Hey, lookit that: Ottawa returns from the road-trip with a respectable 2-1 record, and despite what the dour 13 minutes I spent with Sens fans on Twitter might imply, that’s a pleasant surprise and a positive thing.
I think it’s fair to say that people were expecting a win in Florida, a loss in Tampa, and for Nashville to be a toss-up. That Ottawa came out with a win in Tampa and a (close) loss in Nashville perhaps bodes well. Though you could say their horrid game in Florida cancels it out.
Yadda yadda it’s only three games and so on. Having said that, here are a few things that occurred to me over the course of those three games, and maybe some things to watch for in the home opener:
1) Same old same old
The summary, for those who like to digest hockey in Wikipedia-sized chunks, is that Ottawa was massively outshot and bailed out by brilliant goaltending. This seemed to be the source of Twitter’s achy tummy, and more than a few panicky blog posts, and I guess I can see why. It was the team’s downfall last year, and anyone hoping that MacLean would implement a strategic shift to suddenly turn a rag-tag team of misfits into a defensively responsible contender is probably right to be a little worried. After last night’s putrid game against Florida, MacLean said he was satisfied with their complete, all-team approach, which is confusing. (But I guess what is he gonna say?)
Ottawa had two good periods against Tampa and sort of stunk in the last game of a road trip in front of about 27 people. Let’s wait and see how they play at home on Thursday before we start to mark out trends on the white board.
2) The small story is different from the large story, and it’s not an old school v. analytics thing
Ottawa lost 3-2 to Nashville, but gave up one of those goals after a terrible call on Cowen and saw Chiasson nearly tying the game up with a shot off the post in the dying minutes. This game was closer than it seemed. Against Tampa, MacArthur had about three amazing chances in close, and they might have walked away with that game 4-2 instead of a SO win. The Florida game was a bit weird, what with playing in front of nobody and how every powerplay got cancelled out by another shortly after, but both teams had good looks.
My takeaway here is that even though the Sens are getting outshot, maybe the quality of their scoring chances is making up for it? Which is to say this isn’t a matter of discarding the analytics, but a matter of refining them. Someone better than I will surely put up a shot chart / heat map thing soon and we’ll know more.
3) This is still a lineup in flux
Which is totally to be expected with so many young players in the mix. Lazar, Hoffman and Cowen were scratched last night in favor of Condra, Greening and Wiercioch, and there didn’t seem to be much difference on the shot differential. But let’s give the boys some time to settle down before we blame the system. You usually have one player coming out, one in; switching around huge segments of the team early on means there’s lots of room for improvement. As MacLean said last year, it’s only after several games that “you are what you are.” We’re nowhere near that point yet.
4) The Cowen honeymoon is over
Thank god. It took dozens of catastrophic brain farts for Cowen to see the press box last year. This year it took two games. Last night’s TSN panel was actually talking about his trade value. That seems premature, but it’s good to see that he doesn’t have such a long leash anymore. How long before we see Freddy Claesson get a couple of games?
5) Clarke MacArthur is going to have a good season
Based on his goal against Florida and the sort of unbelievable number of chances he had against Tampa, his chemistry with Turris and Karlsson last season wasn’t a fluke. He goes to the net and they know where to find him. When he starts getting the bounces and his shooting percentage looks more like league average, he’s going to start putting up some serious points. He could have left this road trip with 3-4 goals.
6) Watching the TSN broadcasts is weird
I don’t know if this was Jamie Maclennan’s first time doing color, but he was all over the map when he wasn’t saying forehead-smackingly obvious stuff like how two mistakes is worse than one mistake. Also, it’s going t take some getting used to seeing Bruce Garrioch being interviewed during intermissions. But for the most part it was interesting seeing James Duthie, Aaron Ward and Bob MacKenzie try to conduct and interesting (and interested) panel discussion on an early season Panthers-Senators game that ended 1-0.
The Florida broadcast was actually better.
I did like Duthie sneakily getting in there that the Quebec Ramparts’ season opener had 11,000+ in attendance…
Obviously getting outshot consistently won’t make them a contender, but I think the last 2 games have been night and day defensively compared to last year. Everything still goes up the boards, but the wingers are helping clear the puck when last year they weren’t really doing anything. Forwards are also backchecking a lot more and they are boxing out really well. Sure they play without the puck a little too much but they aren’t falling apart when that happens. They still can’t make plays up the middle of the ice and give up the zone too easily when karlsson Is on the bench, but if Weircioch and Methot are in the lineup that should improve.
One item I left out but definitely shouldn’t have is that Methot is out of the lineup. That’s huge. Playing Chris Phillips almost 30 minutes is going to have a toll on your possession.
Gotta hear both sides tho: Chis Phillips has been one of the team’s best players the last couple of games. I can’t believe it’s him out there. He looks like the Phillips they’d put out against Ovechkin like 5 years ago. Just hope Methot can get back some time soon because we cant count on that model night in and night out. Hats off to the guy for handling a pretty crazy assignment. You’re right though, even when he’s playing his best Phillips can’t WAIT to get that puck off his stick.
Feel you on the refining the analytics model. They are useful tools but I have to admit today reading stuff about Ottawa’s poor possession made me laugh to myself a little bit. That ice was so terrible in Florida like, did either team really “win” that element of the game last night? Possession would switch like 3 times with each slushy journey through the neutral zone. I guess it all counts but to see NHLers have that hard a time completing a pass holy crap….kind of a write off. I’m surprised FLA doesn’t kick ass on the road having to play on that crud night in and night out you’d think they’d be like NBA Jam turbo mode on a good sheet.
Good to see Ryan have a really solid game last night. He’s looking good with Zibanejad and had an exceptionally good PP shift. Hoping he gets on the board at the home opener!
May have other comments later .. I am so happy to have Bell with the regional broadcasts because Saturday the game was on SN1. This means one had to have the most expensive Bell TV package to see the game (or an inconvenient switch to Rogers).
Not a fan of Paul Maclean, I think in his better days he benefited disproportionately from the on-ice leadership of Alfredsson and Gonchar. Now they’re gone and there is no one who can do that. He is a reasonable coach. That said if I were SENS gm I’d keep my eye open for the next well established coach that becomes available. I’d even consider Jack Martin who is a fantastic teacher for these young players.
Just my 2 cents worth
and as usual an excellent blog thanks
Hey, thanks for reading! I had trouble finding the game on Saturday, too. It’s a strange new world. We suddenly have a lot more of Bob MacKenzie’s insight on the Sens, though, which is only a good thing. For us.
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Disappointing to see so many fans focus on the negatives of the road trip. Disappointing to see Cowen remain the whipping boy among Sens fans.
Well, I think Neil will remain the whipping boy so long as he continues to receive powerplay time and find himself out there with a minute to go when up or down by one. Cowen is only a whipping boy relative to the expectations that he become a 20-minute+ workhorse.
I think that’s a pretty rose-colored view of how Cowen is portrayed among Sens fans–he’s more akin to a loathsome, incompetent oaf who kills puppies and kitties in his spare time. I can’t remember the last time a player here was so reviled for simply being a youngster who’s clearly in over his head.