The Ottawa Senators were defeated 5-4 by the Colorado Avalanche after a spirited comeback attempt. Tim Stutzle recorded yet another three-point game, Mads Sogaard made a number of important saves, and Claude Giroux‘s feud headlined some of the takeaways from this game.
The Senators were down 5-2 heading into the third period, and with goals from Travis Hamonic and Brady Tkachuk, they had some life in them. Late-game penalties (justified or not…) were costly to the team and may have been detrimental to the comeback.
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Frustrating Officiating Hurts the Senators
I am not the kind of person to talk and complain about a referee. In this game, however, there were a few situations where the team and the fans were rightfully frustrated.
In the first period, Ridly Greig was hit from behind by Cale Makar, and when Greig got up he took exception to the hit and gave Makar a cross-check to the back. Makar, who is one of the best skaters in the league, seemed to go down very easily. Greig definitely deserved a cross-checking penalty on the play, but Makar should have been penalized for the hit, too. I don’t like embellishment penalties as they are such a grey area, and the referees set a precedent that it was not going to be called. Remember that play, because we will come back to it later.
In the second period, the Avalanche scored their fifth goal in what was one of the most controversial goals I have ever seen. The Avalanche dumped the puck down the ice, and at the hash marks, there was a bit of a collision, though the puck didn’t seem to hit a player and slow down to negate an icing. Sogaard had his glove up, indicating there was a pending icing call, but after the puck bounced off of the backboards Jake Sanderson and Sogaard realized that it wasn’t icing. Sogaard went into the butterfly position and covered the puck with his blocker. After over four seconds of the puck covered, the Avalanche and Senators players assumed the whistle had gone and all gave up on the play and started skating away. Lars Eller shoved the puck and Sogaard’s pad through the crease to put it in after a confusing situation.
DJ Smith challenged the play for goaltender interference, and probably asked anything he could to understand what just happened. The goal stood to be the eventual game-winning goal.
In the third period, Bowen Byram and Claude Giroux had been in a scuffle in front of the Avalanche net and Byram cross-checked Giroux and he ended up hitting his face on the ice. After returning to the game, Giroux laid a big hit on Byram and the Avalanche defender held onto his stick to take him out of the play too. Giroux went back to get his stick, Byram cross-checked him in the back and Giroux fell to the ice. The play looked incredibly similar to the Greig penalty on Makar, but this time Giroux was already bent down picking up his stick. Byram and Giroux got off-setting minors for cross-checking and embellishment.
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Valeri Nichushkin and Tkachuk got into a bit of a scrum in front of the Avalanche bench, and when Nichushkin entered the bench, Nathan MacKinnon got involved and punched Tkachuk. Those two also received off-setting minors.
With the Senators looking for the tying goal, they had a wide-open net on which Jonas Johansson made an excellent save on. Though with the goaltender still down, the puck squeaked out and the Senators had a great opportunity, except the referee blew the play dead while the puck was still loose.
There were plenty of reasons to be frustrated with the referees; however, I still don’t place the loss on them. The Senators need to be tighter defensively.
Stutzle Continues His Dominant Season
Stutzle recorded his 25th multi-point game of the season, bringing his total to 76 points in 64 games. His dominance has been the biggest factor in the Senators’ push for the playoffs. This is how his season stats stack up against the rest of the league:
- 76 Points (18th)
- 34 Goals (T-15th)
- 42 Assists (T-33)
- 1.19 Points per game (16th)
With his eight-year, $8.35 million contract kicking in next year, it is already looking like it will be one of the best contracts in the NHL, and he is gaining even more of a lead on the title of top 2020 Draft pick.
Stutzle’s skating, passing, shooting, and on-ice vision make him unstoppable. He drives this team’s offense both at even strength and on the power play, and his success translates directly to team success. He is one of the most important players to their team in the NHL.
Sogaard’s Stats Don’t Represent His Play
Sogaard is a 21-year-old goaltender that the Senators look at as the future of the crease.
Sogaard’s .883 save percentage and 3.46 goals-against average don’t tell the whole story. It wasn’t expected that he would come in and have phenomenal stats, but he has made big saves at the right time. During the comeback against Colorado, he made several key saves including some high-danger chances and breakaways. He gave the team a chance to win despite falling behind early. He isn’t stealing the Senators any games, but he is also getting left out to dry most nights.
The Senators are falling further and further behind in the playoff race. At this point, to reach 92 points to have a chance to get in, they will need to win 11 of their last 14 games. It will be tough, but meaningful games in March was the goal, and here we are.
The schedule is one of the hardest among any team for the last month of the season, and only three of their remaining games are against non-playoff teams. Whether the Senators make the postseason or not, this is an excellent time for growing pains, as this gives them a sense of high-pressure situations.