Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Young Players Power Senators Past Canadiens
The Ottawa Senators improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games tonight with a convincing 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. While they gave up a lot in terms of quantity, the Senators did a very good job of limiting quality chances against and were able to convert on their own opportunities. Here are tonight’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: The Brannstrom-Zub Pairing
The best word I can come up with to describe the Erik Brannstrom-Artem Zub pairing is “revelation,” in that they’ve been a total revelation for this Ottawa club since DJ Smith decided to put them together. Tonight’s game was no exception, as Zub and Brannstrom were really tasked with driving the bus in Thomas Chabot’s absence. They delivered.
Zub was his usual defensively-sound self, and Brannstrom compiled three assists to help the team’s cause. The eye test was remarkably friendly to these two, with the underlying numbers backing up that evaluation. Per Natural Stat Trick, the pairing helped Ottawa generate more than 70% of the expected goals at five-on-five when they were on the ice.
Thumbs Up: Pinto’s First
Perhaps the most memorable Brannstrom-Zub contribution in this game was their setup on Shane Pinto’s first career NHL goal, the opening goal of the game. Zub took a smart shot from the point to create a rebound, and Pinto was there to put the puck in the net with conviction. It wasn’t a highlight reel play, but it was a subtly smart play in a number of ways.
Zub could have easily fired a mindless blast from the point, straight into Allen’s glove or chest. Instead, he strategically placed a soft shot along the ice and into Allen’s pads to create the rebound. Pinto could have been anywhere on the ice and out of position. Instead, he was firmly planted right in front of the net to make the opening goal a reality. It looked totally like a set play.
Thumbs Up: Connor Brown’s Incredible Stretch Continues
Another night, another goal for Connor Brown. That makes 19 for him this season, which is only one shy of his career high – obviously in far fewer games played. Beyond the goal, he was again excellent for the Senators in the play-driving department tonight. Brown played most of his minutes with Pinto and Tim Stützle, and did a great job of calming/slowing things down for the two rookies. It allowed the trio to be very effective in the offensive zone.
Thumbs Up: Anton Forsberg Pays a Dividend
The Senators signed Anton Forsberg to a one-year contract extension today, and he turned around and paid them back in this game with a gem of a performance. While the Senators young players did a lot of heavy lifting in the offensive zone with tangible contributions, goaltending was another difference in this game. Whereas Jake Allen really wasn’t very good for the Canadiens, Forsberg was a positive contributor for the Senators. He stopped 30 of 31 shots he saw, and was full value for the victory. It’s no coincidence that the Senators have looked so much better since they started to get competent goaltending on a near-nightly basis.
Thumbs Up: Victor Mete’s Revenge
The Montreal Canadiens waived Victor Mete. Victor Mete came back and led the Senators in ice time against his old team on the road to victory. Revenge is a dish best served in a Senators jersey.
The Senators will see the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
As always, thanks for reading.