The Ottawa Senators are starting to find their form in the preseason. They hold a record of 4-3 and are using the final three games to play their full lineup in hopes of building chemistry before opening night.
Luckily for the Senators, a certain duo of forwards have wasted no time building chemistry. After trading a handful of assets for Alex DeBrincat and signing Claude Giroux to a three-year, $6.5 million per season contract, they have been the two best forwards on the team this preseason at both even-strength and on the power play.
In the four preseason games they have played together, DeBrincat and Giroux have combined for five goals, seven assists, and 11 points. It is only preseason, and that is an unsustainable pace, but the organization and fans should be thrilled about what they have seen so far from their big-ticket acquisitions.
Building Chemistry Between DeBrincat & Giroux Is Crucial
All contenders have dynamic offensive players that can create offence at will. The Senators lacked goal-scoring outside of their top line last season, and these additions give them the talent to be one of the best forward groups in the NHL.
Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand for the Boston Bruins are all examples of dynamic duos within the Atlantic Division. Debrincat and Giroux’s play styles work so well together that they could join that list and be one of the best duos in the league this season.
Debrincat scored 41 goals last season, and it would not be a shock if he reaches an even higher level this season alongside Giroux. They have also been placed together on the power play, where they will do plenty of damage to opposing teams. DeBrincat is known for having one of the best one-timers from the left circle, and Giroux will be able to make that pass against any penalty kill in the league.
Giroux Is One of the Best Passers in NHL History
According to QuantHockey, Giroux had the most assists in the NHL from 2010-20 with 509. Patrick Kane, who was DeBrincat’s main linemate with the Chicago Blackhawks, is third on that list with 479 assists.
With DeBrincat being one of the best snipers in the league, and Giroux being one of its best passers, it should be relatively easy for them to produce early in the season. The former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers is a true all-around player that has no weaknesses, which is displayed nicely by his wins above replacement (WAR) card over the past three seasons.
The 34-year-old forward hasn’t slowed down one bit. Even if his foot speed declines over the course of his three-year contract, his passing ability and vision will almost certainly remain a huge factor in his success. He was traded to the Florida Panthers at the 2021-22 Trade Deadline and went on to have 20 assists in 18 regular season games.
Second-line Centre will Need to Produce
On Thursday night against the Canadiens, head coach DJ Smith experimented with his line combinations by flipping his top-six centres. Josh Norris played between the dynamic duo, while Tim Stützle was placed alongside Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson.
While Stützle was promoted for that game, the expectation remains that he will centre DeBrincat and Giroux to start the season. The 20-year-old will have to pull his weight, and put his two wingers in a position to succeed. He improved drastically last season with 58 points in 79 games, but if he is able to take yet another jump in production, they will form one of the most dangerous scoring lines in the NHL.
Stützle will have to build chemistry with his wingers on the fly as he furthers his development. For the first time in his career, he will have two All-Star-level wingers alongside him. After being signed to an eight-year, $8.35 million per year contract, the franchise is expecting big things from their former third-overall pick.
The Senators will play one last preseason game against the Canadiens on Saturday, before the star wingers look to carry their chemistry into their first game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Connor Hrabchak is 20 years old and is currently covering the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He is working towards completing his communications and media degree. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s been watching hockey ever since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that has inspired him to write about the sport and attempt to make it into a full-time career.