Ottawa Senators Fall 3-0 to Toronto Maple Leafs

When the Ottawa Senators face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is typically a high intensity affair.

Ottawa Senators Fall 3-0 to Toronto Maple Leafs

Regardless of the two teams' position in the standings, there's usually a bit of electricity in the air. For reasons that are somewhat unclear to me, tonight's Battle of Ontario was one of the dullest that I can remember in ages. It's not that the Sens played particularly badly, but this game just never quite seemed to get on track. Also, the Sens lost 3-0, which didn't feel good.

Believe it or not, Ottawa was the better team in the first period. Though I wouldn't say that they generated a massive quantity of chances for themselves, they mostly kept the Leafs in check and had a few quality opportunities to boot. With a bit of puck luck, maybe the Sens would have emerged from the first frame with a lead. Alas, that was not how the cookie crumbled on this evening, and the second period got away from them in large part because of some sloppy turnovers.

First, Nick Holden misplayed a floating puck and Michael Bunting ripped home the chance:

Then, Holden had a clearance attempt knocked down, and William Nylander slipped away from the coverage to bury an opportunity:

Finally, before the middle frame was over, Radim Zohorna (who??) got a goal in his Maple Leafs debut:

Would the Sens have benefitted from a stop on that last goal? Absolutely. But it's also (very) hard to win a game when you don't score any goals. The Sens have not exactly received stellar goaltending performances the last two games, but you need to score at least a couple goals before you complain about your own team's goalie play in any given game. Sorry, I don't make the rules.

The Sens had the better of the play in the third, and had a couple of good chances, but never looked they were going to get back into it. Much as it pains me to say this, the Leafs played a defensively responsible final frame and mostly limited the high-danger chances. It was, as you might say, winning hockey. God, that feels terrible to say.

By the end, Ottawa wound up out-shooting Toronto 30-20 but the expected goals share was close to even. The Leafs, for the most part, really did keep it to the outside. I wouldn't say that the Sens played player poorly per se, and maybe if a couple bounces go their way they win this one 3-2, but they also were not dominant by any stretch. It was, as I alluded to at the top, a lot of blah.

This one stings,  but the Sens are also back at it tomorrow night against Columbus so there is no time to dwell. No one feels sorry for you in the NHL, you just gotta pick yourself right back up.

See y'all back here tomorrow.

Game Thoughts:

-The Sens were already in need of a minor miracle to qualify for the post-season, but I'd say that's now been upgraded to major miracle. They are six points out with six games remaining, and there are two other teams between themselves and the Florida Panthers, who currently occupy the second wild card spot. Basically the Sens need to go 6-0 and hope for some help. Are the games still meaningful at this stage? Maybe?

-Holden has been great for the Sens in so many ways since he came over before the start of last season, he seems like an absolute gem of a teammate among other things, and I thought bringing him back on a one-year deal this season was totally defensible. Unfortunately, it is clear that he no longer has the footspeed to keep up. It wasn't solely Holden's fault that the Sens went down tonight, but he didn't help matters. It's difficult to see these final six games as anything but his last in Ottawa.

-I've commented on it before, but it bears repeating: when the Stützle-Giroux-Tkachuk trio get out into open ice on the rush, they are absolutely magical. Many of the Sens' best chances came when those three were on the ice, attacking with speed through the neutral zone. None of the other lines were particularly effective, unfortunately, outside from a bit of inspired play by Alex DeBrincat. In a refrain now all too familiar to Sens fans, he was probably a bit unlucky not to pot one or two.

There's often a lot of noise about how the team dumps 'n' chases too much when the Sens are struggling, and while some of that criticism strikes me as overwrought, a team like the Leafs is particularly well-equipped to deal with the Sens' forecheck. Their forwards come back to support the puck and the defense are adept at making short passes to break out with control. When the Sens were trying to mount a comeback in the third, they repeatedly tried to establish the forecheck via the aforementioned dump 'n' chase - only to have the Leafs calmly regroup and break out with control. The run of play at the end of the game, with the goalie pulled, was particularly excruciating in that regard. The puck would go in on a hard ring around the boards, then it would be back at the Sens five seconds later.

Game Flow and Heat Map:

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