The Ottawa Senators lost a hard-fought game at home to the Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues. This puts the Senators off to their worst start in history after losing three straight games in regulation. However, the team played a stronger, harder game than they had to this point in the season. They had a chance to win, but in the end, simply couldn’t.
Ottawa took a 2-0 lead into the final minute of the first period, as Artem Anisimov scored his first NHL goal. Then, the Senators hung with the Blues for the first two periods. But, in the end, the Blues played exactly the game they were expected to and pulled out a 6-4 victory. Noting that their final goal was scored into an empty net means that the game was closer than many hockey pundits might have expected.
In this post, I want to take a look at five takeaways from the game from the Ottawa Senators’ perspective.
Take-Away #1: This Game Wasn’t the Mismatch Everyone Expected
Although, in the end, the Senators goalie Anders Nilsson was no match for defending champion’s offensive display, the Senators played well enough to have a chance to win. Head coach D.J. Smith had challenged his team to a stronger work ethic and desire not to quit, and the team showed both.
So, when this game is viewed within the context of a longer season, it wasn’t that bad. The team actually owned a 2-0 first period lead, but the Blues simply wouldn’t quit and found a way to overwhelm the Senators’ defense. That left Nilsson feeling desperately alone during the third period. The Blues turned it on, and the Senators couldn’t respond twice.
I note twice because Anthony Duclair’s first goal of the season lifted the Senators to a 4-4 tie after an impressive rally.
Take-Away #2: The Senators’ Artem Anisimov Scores His First NHL Goal?
The Senators’ goals came from four different players: Vitaly Abramov, Artem Anisimov, Chris Tierney, and Duclair.
Ottawa opened the scoring half-way through the first period when Scott Sabourin gave Abramov the puck in front of a wide-open net for his first NHL goal. Abramov, who was recalled from the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Belleville, was playing in only his second NHL game. Congratulations to him on goal #1.
How much ice time is Abramov likely to see? That’s a question Smith was asked prior to the game. His response was that, “if he plays the way he’s capable of playing, he could play into the teens (in minutes).” Abramov both scored and also gave the team lots of energy. His speed actually created a number of offensive chances. He made rookie mistakes, but he’ll learn. (from “WARREN GAME REPORT: Blues pull away late to extend Senators’ losing streak to open season,” Ottawa Sun, 10/9/19)
Fellow Russian Vladislav Namestnikov, who was picked up by the Senators in a trade with the New York Rangers earlier in the week, had an assist. He played lots of minutes and looked stronger than many people suspected he would.
Take-Away #3: The Goalie Was Hung Out to Dry During the Last Half of the Game
Although Anders Nilsson shouldered the blame for the Senators’ loss in his first start of the season, it wasn’t his fault alone. Nilsson noted: ”It’s a lot of goals, I feel like I want back,” Nilsson said. ”If I do a better job on my part and do my job a little better, we would have had the two points.”
He added, that “Obviously, I’m not happy with my own performance, letting in five goals, you’re never satisfied as a goalie. I had some moments where I felt good and some moments where I felt I need to improve my game and be a little better…a little up and down.”
Tierney added, ”I thought we did a good job half the game. Sometimes we were putting the puck in, getting pucks deep, getting on the forecheck and creating plays and other times we were careless with it and it ends up in the back of our net. We’ve got to clean up some areas defensively.”
He’s right, it’s hard for a goalie to keep pucks out of the net without help from a stalwart defense. And, during the game, the defense wasn’t always stalwart.
Take-Away #4: It’s Good to See Chris Tierney Score
Speaking of Chris Tierney, it was good to see him score. His goal was shorthanded and gave the Senators a 3-2 lead after the first period. It was Tierney’s first goal (he has an assist) in three games. Last season, in his first with the Senators, he had 48 total points.
Tierney saw some positives in the Senators’ play. Specifically, he liked the team’s resilience: “We didn’t quit on the game. We were pushing for the full 60 (minutes). When we got down, we would find a way to tie it up again.” Well, except for the last time, when the team couldn’t score the tying goal.
Take-Away #5: It Won’t Get Any Easier for the Senators
On Saturday, the Senators meet the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice. The Lightning just came off a 7-4 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto that left Maple Leafs’ fans scratching their collective heads. They are perhaps the best team in the entire NHL and have stars who can seemingly score at will.
Ottawa has had a tough history against the Lightning – even at home. The Lightning record is 6-1-0 in the team’s last seven road visits.
Craig Anderson gets the start on Saturday, and he is coming off back-to-back losses to the Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers. His GAA is 4.58 GAA and he has a .875 save percentage. He’ll be tested.
My prediction is that the Senators will play a tough game, but will lose 5-4 – the team’s offense simply won’t be able to keep up with the Lightning stars.
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