It’s only been six days since the Ottawa Senators began their 2022-23 season. Almost a week and they’ve played three games so far with a record of 1-2-0. Three games is a tiny sample size, but it’s all we have to go with so far, and it’s nice being able to analyze any sort of hockey after months without it. Realistically, we can’t draw any conclusions about this time until at least the 20-game mark, so we need to be patient with a lot of our “proclamations.”
However, for the purposes of this article, I want to make some way too early proclamations based on what I’ve seen so far. Some of these will hold throughout the season and perhaps some age like milk. That’s the fun of that though because so much can change from the beginning of a season until the end. Here is what I’ve noticed so far:
Jake Sanderson has Arrived
Sanderson is far from a star in this league, although I feel like it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the league takes notice of the rookie. He’s been one of the Senators best defensemen, if not the best so far. The poise he has at just 20 years of age is admirable, as he never seems to be in real danger. His defensive instincts are difficult to teach, and he’s even been confident in the offensive zone.
He has a 53.93 CF% and a 60.32 xGF% in these three games, which ranks third and fourth on the team, respectively. We can’t always make real proclamations this early on, but I’m willing to already conclude that Sanderson is a legitimately good NHL player. And that’s massive for the Senators because...
The Top-4 has a Hole
Although Sanderson has been a God-send so far, they still have a hole after himself, Thomas Chabot, and Artem Zub. Travis Hamonic has been playing on that second pairing, but even Pierre Dorion would be the first to admit that he shouldn’t be in that spot, otherwise he wouldn’t be trying to acquire another defenseman.
I’m fine with Hamonic in general, athough he shouldn’t be near the top-4 and he isn’t going to be helping Sanderson much. He brings some physicality that others lack on the blueline, but he’s made a lot of unforced errors. I think if you ask anybody, the top way that Ottawa can improve is by getting a new partner for Sanderson.
Anton Forsberg is Good Enough
Forsberg came into the season as not quite a sure-thing, despite playing very well last season with a .917 SV% in 46 games. He hasn’t been a full-time starter in back-to-back seasons, and everyone was hoping that last year wasn’t a fluke. In the three games so far, he only has a .900 SV% but it’s hard to blame all of the goals last night on him. Especially in the first two games, he was a calming presence in net, something the Senators haven’t had since Craig Anderson.
They can’t have Forsberg letting in five goals all the time, which is why I’m not going to say he’s a top goalie or anything. But I think he’s showing that he’s at least good enough for now. This is something that can drastically change from month to month, but I feel okay about this so far.
The Offense Will be Fine
Ottawa scored just three goals in the first two games, and it seemed like the chemistry wasn’t quite there for all the players. I think we all knew they were going to click at some point soon though, and Tuesday was a perfect example of that. Every forward except Parker Kelly had a point in their 7-5 win, and three of them (Tkachuk, Stützle, and Batherson) had three points. Every single line created chances last night and it’s not as if they had to rely on their top line like they have had to do for years.
Not only do they have players who can score at the top of the lineup, but there is some depth. Don’t expect them to score seven every night, but I think this offense will be good enough to keep them competitive.
Shane Pinto is Hungry
Pinto came into the season as the clear number three centre behind Tim Stützle and Josh Norris, but he’s trying to prove to everyone that he belongs in that conversation as well. He has two goals in three games, and that’s following up a phenomenal pre-season with 8 points in 6 games. He looks lethal in the offensive zone despite the fact that his line with Mathieu Joseph and Tyler Motte hasn’t been controlling much of the play.
I’m sure Pinto is seeing the money that is being handed out to teammates like Tkachuk, Norris, and Stützle and is wondering how he can get a handsome payday next summer as well. It sure would be a fantastic luxury to have three centres who can all score 20+ goals.
The CTC is a Haven
The atmosphere at the Canadian Tire Centre was...absolutely electric.
I was trying to take a video of how loud the crowd was and the Zub scored. Brilliant hahaha pic.twitter.com/uKQxD9posx— 💉💉_Dew 💉💉 (@CaptainPuckJoy) October 19, 2022
I wasn’t there so I can’t give a first-hand account, but from videos online and watching the game, it looked like the loudest it has been in the building in years, at least since their 2017 playoff run. The Senators fanbase is incredibly passionate and the CTC can be a weapon for the team. Fans will be hungry for tickets this season, and I fully expect home games to be a safe haven for the Senators.
Home ice advantage hasn’t really been a thing for a while in Ottawa, but I’m thinking this season will finally be different. I’m certainly jealous of people who are able to go to games this season. Brady has to love all the support:
This made me pretty emotional. Tonight felt like the culmination of 5 years of anguish. What a night. pic.twitter.com/G3YhOr67VP— Jack Richardson (@jackrichrdson) October 19, 2022