Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Senators Start Well, Collapse in Third vs. Jets
The Ottawa Senators got off to a flying start on Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets, but slowly fell apart before a disastrous third period sealed their fate. The result was a 6-3 loss, pushing the team’s record to 1-3-1 on the season. Here are tonight’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Nick Paul’s Start to the Season
Nick Paul’s underlying numbers against the Jets weren’t particularly strong, but the eye test was a lot friendlier to him. His second goal of the season, a perfect snipe, gave the Senators a 3-2 lead in the second period, which put them in position to close things out with a solid third frame. While that obviously didn’t happen, Paul’s goal remains on the score sheet.
Paul has been a true bright spot for this Senators group to start the season. Even on nights when the numbers don’t look upon him all that favorably, the eye test seems to like him. He brings a level of consistency that many of his teammates can only seem to dream of right now. You know what you’re getting with Paul, and most of the time you’re going to like it.
Thumbs Down: Lessons from Nick Paul
The takeaway from seeing Nick Paul succeed with a concrete spot in the lineup is that young and/or skilled players should get similar opportunities. Seeing Colin White and Alex Galchenyuk scratched so Micheal Haley could deliver “toughness” was really disappointing.
Thumbs Down: The Third Period Collapse
For reasons unknown, the strategy employed by the Senators as they attempted to hold their 3-2 lead through the third period was to… give up? Rather than build on some of the good things they did through the first two stanzas, DJ Smith’s team completely locked down and tried to defend its way to victory. That’s a bad strategy for most teams in the league, but it’s especially so for a group that isn’t exactly known for its defensive prowess. To quote John Tortorella: “Safe is death.” It’d be a lot more fun to see them lose while trying to win than lose while trying not to do exactly that.
Thumbs Up: The Best Players Were the Best Players
The Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson trio was phenomenal once again. Not only did Tkachuk score his second of the year, but the line also led the Senators in all the major underlying stat categories (Natural Stat Trick) and looked good doing it. Again, it’s proof that giving young players an extended look in prime position can work. It’s hard not to get the sense that we’re looking at a line that can lead this team into a competitive era.
Thumbs Up: Christian Wolanin's Return
He was probably the team’s best defender tonight, his mistake on Kyle Connor’s goal notwithstanding. The way Wolanin moves his feet makes him unlike most of the defensemen that DJ Smith has been dressing since the start of the season. He has the ability to get himself into the right position more often than not, and has the seemingly unique ability to complete a pass out of the defensive zone. Defenders who can consistently get the puck moving in the right direction are a rarity on this roster right now, so there’s little argument for Wolanin to continue his time in the press box. If he can be as good as he was tonight despite all the time off, imagine how good he might look with a consistent spot in the lineup.
Thumbs Down: Marcus Hogberg’s First Start
Things could have become fairly interesting if Hogberg had come out and pitched a shutout (or otherwise great) performance. Now there’s little stopping the coaching staff from going right back to Matt Murray, despite his similar struggles. It will be a long, long season if the team doesn't start to get a few more saves.
Thumbs Up: Evgenii Dadonov’s First Goal
The rush up the ice was a thing of beauty, but I’m still not sure how the puck snuck through Connor Hellebuyck. Regardless, Dadonov has his first goal as an Ottawa Senator; it’s been a long time coming. Hopefully this mini breakthrough opens the floodgates and kick starts his production. Oh, and who made Dadonov’s rush up ice possible with a really slick transition play? Nick Paul, of course.
Thumbs Up: Artem Anisimov Seizes the Day
With Derek Stepan’s demotion, Artem Anisimov got a chance to play a little bit higher up the lineup. Most of his minutes were with Paul and Dadonov, and I thought he showed fairly well in that spot. Even so, Anisimov probably (read: definitely) isn’t a long-term solution in the top-six. If they aren’t going to use Stepan there, it might be time to get a look at Logan Brown.
Thumbs Down: Fan Patience with the Coaching Staff
If pre-game Twitter is any indication, this is as impatient as the fan base has been with the current coaching staff since DJ Smith was hired. Some of the lineup decisions are really starting to confuse people.
Thankfully, this run of games against the Winnipeg Jets is over. While it could have quite easily been a 2-1-0 run, it instead turned into three straight losses. The good news is that the Senators should have a decent chance to grab at least a win or two in their next set of games, as they’ll start a “series” with the struggling Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
As always, thanks for reading.