FIVE QUICK THOUGHTS
-Those first 26 seconds were great though.? The Ottawa Senators got off to a strong albeit lucky start in Nashville but the Predators controlled the game most of the way.? The Preds are the top team in the Western Conference for a reason and they have been extremely tough on home ice.? It’s easy to see why.? They really didn’t give the Senators much of anything in the way of high-danger scoring chances and in the second half of the game in particular, they really clamped down defensively.? That early goal by Zack Smith suggested that Pekka Rinne may be a little bit shaky but we never really had a chance to find out because the Predators defended so well.? Not a pretty start to this three game road trip.
-After carrying the team through the first quarter of the season, the Ottawa offence has really cooled off of late.? Players and coaches have been making regular comments about a renewed emphasis on defensive play and over the last few games, they have been much better in that regard.? Just six goals against in their last three games. A huge improvement after those two ugly losses to Montreal. Unfortunately, it seems to be coming the expense of the offence as Ottawa has only scored four goals over that same stretch. They haven’t scored more than 2 goals since the San Jose game on the first of the month.? While it’s encouraging that the Senators have been able to make some progress in their own end of the rink, it’s not a great sign that they can only do one or the other.? Obviously the injuries to Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan aren’t helping.
-Even through this lengthy offensive slump, Brady Tkachuk is still finding ways to stay relevant. Still finding ways to have an impact on the game.? The first round pick has now gone seven games without a point but he’s still at the centre of the action.? Not sure what was going on with Tkachuk and Mattias Ekholm but they were going at each other at every opportunity. One of the reasons this slump isn’t a huge concern is because the grade A chances have been there.? In the last week alone, it feels like Tkachuk has missed four or five open nets.? Those are plays he was finishing in the early part of the season and they’ll start to go in for him again soon. And the nice thing about a player like Tkachuk is even when the points aren’t there, he’s still noticeable every shift. He was probably Ottawa’s best forward last night.
-Stefan Elliott was a last minute add to the line up as Guy Boucher opted to go with seven defenceman and in the process, made Nick Paul a healthy scratch.? Elliott is a fringe NHLer in most situations but he does bring something that the Ottawa blueline lacks right now and that’s an ability to skate and make a clean breakout from time to time.? It was sort of interesting to see him hop over the boards for a first period power play shift too. That’s always been the strength of his game at the AHL level.? Elliott finished the game with a mostly uneventful 12:43 of ice time.
-As a little experiment, I wanted to do a written breakdown of Ottawa’s breakouts by defenceman during a random three minute stretch in the first period. Here’s how it went. Burgdoerfer chips out along the wall. Puck out no control. Elliott rims around the boards to awaiting winger who flips it out. Puck out no control. Chabot breakout pass to right wing. Puck out with control. Lajoie flips out to centre ice. Puck out no control. Falk chips out to centre ice. Puck out no control. This was a completely random sample and while it doesn’t make for great reading, it does provide a window into one of Ottawa’s biggest issue in the early part of this season. Whether it’s coaching or just player ability, they spend an alarming amount of time intentionally giving away control of the puck in their own half of the rink. While that’s better than not getting the puck out, it’s one of the big reasons they often end up on the wrong end of the shot count.