Senators News & Rumors: Pinto, Smith, Brassard

In this edition of Ottawa Senators News & Rumors, we’ll unpack the reaction to the team’s preseason loss to the Winnipeg Jets, with insight from head coach D.J. Smith, centreman Shane Pinto, and winger Derick Brassard.

The Senators recorded their second defeat of the preseason on Tuesday (Sept. 27) but produced an impressive performance considering the imbalance between the rosters. They travelled to Winnipeg without their stars and found themselves outgunned by a home squad that included Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Blake Wheeler.

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Although the game finished with the Senators on the losing end of a 5-3 scoreline, there were positive moments for Ottawa, with Erik Brännström rising to the challenge through 23:24 of ice time versus top-level competition. Here’s what Smith, Pinto, and Brassard said to reporters after the final buzzer sounded in Manitoba.

D.J. Smith Encouraged by Preseason Performance in Winnipeg

Smith felt his team “deserved better” than a two-goal loss versus the Jets. The Senators kept pace with their hosts in the first period but were made to pay for their trips to the penalty box in the second, conceding power play goals twice in six minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well at five-on-five in spurts,” Smith told reporters. “We had a real dip when they scored on the power play but, considering the line-up they had, I thought it was a good effort from a lot of guys. [Connor] Hellebuyck is clearly the difference in the end: he made some really good saves throughout. But, at five-on-five, I liked our game.”

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

In this case, the final statistics were telling. The Senators outshot the Jets but came unglued due to missed opportunities on the power play, a weak penalty kill, and a low success rate in the faceoff circle.

“I thought it was pretty good, actually,” Pinto added. “We battled pretty hard but the penalties caught up with us. We played pretty well overall.”

The Senators who spoke to the media after the game made it clear that they knew the quality of their performance would be more important than the final score before puck drop. Their rotated roster was outmatched by the squad iced by the Jets, which produced a spirited effort from the away team. It’s not a result Smith will lose sleep over.

Shane Pinto Pleased with His Training Camp Progress

There was a lot of talk about Pinto in the summer. He only made five appearances last season due to a shoulder injury and returns to the fray at the Canadian Tire Centre with a point to prove. His efforts versus the Jets were heartening.

“He was really good,” Smith said of Pinto’s performance. “He controlled the middle of the ice, played a lot of minutes, including on the power play, and his touches were good. The pace is going to pick up as we go and the competition will get stiffer, but he looks really solid right now.”

Pinto was at his best versus the Jets, scoring and registering an assist in 20:25 of ice time. When asked about the 21-year-old’s work alongside Tyler Motte and Mathieu Joseph, Smith added: “They’re responsible players. They work for their turnovers, they work for their odd-man rushes, and they’ve had plenty in the games they’ve played together.”

Shane Pinto University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Shane Pinto, formerly of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (Russell Hones-UND Athletics)

Despite only winning a third of his faceoffs, Pinto was a standout performer for the Senators and continued to build chemistry with Motte and Joseph.

“I think it fits perfectly,” Pinto said of his preseason line. “Both of them are pretty similar players: they make plays, they’re fast, and I can stay with them. I think we complement each other pretty well and as this training camp goes on, we just need to keep on building chemistry.”

The former second-round pick also revealed that he is pleased with his preseason progress. After missing so much time through injury, he is back on the right path and more resilient than ever. If pressure makes diamonds, it’ll be interesting to see how the American responds to life under the spotlight this season.

“Every time I go out there, I feel a little bit better,” he said. “That just comes with training camp – you just feel better and better as it goes on. I obviously had the whole year off [due to injury], but I’m feeling more confident with every skate… tonight felt really good. My timing was there, and the things that I feel I need to improve at were better.”

Derick Brassard Impressed by Pinto, Determined to Stick in Ottawa

Pinto’s performance also drew praise from Brassard, who is currently on a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the Senators. He likes what he sees in the New York-born forward.

“He’s going to be a good player,” the 35-year-old said when asked about Pinto. “The poise that he has as a centreman [is great]… I think he’s really responsible, has a good stick, is always ready to shoot, and is good to dish. It’s pretty much everything. It’s the first time I’ve really seen him and I think he’s opening eyes. He’s a really good player and he’s going to be a really good player for this team for a very long time.”

Derick Brassard Ottawa Senators
Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When asked for his thoughts on the Senators’ preseason preparation, Brassard added: “It’s like every training camp: when you move further into it, you’re trying to get ready for the first game of the season. The exhibitions are going to get more intense because the team is going to cut down the roster and this weekend is going to be a really good test for our group. The guys back in Ottawa are very anxious to play – it’ll be our first home game and we want to make it a good one.”

Senators Must Click into Gear Soon

While the Senators have made impressive progress during the preseason, 2022-23 is just around the corner and they can’t afford to start on the back foot. They face the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens on home ice this weekend, with three more games against the Habs on the schedule for next week. After that, the regular season begins in earnest versus the Buffalo Sabres.

In the meantime, stay up to date with the latest news, rumors, and analysis with The Hockey Writers, as there will be plenty to discuss in the weeks ahead.

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