Pierre Dorion and co. have to be thrilled with what they saw at the 2017 Rookie Tournament. It was only two games this year — down from three in previous years — but the team managed to find themselves in almost every type of gameplay situation. As Coach Kleinendorst said after the game:
“We talked about it as an organization, there weren’t two points going into the standings tonight. But organizationally, winning does matter and we talked about that. To have a group of young players who aren’t maybe comfortable being down 3 - 0, they didn’t change their game after the 10 minute mark in the first period... What you’re looking for here is good players and you want to see what they’ve got. And the guys that we put out there handled the moments really well.”
Unlike Saturday’s 8 - 2 shellacking of the Montreal Canadiens where the Sens scored 18 seconds in, Sunday’s affair started with some gloom. Goaltender Kevin Bailie, signed to an ATO after 2017 pick Jordan Hollett came down with the flu, struggled on the first two goals. Fedor Gordeev, a thorn all night, flew down the right wall and passed to Martins Dzierkals, who got up in tight in front of the Sens netminder. Although Bailie made the first stop, he couldn’t stay down and with the puck, resulting in Dzierkals potting his own rebound for a 1 - 0 Leafs lead. Just a few minutes later, Kristian Pospisil gets a puck through Drake Batherson’s legs and to Ryan McGregor, who stuffs it by Bailie to make it 2 - 0. Afterwards, Andreas Englund heads over to Bailie to give him a stick tap on the pads, acknowledging that he’s trying his best while modelling leadership to his teammates to step it up in front of him. It’s a show of leadership from Englund, who’s been highly touted for his character by people throughout the Sens organization; he was certainly deserving of his assistant captaincy.
The Sens calmed down a bit and started to assert themselves physically, with Christian Jaros and Jordan Murray throwing hits from the back end, while Alex Formenton and Parker Kelly used their size in the offensive zone to pick off passes and draw penalties. Ottawa doesn’t do much with their powerplay, which featured Pius Suter and Matteo Gennaro with White and Chabot out; both tried to ‘make something out of nothing’ and were unable force anything through the Leafs defence.
Unfortunately, the successful PK energized the Leafs. Travis Dermott, the most noticeable Leafs D of the night, threw a crowd-pleasing hip check on Gabriel Gagne and on the same shift, Filip Chlapik ends up getting frustrated and trips a player. Clinically, the Leafs exploit the left side with some slick puck moving from Timothy Liljegren and Mason Marchment, who eventually get the puck to Trevor Moore in a high-danger area, giving Bailie no chance and the Leafs a 3 - 0 lead.
The period ended with shots at 10 a piece, with the Sens calming down after around the nine minute mark — a timestamp noted by both players and the coaching staff post-game.
The second period featured two more shots than the first, but the pace of play slowed down considerably. Given that the Sens were trying to limit the Leafs offensive chances with Bailie in net, I’d say that it means that the Sens were able to play out their defensive game plan, even though it meant sacrificing offensive chances. The two scoring opportunities the Leafs got in the first half of the period, one by Grundstrom (dancing Murray) and the other by Gordeev (dancing Erkamps) were nicely stopped by Bailie. The Sens did get another powerplay, and both Jake Rodewald and Cody Donaghey had scoring chances (the former set up by Gagne), but were unable to put something past goaltender Ian Scott, who was perfect on the night. The ‘tenders swapped with 8:50 left in the second period, with Marcus Hogberg coming in for Bailie while Kasimir Kaskisuo replaced Scott.
From this point, you could almost physically see the Sens players release some of the tension they were playing with before, and start to generate some more offensive chances. Of note, Alex Formenton got his motor going and pulled the Hoffman Dzingel [insert fast player] ‘drop the shoulder and drive wide’ move a couple times. The crowd (and scouts above me) always gasped at Formenton; if he could learn to add a bit more deception to his game like Hoffman, he has the potential to be a good NHLer. Another player who started to stand out at this point was Francis Perron, who was clearly frustrated with his lack of opportunities on the night — at one point slamming his stick after Rodewald flubbed a 2-on-1 by giving Perron a pass on his backhand. Perron’s vision in the offensive zone stood out, with a number of soft passes into space for his teammates to skate into in order to generate shots on Kaskisuo.
Coach Kleinendorst mentioned after the game that he didn’t provide much structure intentionally, so that the prospects could go out and just play without overthinking. In the third, like Saturday against Montreal, you saw the Sens push the play. 2017 picks Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton were noticeable, with both using their preferred tools (soft hands for the former, speed for the latter) to dissect the Leafs D for scoring chances. However, it was Andreas Englund who got the Sens on the board. Paired with Christian Jaros for much of the third period, the play started with Jaros skating the puck into the offensive zone instead of trying to retain his position and pass it up. Formenton, Gagne, and Brown forechecked with speed, with Formenton getting the puck back up to Englund at the left point before the Swedish blueliner fired an accurate wrister past Kaskisuo to make it 3 - 1.
After, Marcus Hogberg showed off his tools on the penalty kill, with the big netminder using all of his size to stretch across and rob Dmytro Timashov after Grundstrom deked Jordan Murray for the umpteenth time. Murray, who had a rough night, took a tripping penalty midway through the period, but got to smile instead as his team scored a shorthanded marker. It started with Christian Jaros using his physicality on the right boards to hold up a Leafs player, leaving Jordan Topping and Matteo Gennaro to skate the puck up the ice for a 2-on-1 finished by Gennaro to bring the Sens to within one.
Then, with less than three minutes remaining, Filip Chlapik tied the game with a sharp shot after a nice centering feed from Drake Batherson, who just missed an opportunity to tie the game up via a Formenton pass just seconds prior. Max Lajoie, the eventual hero of the night, got the secondary assist on the play after sending the puck down the left boards to keep the play alive. The third period ended with the shot tally favouring Ottawa, 32 - 26.
The most eventful segment of the 3-on-3 was a 4-on-3 PK that the Sens had to survive after Batherson held up Jeremy Bracco. The trios of Perron, Beaudoin, Englund and Chlapik, Murray, Jaros all did admirable jobs and were praised by Marcus Hogberg for making his job easier than expected. Batherson did get a breakaway after being sprung out of the box, but was stopped by Kasiksuo.
Shootout moves: Rookie Tournament Game 2
With this, the Senators finished the 2017 Rookie Tournament 2 - 0, and won at least two games in the annual tournament for the ninth straight year (according to Sens Communications).
- Marcus Hogberg was perfect on the night. He noted that his gameplan in the shootout was to be big in the net and let the shooter make the first move, implying that he trusts his reaction time. He certainly was sharp tonight. When asked post-game on what Pierre Groulx and the Sens development team asked him to work on, Hogberg mentioned better workouts, his positioning in the crease, and catching more pucks with his hands. Kleinendorst mentioned post-game how he could see the growth in Hogberg over the summer, and that he looks comfortable and mentally strong in net.
- Englund - Jaros: with Chabot out, these were the two blueliners that were expected to stand out, and they did. Englund showed better patience with the puck, ending the game with a goal and driving the middle on a rush in the first period. Englund also was notably patient in the first period while his teammates were running around, and would try to settle down the puck first before reacting. Jaros was his usual physical self. Speaking with Colin during the game, we remarked how he uses his body differently than Borowiecki, even though they’re both known for providing the same hard-nosed element. Jaros is smartly in position and uses his size to separate player from puck (while still managing to get an extra shot in every now and then).
- While Game 1 standouts Brown and Gagne were quieter tonight, the 2017 duo of Formenton and Batherson picked up their play. Both worked tirelessly as forecheckers, and picked off a number of errant Leafs passes in the offensive zone to generate shots. If we were tracking shot attempts (which we sadly were not), I’d expect these two to be near the top. Despite scoring two goals, Filip Chlapik stated post-game that he “can play a lot better than that” — look for him to improve in main camp later this month.
- On the Leafs side, there was a lot of individual skill but not a lot of team play. Generally, the bottom-pair trio of Erkamps, Murray, and Beaudoin were all danced by different Leafs on multiple occasions. In addition to Dermott and Gordeev, Carl Grundstrom looked excellent.
- On the Sens try-out front, Gennaro and Topping both got themselves on the scoresheet again, but were also out there a lot when the Leafs had control. Bobby Dow certainly has speed, but all three didn’t play as much as the game wore on. Pius Suter benefitted from some more ice-time tonight with White out, and still played in the third period in addition to PK duty. He doesn’t have a standout physical skill, but is very smart and made a number of solid transition plays in the neutral and offensive zones. /