This is the first installment of Senators Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Ottawa Senators throughout the 2018-19 season. From trending topics to surging prospects to news and notes, this is your weekly roundup on all things Sens.
The 2018-19 season is underway and through the first five games, the Senators have had a mediocre start. The club sits at 2-2-1 and has shown glimpses of excellence while at other times proving pre-season expectations of being a bottom-five team. Here are the topics that have stood out from the past week and a half.
Chabot, Young Players Are Taking Over
With the Senators trading two of their top three scorers from last season, Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, many questioned how the team could fill that offence. Well, it looks like scoring won’t be an issue for the club, as they currently sit fifth in the league in goals for, the majority of those coming from the young players in Ottawa.
Thomas Chabot looks to have kickstarted the breakout year that many expected, currently leading the team in points with two goals and six assists. He has embraced the role of the team’s top defender and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Working the top powerplay and top pairing, the sophomore players looks to be the club’s answer to filling the void left by Karlsson for seasons to come. On top of leading the team in points, Chabot sits second in the league for defensive points, behind only the historic play of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly.
The other surging defenseman has been Maxim Lajoie. The rookie came into preseason not expected to make the team, yet stole the position and has no intentions of letting it go. The defender showed why he deserves to be with the team in his first game, scoring his first NHL goal and getting his first NHL assist – in the first period. He then had another multi-point night in the 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, two goals and an assist. Lajoie currently has three goals and three assists, good for third in the NHL for points by defenders behind Rielly and Chabot. His multi-point debut is the fifth in Senators history and first since Wade Redden and Andreas Dackell in 1996.
It’s not just the defenders who have been lighting the lamp, 2018 fourth overall pick Brady Tkachuk has shown what he’s capable of as well early on in the season. Although he was sidelined with an injury for the first two games, it hasn’t taken long for Tkachuk to get accustomed to the NHL level. In three games, Tkachuk has two goals and three assists, on top of a plus-five rating. It’s still early in the season, but Tkachuk is making a strong impression on both management and fans.
There are numerous other young players who have stood out as well. Forward Colin White has shown his ability to make a difference, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Alex Formenton played in the teams first four games before going down with an injury, not recording any points but has shown flashes of his speed. Defenseman Christian Jaros and Ben Harpur both dressed for the first time this season in the teams Saturday game, a 5-1 win over the Los Angelas Kings. Jaros recorded an assist and both players look to stick in the lineup, in the Senators new seven-defenseman look.
While he’s a bit older than the others, at 24, the play of Chris Tierney cannot go unnoticed. The centreman is second on the team in points with two goals and five assists. The team’s top for scorers this year so far, Chabot, Tierney, Lajoie and Tkachuk are all under 24, a good sign for the Senators during their first year of the rebuild.
Anderson, Goaltending Still a Weakness
While they may be fifth in scoring, the Senators are sitting 29th in the NHL in goals against. While the defensive play hasn’t been great, the goaltending has been a weak spot to start the season. As a team, they have the second most shots against per game at 38.4, which doesn’t help the goalies out.
Starter Craig Anderson has started four of the teams five games with a .913 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.53 goals against average (GAA). Those statistics are 21st and 39th in the league, respectively. It is still early in the year, but the Senators will need their starting goaltender to be better if they want to remain competitive throughout the year.
Backup Mike Condon has been even worse for the Senators, albeit in only one start. Condon started the game against Boston, a 6-3 loss. Condon let in five goals, finishing the game with a .828 SV% and a 5.02 GAA.
Last season, Anderson went 28-25-6 with a .898 SV% and a 3.32 GAA. Condon wasn’t any more helpful, going 5-17-5 with a .902 SV% and 3.25 GAA. These statistics are very similar to the start of this year and the team will need these two goaltenders to bounce back or else they may see Jack Hughes go to the Colorado Avalanche with their own pick.
Senators News and Notes
- While Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Marian Gaborik started the season on the injured reserve (IR), they have been joined by three more. Cody Ceci, Alex Formenton and Ryan Dzingel all found themselves on the IR at once. This prompted the call-up of Jaros and Nick Paul, for Sunday’s game versus the Kings along with defender Ben Harpur being dressed.
- In a surprise move, Senators goaltender of the future Filip Gustavsson was sent to the ECHL’s Brampton Beast to allow the goaltender to get more accustomed to the North American game after playing in the Sweden Elite league for the last four years. The move didn’t last long though, as Gustavsson was called up to the AHL’s Belleville Senators, starting and winning his first game with an impressive .943 SV%.
- After being sent through waivers in the preseason as a message to both him and the team, veteran Zach Smith seems to be back on track. He has started the season with a goal and three assists, so it seems that the message was received.
- Moving forward, the Senators are working to create a new culture in the dressing room from the mess of last season. This first step for that is creating a sense of “togetherness” for the team. They are doing just that by making sure the rookies are taken care of as the adjust to the NHL. Tkachuk is living with Mark Stone, Formention is living with Ceci and Lajoie is living with Anderson in a positive first step for the organization in rebuild mode. (From ‘”Kid’ Senators Really are Making Themselves at Home”, Ottawa Sun – 10/14/18)
- Chabot has stolen the Senators record for the most-watched highlight in franchise history, with his game-winning goal and undressing of Maple Leafs’ rookie Igor Ozhiganov. The individual effort is an early candidate for the goal of the year and is a testament to the young defender’s skill.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.