*Editor’s note: We’re trying a new recap format this year, with less emphasis on re-stating what happened and more attempts to give you our thoughts and analysis. We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section -nkb
The Ottawa Senators prevailed 3-1 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It was the first pre-season game for both teams, and neither squad was fielding anything close to their full NHL roster. Tristan Scherwey netted a goal and an assist for the Sens, while Anders Nilsson stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first two periods of play. Both Nilsson and Leafs’ starter Frederik Andersen were replaced by their back-ups, Marcus Hogberg and Kasimir Kaskisuo respectively, for the third period.
The Sens held the lead for much of the game after Maxime Lajoie broke the ice 8:08 into the first period. Lajoie snapped a shot five hole on a screened Andersen. Despite both teams having several power play opportunities each, and a handful of clean breakaways, no goals were scored until Kasperi Kapanen equalized 3:37 into the third off a nice feed from Mitch Marner. Less than 7 minutes later, however, Scherwey netted the eventual winner when he pounced on a Marner giveaway in the slot and snapped a shot Kaskisuo couldn’t quite squeeze. The Leafs pulled the goalie early in search of the equalizing goal but Duclair salted the win away for the Sens thanks to an empty net tally with 1:43 remaining in the third.
-Duclair was by far the Sens’ best player on this evening. His line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Drake Batherson was the only Sens’ trio to generate consistent offensive opportunities and only a sprawling Andersen save on a first period breakaway kept him off the scoresheet before his late, empty-netter. Duclair’s got a lot to prove this year, but it would be hard to ask for much more from him in this first game.
-None of the other Sens’ forwards who are fighting for the last few spots on the team really distinguished themselves. Scherwey found his way to two points, and he didn’t look out of place, but the assist was something of a fluke on a weak goal and his own tally was more the by-product of an egregious giveaway in the slot than his own offensive creation. He’s probably earned himself a longer look on his PTO, but I didn’t come away from this game convinced he’s going to win a spot just yet. Meanwhile, Batherson, Alex Formenton, Vitaly Abramov and Josh Norris each had a good moment or two but were not consistent factors. They’ll all have to watch Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, and others try to distinguish themselves tomorrow night in the rematch in Ottawa.
-Lajoie got himself a goal and seemed to be making a concerted effort to be more involved physically — he stepped up on Leafs’ forwards in the neutral zone on more than one occasion. His pairing with Nick Ebert did struggle to break out of their own end at times, especially against the Marner and John Tavares line, but all in all he probably helped his case.
-Both Nilsson and Hogberg were excellent. Nilsson was never beaten despite staring down some grade A chances for the Leafs and Hogberg rebounded well after allowing an early goal that he really couldn’t have done much on anyways. There are going to be times this year when the Sens are going to be badly out-played; having reliable goalie play would go a long way to keeping them competitive.
-It’s just the first game of the pre-season, but both teams still played a fairly conservative brand of hockey. The Leafs sent all five players back to the neutral zone on a couple of occasions when the Sens were getting ready to re-group, and Ottawa was content to hang back a bit after taking the lead in the third.