It’s mid-January — the Sens have allowed 15 goals in their last three games and the playoffs are well out of reach. Trade rumours are being churned out on the daily, with the team becoming increasingly frustrating to watch as the season continues.
Normally in this situation there’d be almost no reason to show interest, and you’d think tonight would be different — it’s the Battle of Ontario, after all! But the on-ice product stayed the exact same, leading to a disheartening 4-3 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As we’re used to by now, the Sens came out of the gate strong, although this time it didn’t last a full period, let alone ten minutes. The recently recalled Colin White hit the post, and Craig Anderson made a couple big stops, although a lost puck battle in front by Karlsson against Matthews led to Zach Hyman making the score 1-0.
It was fortunately the only goal of the period, as the entire Sens fanbase shouted “STAY IN YOUR NET” at Craig Anderson only to see the puck flubbed on an what would’ve rather been an innocuous few seconds. With a dead offence to boot, the first period ended with the Leafs leading 12-4 in shots and ahead by one.
As the slow reality of losing to the Leafs on home ice began to sink in, things started to get ugly. Mark Stone caught an edge going into the boards, and appeared to hurt his knee on the impact. He stayed on the ice for a few seconds and headed to the locker room, although to our relief he was able to return for the rest of the game.
One has to wonder whether he’ll be back for the next game, however, as it wouldn’t be the first time a Sens player has sustained an injury for the remainder of a game before missing the next one (Pageau, Ryan). The Sens have also cancelled their practice tomorrow because of the amount of injured players, and Stone is likely among them (as is confirmed Johnny Oduya).
Mark Stone heads to the room after this collision with Jake Gardiner (and the boards right after) pic.twitter.com/I0Q4JhfuwD— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 21, 2018
On his first shift back from the locker room, Stone battled for position during a Sens power play. Ryan Dzingel worked the puck from behind the net (a Gretzky comparison that actually makes sense), and a feed to Stone was stopped by Frederik Andersen. The rebound went right to Karlsson, however, who broke his 11-game goal drought to bring the game to a tie.
The offence didn’t stop rolling, taking the lead a few minutes later. Cody Ceci’s neutral zone pass sent Mike Hoffman speeding past the blue line. The sniper sniped, with the snapshot snapping silent the abundant amount of blue at the CTC.
The Leafs had a handful of strong checkers in their lineup, and among the best of the pests was Andreas Borgman. A late hit on Zack Smith didn’t fly with Ryan Dzingel, who dropped the mitts in instant retaliation. Borgman received the call for interference, although it was Toronto who somehow got the power play as Dzingel received a double minor for roughing.
But just as the penalties were being announced in the arena, bad defensive coverage from the Leafs — and I mean REALLY bad — left a wide open Tom Pyatt to give the Sens a 3-1 lead shorthanded. Alas, hope abounds! The Curse Of The Second Period is no more!
... And then what happened ...
Auston Matthews happened, cutting the lead in half scoring almost three minutes into the third period. Zach Hyman sent a harmless shot from a bit of a sharp angle, one that Anderson could’ve covered. Instead it bounced out to Matthews, with Ceci looking the wrong way and leaving an open net for the Toronto superstar.
Mitch Marner happened, tying the game under two minutes later. Credit where it’s due, it was a beautiful play that will probably be shown non-stop on Sportscenter for the next month. But under no circumstances is the defensive effort put up by both Oduya and Ceci acceptable at the NHL level. Oduya’s lack of speed was on full display as he looked like a pylon in the head-to-head battle, and Ceci’s lackluster effort to get back and cover was just as much to blame. Anderson was left to defend himself, and against a player of Marner’s skill, he didn’t stand a chance.
And to put add the final twist to the dagger, Connor Carrick happened, with his un-tipped shot blazing past a half-screened Anderson. It was only a one-goal lead, but it was enough to know the Senators weren’t coming back.
It was as if the players and coach were unaware of the score. There was no loosening up the offence, no taking shots at every chance, no urgency whatsoever. They sat back as they were playing for a tie, although there was no tie. The Leafs won 4-3.
- Mark Stone had two assists even though he was playing hurt. He was one of the few consistent providers of offence along with Hoffman and Duchene.
- There were a couple instances of benching, as Colin White was held off the ice for seven minutes following the first goal against. Gabriel Dumont got the brunt of the Boucher force, however, going nearly ten minutes without a shift between the first and second period.
- Cody Ceci played more at 5v5 than Erik Karlsson, although the captain was on the ice for more shot attempts against.
- Craig Anderson’s save percentage continues to plummet.
- I should at least acknowledge Jake Gardiner’s three-assist night, as he stepped up in the last-minute absence of Morgan Rielly.
- Hey, at least we’re still 9-2-0 against the Babcock-era Leafs./
Individual Expected Goals (from MoneyPuck.com)
The Sens hit the road, with back-to-back games against Minnesota and St. Louis starting Monday at 8:00 p.m.