The Ottawa Senators may be coming into the 2019-20 season with low expectations, but they find themselves with back-to-back preseason wins against their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. While preseason games do not reflect on the true strength of the team heading into the regular season, the players can give fans, the organization, and scouts an idea on where they are in their stage of development or season readiness.
In their second preseason game, a handful of Senators stood out, while some left more to be desired. The following are the players who stood out, and the ones who should be on standby.
While it may not come as a surprise that Brady Tkachuk was a standout for the Senators in his preseason debut, there were still some factors that seemed noteworthy. As Senators fans are accustomed to, Tkachuk was physical the entire game. His workouts to build his muscle and strength in the offseason have paid off in droves. He was consistently able to use his body to shield the puck and retain puck possession. He also showed more confidence and flair with the puck, as there were a couple of times where he made a nice move to beat an opposing defensive player. His speed was also noticeable, as he got himself a breakaway early on in the game.
Tkachuk finished the night with seven shots on goal. This was a welcome sign for Senators fans after ex-interim coach, Marc Crawford, stated that Tkachuk needed to use his shot more often. However, his feisty nature sometimes lands him in penalty trouble. He took a couple of unnecessary penalties away from the puck that he could’ve easily avoided. He also took a couple of spills while skating, so his balance could still stand to improve. That being said, Tkachuk still had a great showing, notching an assist and the game-winning, empty-net goal.
Bobby Ryan had a really good showing in his preseason debut. Even before the game, there were positives, as he seemed to be the leader in all of the team’s warmup drills. In the game itself, he was confident with the puck in the offensive end, making several nice passes to his teammates.
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This was especially noticeable on the powerplay where he tried to set up his teammates for one-time shots. When he had the opportunity to hit an opposing player, he didn’t show restraint and would use his size to his advantage.
Ryan also showed good effort on the backcheck, using the extent of his speed to get back to help his defence. In the past, this hasn’t always been one of his strong points, so it was encouraging to see him step up in this manner. He was partnered with Tyler Ennis and Artem Anisimov for much of the game and helped push the pace of his whole line. They ended up being the Senators’ biggest threat on the ice, creating several scoring opportunities for themselves.
When the Senators made the Canada Day trade with the Maple Leafs, involving the Nikita Zaitsev/Cody Ceci swap, Connor Brown was considered a wildcard piece that was thrown into the deal as a sweetener. Known to be a hardworking player and an excellent penalty killer, he certainly made his mark in Wednesday night’s game. He put in a strong effort and battled the entire night.
Brown lived up to his name as a strong defensive forward, showing poise on the penalty kill and 5-on-5. Playing almost 21 minutes, Brown notched a goal and an assist in the Senators’ 4-3 win. His efforts earned him first-star recognition in his Senators’ debut, which was well-deserved after his performance.
While he wasn’t a stand-out player, Artem Anisimov was still able to show that he will be a key depth player for the Senators this upcoming season. He immediately drove the net and screened the goalie when he or his teammates broke the puck into the offensive end. He had several offensive chances for his efforts but was unfortunately unable to hit the back of the net.
Anisimov was successful in the face-off dot, winning 60% of his draws. He was also the primary reason for Ennis’ unassisted goal in the second period, as his pressure on the forecheck led to a Maple Leafs giveaway which led to Ennis’ great wrist shot tally.
Craig Anderson hasn’t performed to the best of his abilities over his last two seasons with the Senators. However, he had a great showing in his preseason debut. He saved 20 of the 21 shots he faced, registering a .952 save percentage in his 40 minutes of ice time.
Not the biggest player on the ice, Ennis makes up for his lack of size in his work ethic. He constantly looked to make plays, go on the forecheck, or be active in an attack. As stated previously, he was awarded with a nice wrist shot goal in the second period, making a good impression for himself in his first game as a Senator.
While Mark Borowiecki isn’t known for his offensive capabilities, he had a solid game for the Senators. He notched two assists, laid down a few hits, blocked some shots and didn’t land himself any penalties. He still needs to work on his defensive positioning, but overall he had a good game.
While size isn’t his forte, Scott Sabourin didn’t seem to notice. He had a solid bout with ex-Senator Ben Harpur during the first period that brought the building to their feet. He was a pest all night and managed to get under the skin of a few Maple Leaf players. While he probably won’t crack the Senators’ opening night roster, he still put in a valiant effort and had a good showing.
Although he notched an assist on Max Veronneau’s powerplay tally, Ron Hainsey was underwhelming for most of the game. There was more than one occasion where he was caught flat-footed which led to a goal scoring opportunity for the Maple Leafs. At one point on the penalty kill he was completely gassed, so he stopped in front of the net in the midst of the play to catch his breath.
For a Stanley Cup-winning veteran player, he needs to show that he can lead by example by being stronger in his own end. With several defensive prospects in the Senators pipeline, Hainsey will really have to fight for his spot to stay in the Senators lineup full-time.
Logan Brown has high, top-six upside and the tools to reach that ceiling. However, he seemed lost during his preseason debut Wednesday night. Whatever it was, he didn’t seem to be mentally in the game. There was more than one occasion where he would pass the puck behind his back to no one or would send a weak pass that would be intercepted by an opposing player. At times he would seem panicked when he was being forechecked.
While his offensive capabilities are noteworthy, as seen during his time with the AHL’s Belleville Senators, he seems to need adjusting to the NHL’s faster pace. At this point in time, it seems like Brown could use some more time in Belleville.
The Senators’ next preseason game is Sept. 21 against the Montreal Canadiens. According to the club’s latest roster cuts, Ryan, Anisimov, Ennis, Hainsey and C. Brown will be sitting out that game. However, all of them remain on the training camp roster. Tkachuk and L. Brown will both be dressed against the Canadiens. Hainsey and L. Brown will most likely get another opportunity to have a better showing when they play against the Vancouver Canucks on Sept. 23 at Rogers Arena.
Game stats from NHL.com
International History Graduate from Carleton University. Ottawa Senators writer for The Hockey Writers. Founder of The Senstennial.