The night started on a high for the Ottawa Senators. Brady Tkachuk took the ice for the first time since signing a seven-year, $57.5 million contract and Matt Murray was making his season debut. Murray looked great and it didn’t take long for Tkachuk to get on the scoresheet, too. He and Artem Zub assisted on Drake Batherson’s first goal of the season that came just 10 minutes into the game.
It was also Erik Karlsson’s third time at the Canadian Tire Centre since being dealt to the San Jose Sharks in 2018. The two-time Norris Trophy winner and the Sharks spoiled the Sens’ night, winning 2-1 despite being outshot 31 to 24. The Senators had three power plays that they couldn’t capitalize on, which ultimately could have been the difference-maker. Even though the night ended on a low, the Senators stuck around and played a great overall game, but couldn’t finish. That being said, here are three takeaways from Thursday night’s game.
Brady Tkachuk Arrived As Advertised
It was Tkachuk’s 199th game of his NHL career and a pretty good one, too. The star winger reminded us why the Senators decided to pay him an average annual value (AAV) of $8.214 million. Involved right from the drop of the puck, he notched his first point of the season when assisting on Batherson’s opening goal. He also noticeably was giving Sharks’ defenceman Mario Ferraro a hard time. A sign of leadership is standing up for teammate Shane Pinto, who was injured by Ferraro early in the game.
It was great to see Tkachuk get 19:39 minutes of ice time, showing little signs of rust. He recorded six hits and three shots along with his one assist. He was driving the play, throwing the body, and drawing penalties — everything you expect him to do. Let’s not forget he didn’t have a training camp, either. So, the fact that he played almost 20 minutes was a little shocking.
“It would have been better with the win,” Tkachuk said. “That was the one thing on my mind. You can take some positives and negatives from each game. I just want to get better from the negatives and improve every day. I was nervous going into it. It was my first time playing in front of fans. After a few shifts, I just tried to settle into a little bit and I tried to simplify my game.” It will take some time for Tkachuk to settle in, but the chemistry with Batherson and Josh Norris was on full display.
Matt Murray Has A Good Season Debut
After an inconsistent first season in Ottawa, Murray needed another fresh start. The 27-year-old goaltender had missed the last bit of training camp and the opening three games with an illness. This would be his first game since April 24. Last season, he went 2-9-1 while posting a 3.82 goals-against average (GAA) and a .878 save percentage (SV%). He had finished the season 8-4-0 with a .908 SV%, 2.93 GAA and two shutouts. It was a sign that he could be trending upwards and Thursday night proved that to be true.
Murray stopped 22 of 24 shots, but it proved not to be enough. “We definitely could have won that game,” Murray said. “Reimer played great for them. I thought they played a pretty solid game and it could have gone either way. I gotta give them credit. They did a great job getting traffic to the net. I had a really hard time seeing those pucks at the front of the net.” (from ‘GARRIOCH: Brady Tkachuk returns, but Senators come up short in a 2-1 loss to the Sharks’ Ottawa Sun, 21/10/21) The important thing is that he didn’t look uncomfortable or shaky other than giving up the winning goal off his glove hand, which is a theme related too often with him.
The hope is that he continues to improve, stays healthy, and gives the Senators an opportunity to win night in and night out. With Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson as the backups, they have somewhat of a security blanket going forward. However, the Sens want to go to Murray in the net as often as possible, reassuring his status as No. 1.
Shane Pinto’s Health Status
The first period saw Pinto go hard into the boards after making contact with Sharks defenceman Mario Ferraro. He laid on the ice for a brief moment before getting up and rushing to the dressing room, visibly in discomfort. He returned for the second period; however, his appearance was short-lived, turning over the puck on his first shift causing a Sharks’ goal.
After the game, head coach D.J. Smith said that the injury doesn’t seem to be too bad and hopes he will be back soon. “He was really sore, but it was nothing structural, so we’ll see how he is in the morning. It’s a huge impact on the overall game. We’re not as good without him, but we’re hopeful he’ll be fine.” Let’s hope for good news seeing how Pinto was going to be a focal point for the Senators down the middle of the ice this season.
After a fantastic 12-game debut last season and a great training camp, Pinto earned himself the No. 2 spot on the roster. If he’s out for an extended period of time, expect general manager Pierre Dorion to start working the phone lines in search of that top-six forward they’ve been talking about since the summer.
The Karlsson trade happened more than three years ago, but every time the two teams meet, we are reminded (especially today) that the Senators are in a much better spot. Norris, Chris Tierney and Tim Stützle are all playing big roles right now for the organization. Tierney leads the team in goals, looks healthy, and can play in many different scenarios while adding a veteran presence. Stützle and Norris are among the integral pieces of the Senators’ future going forward, too.
Stützle is still looking for his first goal and Norris only has the one so far, but the pair came close on chances late in the third period during a 4-on-3 power play. Stützle has looked fantastic through four games and it’s nice knowing the Senators have a superstar on their hands after giving up one of their own. The Sens continue their homestand with games against the New York Rangers on Saturday and the Washington Capitals on Monday.