The day we've been collectively waiting months for finally arrived.
The Ottawa Senators played a regular season hockey game today.
Heading down to Carolina to help the Hurricanes kick off their season, the Sens had a big obstacle ahead of them before the puck even dropped. The team didn't have a combination of healthy and signed players on the roster to ice a full lineup. DJ Smith looked at Guy Boucher's 11-7 and said "Oh yeah? Watch this."
In all seriousness, heading into the first game of the season against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference automatically down a player is certainly cause for concern.
But, once again, the Ottawa Senators played a regular season hockey game today. So I wasn't going to dwell on it.
Turns out, dwelling on it was worth it considering the shorthanded Senators simply did not have enough to hang with the Carolina Hurricanes for sixty full minutes. There were stretches where they looked fantastic! A strong first period and coming back to tie things at three with two quick goals. There was a lot to like about the Senators play, it just didn't last for a full game. I, someone not renowned for my optimism, genuinely believe the presence of Josh Norris and Shane Pinto will make that difference most nights.
Before we get to the game notes, big shoutout Mathieu Joseph for his great performance in tonight's season opener. As we all predicted, Mathieu Joseph led the offensive effort for Ottawa. After opening the scoring for the Senators, he used his quick feet to win a puck race and find Parker Kelly for a shorthanded tally.
For Joseph in particular, he's been a brand new player since the start of preseason. I can guarantee you there are a few General Managers out there who spoke with Pierre Dorion about Joseph this summer and are wishing they pulled the trigger on this "cap dump" already. He looked great.
- The first period was more kind to the Senators than the remainder of the game. Around halfway through the second, the ice really started to tilt in Carolina's direction with numerous powerplays and 5v5 shifts spent in Ottawa's end. I mean, look at the Game Flow at the bottom of this post... it's very clear when things went sideways, overall.
- If you missed the game and just checked the stats, you'd have a different opinion of Joonas Korpisalo's game than I did having watched it. Yes, there were a couple goals there you'd love to have back but also a couple that would've beat any NHL goaltender.
- Another bright spot for the Senators this game was Tim Stützle. He logged a ton of minutes with the Sens without Josh Norris and Shane Pinto and he had a great impact. From drawing a penalty early in the first to laying this big hit, Stützle was a factor all night.
- Oh yeah, and he did this:
- While playing softer minutes, Ottawa's best pair today may have actually been Erik Brännström and Travis Hamonic. They were the top two rearguards in corsi%. In fact, they played so well that the third period saw DJ Smith shuffle his pairings, adding Hamonic to Thomas Chabot and Brännström to Chychrun.
- There were far too many completed passes across the front of Ottawa's net tonight, both 5v5 and shorthanded. The Hurricanes are either the slipperiest, filthiest passers on the planet (possible, I know) or the Senators defensive system left holes through which to thread the needle (more likely, I think).
- I thought Rourke Chartier had about as good of a game as we could've hoped. He was one of two Senators who ended up even in chances for and against and I thought he was hungry on the forecheck, even made a nice hit or two.
- When the Senators needed a goal late in the third, DJ Smith turned to his top pair and top line, but swapped Claude Giroux out for Drake Batherson. I thought Batherson had glimpses of excellence but he was also completely cratered in overall chances at even strength. But, if you're looking for someone to go out there and just focus on scoring a goal and nothing else, you could do worse than Batherson. So I get the decision.
- There is an argument to be made that the Senators got slightly goalie'd tonight. Yes, the skaters didn't make it as hard on Frederik Andersen, but he was really strong. Particularly in the first period, he kept the Senators at a single goal and they could've had three or more in my eyes. He also made some timely saves with Ottawa's net empty at the end of the game.