa Senators faced the New York Rangers in the season’s home opener, and on a night where they announced the jersey retirement once of the franchise’s greatest defensive players, the Sens missed the mark defensively. They lost by a final score of 4-1, bringing them another game closer to the 2020 draft lottery.

The Rangers’ top line of Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin were on fire all night. They were on the ice for all four goals scored against the Sens, including one at 5v5, two on the power play, and one shorthanded. Zibanejad was especially lethal, recording a hat trick against his former team and adding an assist. He was already tied for the NHL scoring lead heading into this game, and has now extended it with eight points in his first two games of the season. Cue the Derick Brassard jokes.

As lethal as the Rangers’ offence was, they were assisted by some questionable Sens defence. Their first goal on the power play was off a rebound where Mark Borowiecki completely lost sign of Zibanejad. The third goal was an unfortunate block during a power play springing New York on a two-on-one, although Erik Brannstrom misplayed the rush backwards. The fourth goal also saw misreads by both Ron Hainsey and Connor Brown on the PK.

As for the second goal, well, the Sens didn’t stand a chance. From the stretch pass by Adam Fox to the crisp passing play, this one was gorgeous.

The Sens didn’t allow themselves to get shut out, as Brady Tkachuk pulled the ultimate Brady Tkachuk move and banked in a goal off his body. Thomas Chabot made the great play to get a quick shot towards the net, and with Tkachuk battling in front the puck made it past Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Brady is two-for-two in goals scored within a few feet of the net, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Five Things We Learned

1: Drake Batherson has some growing pains.

While it’s still only two games into the regular season, it may already be time to take a hard look at Drake Batherson’s development track this season. He was virtually guaranteed a roster spot out of training camp given the Sens’ lack of depth on the right wing. But with his pre-season play being slightly underwhelming, he found himself playing on the fourth line this game next to Artem Anisimov and Mikkel Boedker. It’s definitely not an ideal support situation for a prospect trying to learn how to create offence against NHL competition.

Further to that, Batherson has been caved in defensively pretty viciously in his first two games. Against Toronto he was on the ice for only two shots for 23 against (8.0%), whereas against the Rangers he on for 15 for and 19 against (44.1%). This is despite getting the vast majority of his shifts starting in the offensive zone.

This brings up the question: would sending Batherson to the AHL be beneficial for his development? Or is his incredible season last year still enough proof that he’s graduated from that level? Again, it’s only been two games, and Batherson definitely had small stretches of poor play last season. But the growing pains have been apparent thus far.

2: Bobby Ryan Career Season (TM) is looking unlikely.

For those not yet in the loop, Bobby Ryan is having a career season, because that’s what we decided will happen, and why the heck not?

Unfortunately, Bobby was particularly underwhelming to me in this game, especially during the special teams. His shots were even weaker than when he was playing with his mangled hand, and his some of his decisions led to almost-costly turnovers.

D.J. Smith switched the lines for this game, putting Ryan on the first line in place of Brown. The trio put up positive on-ice results during 5-on-5, but once the power play hit, Ryan was virtually ineffective. Speaking of the power play...

3: The special teams need adjusting.

After going 0-for-5 with the man advantage, Smith voiced his disappointment post-game.

“I didn’t think we worked hard enough, I didn’t think we were hungry enough on loose pucks. We got beat bad in the face-off circle so they cleared the puck and it was tough to enter.”

The key in that quote is the entries, where the Rangers kept breaking up plays in the neutral zone and along the blue line. When the puck got in the Sens started to get creative, but there’s still significant work to be done. The team has a four-day break before their next game, where they’ll surely be spending lots of time tightening both the power play and penalty kill.

4: Brady Tkachuk is an offensive play-driver.

While the rest of the Senators struggled, Tkachuk’s line thrived with puck possession. On the ice for 20 shots for and 13 against, his skillset is a lot more than just banking in pucks off his torso, as he’s proving to be the #1 controller of offence on the Sens. His underlying numbers were fantastic in his rookie year, although there were questions as to whether he was just a product of playing with Possession God Mark Stone. Now he’s thriving on his own, which is a great sign for the 20-year-old’s long-term success.

5: Chris Phillips will forever be a Senator.

Before the start of the game, it was announced that Chris Phillips’ #4 will be retired by the Senators on February 18th. It’s an outstanding honour for the defenceman, who leads the franchise in games played, having been with the team through its highest of highs. Whether or not you think Phillips deserves the honour, he’s been a fantastic community ambassador who has dedicated his life to this team. Congrats Big Rig!

Game Flow

The Rangers held control for the first half, although the Senators started to regain some ground once the Rangers already had their lead (although that’s mostly nullified by score effects). Interestingly, the Sens beat the Rangers in expected goals, mainly off a handful of high-probability chances that didn’t go in.

Heat Map

The Senators actually did a pretty good job of keeping the Rangers’ shots in low-danger areas closer the blue line. Each team only scored one goal at 5v5.

Up Next

The Senators take a four day break before facing off against the defending champions St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

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