After their latest loss, the Ottawa Senators find themselves five points adrift at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with a painful record of 6-12-1. While few expected them to overcome the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday (Nov. 23), the nature of their 4-1 defeat felt all too familiar.
“It’s disappointing,” D.J. Smith said of the loss. “I thought we hung right with them from wire to wire. I don’t know what the chances [statistics] are, but their goalie was really good and we probably gave away too many penalties. We worked hard [and] tried everything we could, but we couldn’t score.”
Despite their best efforts, the Senators couldn’t find a route to victory versus the Golden Knights – who benefited from a 39-save performance by netminder Logan Thompson and a handful of highlight-reel plays from their star contributors. In the aftermath of another defeat, the rumor mill is in full swing in Ottawa. Let’s dive into the latest news and developing topics.
Jake Sanderson Takes Positives From Golden Knights Loss
Jake Sanderson has been the bright spot in a dark start to the season for the Senators. While those around him have fumbled, the 20-year-old has made positive steps as a rookie and is almost always one of the team’s best performers. His hot start continued in the defeat versus the Golden Knights. In addition to a solid defensive performance, the Montana-born defenceman also scored in the NHL for the first time:
“It felt nice,” Sanderson said of his first professional tally, “it took a while but I’m happy I got it and that my dad was there to watch it.”
The former University of North Dakota star pointed out that he is still learning on the job at the professional level, while voicing his belief that the Senators will pull their way out of their poor form.
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He added: “Obviously, there’s still stuff I can learn, I feel like I’m learning something new every game, and I like the way I’m trending. We’re obviously in a rut as a team right now, but we’ve got to stay positive.”
Sanderson, whose average time on ice is now almost above the 20-minute mark, has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 19 appearances on the season. He remains a candidate for the Calder Trophy as a result.
Brady Tkachuk, Cam Talbot Target Mid-Season Rebound
The Senators are almost at the point of no return: if they don’t find a way to win soon, this season will be recorded as another wasted year for the franchise. After their latest defeat, several key players spoke to reporters about how they can turn the season around.
“We just need to elevate [our performances],” said captain Brady Tkachuk. “We just need everyone here, from top to bottom, to find that extra level to finish the job and, in this room, we’re capable of doing that, but it’s a big one on Friday [versus the Ducks] and we need to be at our best.”
When asked the same question, netminder Cam Talbot added: “I don’t know. Obviously, we need to keep playing the way we’ve been playing and stick to that. When you’re in times like this, maybe you need an extra save or two – and that’s on me and [Anton Forsberg] to try and steal one to give us the best chance.”
While the Senators have endured a period of bumpy netminding, their main issue recently has been their inability to put the puck in the back of the net. If they want to improve their position in the standings, they must improve at both ends of the ice.
Looking Ahead for the Senators
It’s been a difficult month for the Senators, who started the season with their eyes on the playoffs but are on course to end it firmly in the race for Connor Bedard. Smith finds himself under serious pressure as a result.
“There’s no doubt that we’re trying and we’re not sitting back and letting teams take it to us,” he said after the Vegas loss. “That’s not happening [but], for whatever reason, the other teams’ goalies have been really good and we haven’t found ways to score.”
If the Senators continue their slide, general manager Pierre Dorion could be forced to reconsider his “loyalty” to a head coach that has been unable to deliver improved results after a productive offseason that saw the additions of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux.
But are the Senators on the cusp of a turnaround? They face the Anaheim Ducks on Friday (Nov. 25), with games versus the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers to follow. Whatever happens next, the week ahead will shape how the rest of Ottawa’s season unfolds.
Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.