The Ottawa Senators were already in a good place approaching the NHL trade deadline. They saw a complete turnaround from the previous season with Guy Boucher as their new head coach. Also, they were creeping up on first place in the Atlantic Division with games in hand. It made sense that ownership gave rookie general manager Pierre Dorion the green light to make trades for the playoffs. His transactions have borne fruit so far, as the Senators have yet to lose in six games since the trade deadline.
Dorion’s first important trade came over a month before the deadline. He acquired Tommy Wingels for a very low price of two minor league players plus a seventh-round draft pick. Despite not pitching in tremendously on offence since his first game with the Senators, he fits nicely in Boucher’s system. Then, Dorion added two more pieces in Alexandre Burrows and Viktor Stalberg to round out the team’s forward depth. In fact, all of the acquisitions have in common the fact that they are ideal fits within the system that Boucher established.
Burrow-ed in Success
When the Senators acquired Burrows, they added a two-year extension to his contract as he arrived in Ottawa. Despite receiving criticism for providing it, Dorion’s focus is on what Burrows can do for this season. The coach put him in an advantageous spot to succeed immediately in the top six alongside Derick Brassard and Mark Stone. His first game was a great welcome for the native of western Montreal, as he scored two goals for a 2-1 win.
He added two points two games later in an intense game where his line gave fits to the opposition. He scored the go-ahead goal on Saturday to give the Senators life and momentum. He has a total of four goals and six points in six games. More than just putting points up, Burrows has helped his linemates play with more confidence. He offers a good balance of grit and a drive to the net, which helps push defenders back.
He gives his linemates more room to play on the ice, giving them higher quality looks on offence. The low Corsi possession numbers they have while together are somewhat misleading. They give their opponents trouble deep in their zone on the cycle, usually the top players.
“He brings some really good plays around boards,” Brassard said of Burrows. “He has a really good feel for the game, a hockey sense.”
It is the style of play they will need to continue to excel at if the Senators want to go far in the playoffs. Burrows has not played more than one round worth of playoff games in a season since 2012. However, the Senators are hoping that he will have a similar effect on the ice to when he went to the Stanley Cup Final that season.
Stalberg Rounds out Forward Depth
Stalberg is proving that his versatility was worth receiving him in trade for a third-round pick. Although he plays his regular even strength time as a depth forward on the bottom line, he plays limited but valuable time on special teams. He’s already managed two power-play points and has drawn penalties on more than one occasion.
“You know it fits me pretty well, the systems here – a lot of speed and a lot of turnarounds.” Stalberg said after the win in Dallas.
Although Stalberg has fewer playoff games on his resume than Burrows, he was part of the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks team in 2013. Not a huge offensive contributor then, he may not put up big scoring numbers this year either. What he does offer is speed through the neutral zone that can help his linemates get into position and set up on offence. In a few instances, he showed has shown the ability to be the first forward returning on the backcheck to prevent good scoring chances.
The Senators found themselves first in the Atlantic Division as of Sunday thanks to their strong play recently. With momentum on their side, they can look to the second half of March and into April to solidify their playoff spot. With the additional help of their deadline acquisitions, the Ottawa Senators will be a team to watch.