On more than one occasion this season, I've wondered if what I just saw before my eyes was rock bottom for the Ottawa Senators. As we gradually move towards the halfway mark of the campaign, there has been an uncomfortable number of instances where I asked myself "What am I doing here?" The first period of Tuesday night's 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks was the worst I've seen this team play in a long time – and that's saying something.
The Canucks scored on their first shot, less than three minutes into the game, and for the rest of the opening stanza they never let their foot off the gas. By the time the first twenty minutes had elapsed, Vancouver led 5-0. Could Anton Forsberg have possibly made one or two more stops? Sure. But we shouldn't kid ourselves about just how inept the Sens were to start this game: Vancouver racked up an astonishing 86.19 xGF% across all situations. Ottawa generated very little, conceded a lot, and just generally looked listless. I'm not sure I could point to a single player that had what you could describe as a "good" period.
Yes, the Sens played better in the second and third; frankly, it would have been nearly impossible for them to have played worse. Without totally dismissing the positives, Claude Giroux in particular looked great in tallying a goal and an assist, one does have to ask the question of just how much credit you can give for playing well after going down 5-0. There's score effects, and then there's whatever shell Vancouver went into for the final two frames.
The Sens did make them sweat for about a nanosecond after Vladimir Tarasenko scored with the goalie pulled to make it 5-3 with a little over two minutes to play. Then, this happened:
At that point, all I could do was laugh.
The Sens now sit at 14-19, and would need to win seven of the next eight games to get above .500 at the season's halfway mark. I've said it before, and it remains true: even good teams have very bad games, and the NHL is the toughest league in the world. Anyone can have a bad night. This far into the season, though, there have simply been too many bad nights.
-Perhaps wanting to rally the troops a bit and provide some positive momentum to build off of ahead of a long road trip, Jacques Martin tightened his bench in the third period. Mark Kastelic, Zack MacEwen, and Jacob Bernard-Docker, replaced on the backend by Erik Brännström, didn't play a single shift after the 15 minute mark of the final frame.
-While I am glad to see Thomas Chabot back in action, and the team is improved for his presence, there were several times during the game where it seemed to me he lacked his usual explosiveness. Hopefully these troubles will dissipate as he get his game speed back.
-The Sens' lack of defensive "structure" has been noted around these parts on several occasions, but tonight their inability to move the puck out of their own end with control was a glaring problem. It's very difficult to break up the cycle of a good offensive team like the Canucks – when you do, it's all the more important to leave the zone and press the attack in the other direction. The Sens did precious little of that tonight.