Well the Senators finally converted on some of their chances on Monday night and managed to draw more penalties than their opponent for a change of pace but Ottawa couldn’t buy a save in their first game back with the Anton Forsberg / Filip Gustavsson tandem. In all fairness to Ottawa’s netminders, vintage Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie showed up for this game (combining for five of the Capitals’ seven goals). Fans will feel relieved to see the pieces starting to click for the Sens. When the Josh Norris line and the Thomas Chabot / Artem Zub pairing go out on the ice, Ottawa can control play handily. Some other lines and pairings still need a bit of work. Just like the goals, the wins will come eventually. Full credit to this team for making such an interesting game out of an early three-goal deficit with so many injuries up front. And speaking of injuries, any time you play Washington and Tom Wilson doesn’t maim one of your players, you chalk that up as a ‘W.’
The first frame started out auspiciously as Drake Batherson pinballed a puck past Ilya Samsonov for his first of the night but the tide turned quickly as the Caps scored four goals of their own in under ten minutes in the first frame, ending the night prematurely for Anton Forsberg. Two goals came courtesy of Oshie while the Caps’ defence chipped in with goals from John Carlson and Nick Jensen. If Ottawa got any redemption from that dire stretch of defensive breakdowns and soft goals, it came in the form of this beautiful attempt from Chabot:
Chabot with a nice move. pic.twitter.com/s15MVouVHy— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) October 25, 2021
With Gustavsson coming in in relief of Forsberg, and aided by some Capitals penalty trouble, the Senators began the process of gradually clawing their way back into this one (peep the all situation expected goals in the game flow below) with Norris the first to take a chip out of Washington’s lead on a sequence when it felt like every Senator in the ice (especially Zub) made a brilliant move to dissect the Caps’ defence. Ottawa played all 200 feet exceptionally on this one:
Ottawa’s new look powerplay kept things rolling with a goal from Chris Tierney as the game got progressively chippier at ice level. Just as in the games against San Jose and New York, we’ve started to see the trend developing of how the Senators team intends to get under the skin of opponents and play the scrappy style of hockey the scouting staff has promised on draft days past. With the Sens in control throughout the second period, and having seemingly figured out Samsonov, Batherson tied the game up at four with some absolutely elite patience. Of course, for all the excitement of Ottawa having tied the game after falling into a 4-1 hole, Ovechkin almost immediately did his thing scoring on a breakaway uncontested and shortly thereafter Oshie completed his hat trick with mere second to go in the second period.
Heading into tonight’s game it seemed that Ottawa’s inability to convert would probably limit their chance of coming away with a win against a strong Capitals team so colour me bittersweetly relieved that the offence showed up in full force while goaltending and defence took the ‘L.’ Ottawa’s ‘big five’ combined for ten points on the night and all ended the night with black ink in the ledger (every other Senator went into the negative or broke even in goal differential). Most importantly of all, however, Batherson got a hat trick (only for Ovechkin to re-establish a two-goal lead from his office minutes later):
- Every game this season, DJ Smith has progressively won me over more. Case and point, pulling Gustavsson with a full three minutes left on the clock to close the two-goal gap. I hope this trend continues late in games now that Ottawa has refined its special teams somewhat.
- As much as I endorse the Sens playing such a disruptive style and while they luckily spent more time on the powerplay than the penalty kill in this game, a little discipline late in the game would go a long way. With Nick Paul in the box late against the Rangers and Brady Tkachuk in the dressing room in the dying moments against the Capitals, Ottawa somewhat authored their own demise. In both instances, Ottawa’s players had to stand up for themselves but it came at a steep price.
- The Senators should try not to give up three goals against from point blank in front of the net.
- Injuries notwithstanding, Smith needs to find a fourth line and a third pairing he can trust because the Sens have seen a stark disparity in the distribution of ice time. Only the Chabot / Zub pairing had positive Corsi and expected goals rates among Ottawa’s defenders at five-on-five.
- Paul’s line with Tim Stützle and Connor Brown didn’t get recognition on the score sheet but they had the best corsi-for percentages at five-on-five of any of Ottawa’s lines. It feels agonizing to wait but Stützle will absolutely break out any day now if he keeps doing his thing.
- Also shout out to the line of Alex Formenton, Tyler Ennis, and Tierney who led Ottawa’s forwards in expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five./