Senators’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Offence Clicks, Forsberg Shines & More

Welcome to the second edition of our ‘3 Up, 3 Down’ column for the 2022-23 Ottawa Senators. This series will be published each week, reflecting on the highs and lows from the previous seven days.

Ottawa Senators 3 up, 3 down
Ottawa Senators 3 Up, 3 Down (The Hockey Writers)

The Ottawa Senators were perfect in the second week of the season, improving their record to 3-2-0 with wins over the Boston Bruins (7-5), Washington Capitals (5-2), and Arizona Coyotes (6-2). They also avoided serious injuries, received solid goaltending, and have started to develop chemistry within their lines.

With that in mind, here are three positive and three negative developments from the week that was for the Senators and their fans. There’s plenty to unpack.

Plus 1: Senators Discover Scoring Touch

The Senators are on fire. Per Money Puck, each of Ottawa’s top three forward lines sits amongst the league’s top 20 units for expected goals share – a remarkable achievement for a team that is still building familiarity after a busy offseason:

Forward UnitMinutes PlayedExpected Goals ShareLeague Rank (Minimum 30:00)
Brady Tkachuk Tim Stützle  Drake Batherson59.473.25
Josh Norris Claude Giroux Alex DeBrincat52.664.411
Tyler Motte Shane Pinto Mathieu Joseph446017

In addition to Pierre Dorion’s fine work in the summer, the Senators have benefited from composed instruction from head coach D.J. Smith – who has built a cohesive attack based on ferocious forechecking and a shoot-first mentality.  

“We want to give [our opponents] no time and we want to play fast,” Smith said of his team’s approach.

Shane Pinto’s form has been especially impressive. While the likes of Tim Stützle and Claude Giroux were expected to dominate, the 21-year-old has been a breakout package for the Senators. He’s scored in each of his last four appearances and shows no signs of slowing down.

Related: 3 Senators Who Can Contend for an NHL Award in 2022-23

“He’s playing with a lot of detail,” said Smith. “He’s playing inside the dots – finding open areas, and he’s playing hard defensively. When he plays like that – the way he can carry the puck up ice – he was in on all kinds of scoring chances.”

While it’s important to remember that we’re working with a small sample, the Senators look dangerous. If they continue to produce offence at their current rate, they will score their way into playoff contention.

Minus 1: Senators Struggle in Second Period vs. Bruins

In the second period of their win over the Bruins, the Senators allowed four goals and were exposed in the defensive zone. While they were only outshot 17-14, many of Boston’s attempts were from inside the slot and virtually unsavable for Anton Forsberg.

The Senators also came unglued on the penalty kill, with David Krejci converting just 28 seconds into the middle frame. It was the kind of untidy goal that Ottawa has to cut out if they want to build on their positive form:

But the Sens also deserve credit for how they responded in the third period. They settled their nerves in the intermission and skated to a statement win in the final frame. It was an impressive show of resilience from a developing team. 

Plus 2: Anton Forsberg Stakes Claim For Starter’s Job

Forsberg has performed impressively for the Senators this season, upholding a 2.82 goals-against average and .904 save percentage through five appearances. His early form is made even more impressive by the fact that he doesn’t have the support of an established backup right now.

“His work ethic is incredible and it’s not just his work ethic, it’s his mental toughness,” Smith said of the Swede (‘Makes sense for Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith to stick with Anton Forsberg, Ottawa Citizen, 10/21/22).

Anton Forsberg Ottawa Senators
Anton Forsberg, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“I was talking to him at the start of the year and he was saying this is the first time he’s gone to an NHL training camp and he’s had a place to stay. He wasn’t waiting to get sent down or stay in a hotel for six weeks or whatever the case may be. He’s mentally tough, he puts the work ethic in and it’s great to see. That’s what allows these guys to play that many games in the league every year.”

Forsberg started the season below Cam Talbot in the depth chart but could usurp his injured colleague if he continues to produce solid performances. It’s a situation to monitor as the season progresses.

Minus 2: Senators Start Slowly vs. Capitals

The Capitals caught the Senators flat-footed on Thursday (Oct. 20), building an early lead thanks to goals from Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie. After the final buzzer sounded, Smith reflected on his team’s slow start.

“I thought we built our game in the second period,” he explained after the Senators’ 5-2 win. “We just didn’t play with enough emotion to start and they came out flying with a couple of power play goals. As you can see, we’re growing together.”

D.J. Smith Ottawa Senators
D.J. Smith, head coach of the Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Tyler Motte added: “I just think we got to our game [after the first period]. We responded, looked at ourselves in the mirror, and knew we were a better team [than what we had shown]. We stuck to our identity in the last two periods. It’s important to get to that standard.”

The Senators were blown away in the first period, conceding on the power play twice and getting stuck in the defensive zone for extended periods. If they start as poorly as they did against the Capitals versus a stronger opponent, they won’t be able to fight their way back into the contest. Ottawa must learn from this close call.

Plus 3: Senators’ Net Slick Reverse Retro Jerseys

The Senators also enjoyed a positive week off the ice, with the release of their second set of Reverse Retro threads. Ottawa’s new jersey is a mishmash of their current colour palette with elements of the uniform they wore en route to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006-07.

Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Reverse Retro
Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Reverse Retro (NHL/adidas)

Adidas implemented several cool features for the Senators, including front-facing centurion shoulder patches and thick lettering on the rear. Ottawa will wear their 2022-23 Reverse Retro uniform five times during the regular season, including versus the New York Rangers at the end of next month. Here are the key dates for your diary:

  • Nov. 30 vs New York Rangers
  • Dec. 12 vs Anaheim Ducks
  • Jan. 1 vs Buffalo Sabres
  • Jan. 18 vs Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Jan. 28 vs Montreal Canadiens

Minus 3: Senators Concede Untidy Goals vs. Coyotes

The Senators shouldn’t be happy about the goals they allowed versus the Coyotes. Dylan Guenther scored Arizona’s first of the afternoon by evading the attention of Ottawa’s penalty killers, who were caught puck-watching just as the power play was about to expire:

While the away team’s second strike was credited to Clayton Keller, Forsberg’s reaction tells the story. The Senators were bewildered by a bobbling puck and accidentally knocked it into their own net:

“I thought we played pretty sloppy in the second period,” Smith said, referencing Arizona’s goals. “First period we had some jam, then we took some bad penalties and got out of rhythm on the four-on-fours, turned some pucks over and didn’t do, to me, what we had been doing.”

It’s a minor complaint, but the Senators must work on keeping their concentration levels high in the third week of the season. They can’t afford to allow these types of goals regularly.

That’s it for the second edition of Senators’ 3 Up, 3 Down of the season. How are you feeling ahead of the third week of the campaign, with the team sitting above the .500 mark? Dip into the replies to join the conversation.

Sign up for our regular 'Senators Newsletter' for all the latest.