At least they made it fun toward the end.
Tonight was all about Craig Anderson, as the Sens’ all-time leader in games played, wins, saves and - as they announced it in the arena - shots against, returned to Ottawa to sign a one-day contract and retire as an Ottawa Senator. The Sens honoured him by playing exactly the way they played in front of him during his ten seasons in Ottawa: badly.
Don’t get me wrong. The shot clock favoured the Sens. The possession stats weren’t bad at all. Some of those Sabres goals were a bit lucky. Even the final score was perfectly respectable! If you looked at the stats and the highlights you could be fooled into thinking that Ottawa deserved a better fate. I will concede that if this is a “bad” game for the 2023-24 Ottawa Senators, then we’ve come a long way. But man, they just looked so bad for so much of it.
In the first two periods, they were completely disorganized, couldn’t connect on any passes, constantly fumbling the puck, and straight up lazy at times. The defensemen were clearly struggling to adjust to the new pairings with Zub out of the lineup, and I know it’s still early in the season, but man, you have to be able to weather those types of injuries. As for the forwards, everyone was invisible.
Just about every Sabres goal was a weird deflection, and it’s easy to blame puck luck for that stuff, but at some point you have to assume Ottawa is doing something wrong. The Sabres were putting everything on net and crashing the crease and the Sens weren’t stopping that from happening, or matching that energy at the other end of the ice.
This game can be summed up by the last seven minutes of the second period. With Ottawa down 3-0, Hamonic pulled out his favourite move: fire the puck blindly at the net. He didn’t score, but Chychrun buried the rebound, and suddenly the Sens were facing a very manageable 2 goal deficit. The shift following the goal was Ottawa’s first truly great shift of the game, as the first line and first pairing absolutely dominated and did everything but score, but all that momentum came to a screeching halt when Hamonic went to the penalty box, and the Sabres scored right away.
Such a frustrating game.
They looked much better in the third period, and even made things very interesting at the very end with two quick goals to make it a one-goal game with a minute left, and a powerplay right at the end. Unfortunately, the comeback was foiled by a rare bad play by Jake Sanderson, as he fumbled the puck at the point, allowing Buffalo to get the empty-netter. Shouldn't have put themselves in a position where they needed to score there, I guess.
Man, I wanted that comeback to work out so badly.
- I’m not sure where I land on the goaltending. As I said, those goals Forsberg let in were almost all deflections, so it’s hard to blame him, but he wasn’t exactly helping the team either. Korpisalo came in to start the third, and was fine, but the Sens played better in the third anyways. I don’t know.
- What does Kubalik do again?
- Although Chychrun was the only defenseman to score, I thought Sanderson and Chabot were the only two players really creating things offensively for most of the game. They also had their moments of miscommunication, but I thought they worked very well together, and improved as the game went on.
- Case in point: Chabot’s assist on the Tarasenko goal. Amazing work.
- After the second period, I wrote that Norris's line has been invisible in the last two games, and that the powerplay strategy of "just pass it to Norris" hasn't been working very well. Nice to see Norris prove me wrong with a timely powerplay goal toward the end.
- Also, please appreciate Ridly Greig's pass to Joseph here:
- At what point do we get worried about Tim Stützle? He’s gotten off to a slow start (despite a perfectly respectable point total) and has been practically invisible in these last two games. His line, which never missed a beat last season, hasn’t been producing. I don’t know if he’s battling an injury or something, but he’s not himself.
- There was a scary moment at the end of the second period when Brady Tkachuk ran off the ice clutching his shoulder. Thankfully, he was back to start the third. The good news is that it can’t have been that serious if he was able to get back on the ice. The bad news is that he was visibly injured on the ice, holding his stick with only one hand most of the time and clearly not looking to shoot. Then he got into a fight, because of course he did. We’ll see how this pans out.
Alright, with all that said: deep breaths, everyone. It was two bad games. The team we saw last week is not completely gone. In the third period of this game they showed a whole lot more fight than they have in previous years. These bad games can’t keep happening, and they won’t. They’ll probably switch things up before Thursday. They’ll bounce back.