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Senators Win Their First Preseason Game

September 25, 2023, 1:15 PM ET [161 Comments]
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Guest Writer: Ken Hawkins (a.k.a. khawk)

The Senators played their first preseason game of the year on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, and emerged with a 3-2 win. But it was very much a game with two phases, with the Senators outshooting the Leafs 24-7 in the 1st period, but then being outshot by the Leafs 31-8 in the 2nd/3rd periods. Both rosters were showcasing a lot of secondary talent looking to secure bottom-line roles in the NHL, but the Senators had the benefit of playing their top line. And in the end, it was these players that were the real difference-makers in the game.

Leading the way on the scoresheet was Tim Stutzle, who scored 2G including the game-winner, and was dangerous all game. Brady Tkachuk added 1G/1A, and also hit the post earlier in the game which could have really changed the complexion of the game. Claude Giroux played the same kind of veteran role we saw from him last year, and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t already pencilled in as the RW for that top line. Anton Forsberg looked pretty solid in his first game since suffering a double-MCL injury last season, and made some big saves late to preserve the win.

That said, the real first star of the game for Ottawa was Jake Sanderson, who was an absolute stand-out in this game. Leading all players in ice time with over 27 minutes, Sanderson finished with 2 assists, a +1 rating, 3 shots, and 4 blocks. What was really evident, though, was his confidence with the puck, including playing a more aggressive offensive role. He also looked very comfortable playing with Zub, and showed no evidence of being outshone by his new RFA contract extension.

Training Camp Hot Seat

Several Ottawa players came into this game already fighting for NHL jobs, and it provided some evidence to further clarify the relative strengths of each. For some, it was a first glimpse of what they could do in a Senators uniform, and for others a chance to see if their development has progressed beyond the AHL level.

Jiri Smejkal
The most unknown quantity of any player at training camp is Jiri Smekjal, who signed a 1yr UFA deal after having a pair of very productive seasons in Finland and Sweden, and playing for Czechia at the WC. He was given a chance to play with Sokolov/Jarventie in this game, and ended the game with 1A, a +1 rating, plus 2 shots, 2 blocks, and 2 hits. That’s the kind of multi-faceted contribution that he’ll have to keep making in the preseason if he’s going to push his way into the NHL roster.

Josh Bailey
Undeniably the most unexpected addition to the training camp roster, Josh Bailey is already showing why he might be more than just a random PTO in camp. The former Islanders winger was given an ES line assignment with a pair of AHL veterans, but also got PK minutes and top-line PP opportunities where he had 1A and didn't look out of place. He may well be this year’s Derrick Brassard, which could be bad news for the other depth forward candidates.

Egor Sokolov
The most seasoned Senators forward prospect at this point is Egor Sokolov, who also led their AHL team in scoring last year. This game showed glimpses of his skill, but more important will be his ability to make regular contributions off the score sheet. Given his lack of waiver protection, he really needs to work on his speed/quickness, and find ways to get noticed. He managed a couple of hits and a block, but it would be hard to say that he stood out the way he will need to in order to secure a roster spot.

Ice Chips
Just a few additional thoughts…

- Preseason or not the Senators need to work on moving the puck in their own zone, as there were far too many turnovers in the defensive zone
- The 3rd D-pairing of Matinpalo and Donovan looked quite a bit better as the game went on, especially when they had the confidence to skate with the puck
- Jarventie was played at C and didn’t look out of place; it will be interesting to see if this continues in the AHL, as being a C/W would help his long-term NHL chances

What did you think of the Senators’ first preseason game? Leave your comments below, and as always thanks for reading!
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