It was a busy weekend for the Ottawa Senators, who played twice versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday [Sept. 24]. Head coach D.J. Smith’s team left Scotiabank Arena with one win and one loss, showcasing their offseason additions for the first time.
The Senators took the lead in the first game of the day after Tim Stützle broke the ice with a nifty finish to beat Maple Leafs’ goaltender Erik Källgren. However, the hosts responded, thanks to unlikely scorers Justin Holl, Denis Malgin, and Alex Steeves (twice).
In the matinee face-off, the Senators were behind after two periods but came through with the win thanks to Tyler Motte, Angus Corrkshank, Mark Kastelic, and Josh Norris. They return to the ice on Tuesday for a road game versus the Winnipeg Jets.
In this edition of Senators News & Rumors, we’ll dive into the fallout from the team’s first preseason performance, including Motte’s debut and more.
Stützle Encouraged by First Spin with DeBrincat & Giroux
The Senators being able to pair Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat with Stützle was the talk of the offseason. For the first time in his career, the 21-year-old will be insulated by players capable of helping him reach the next level, although he admits it will take time.
“I think the chemistry needs time [to develop],” said Stützle of his new linemates. “We haven’t really played, just one or two really hard practices with the team. But I think in the end there were some good things showing tonight but also some bad things.”
His tie-breaking goal was a major positive for the Senators, converting an end-to-end assist from Max Guenette with aplomb. It was a highlight reel moment for a player hoping to put together a breakout season:
The former third-overall pick already has 132 points (34 goals, 53 assists) and is expected to be the main beneficiary of general manager Pierre Dorion’s productive summer. When asked if he was surprised by what DeBrincat and Giroux offered, Stützle added: “Everybody talks about how much of a scorer Brinksy is, but he is so slick with the puck, can make plays from anywhere, and is a great passer. G is just an unbelievable player; he has the right attitude, hates to lose, and we can learn a lot from him – especially faceoffs, I think he won every draw tonight.”
With an important season ahead, the Adler Mannheim product is optimistic about his future playing alongside his new linemates.
“It’s all about chemistry and knowing where each other will be on the ice,” Stützle said. “We had the puck the whole time on the power play and moved it really well. It’s a no-brainer if Brinsky is on the other side, and G can play wherever. It’s different. We haven’t played together forever, but they’re unbelievable players, and I’m happy I can play with them.”
Smith Impressed by Motte’s Debut
Motte featured in the Senators’ matinee win over the Maple Leafs and notched an empty-netter in the final minute of play. He was a standout performer throughout, combining with Shane Pinto and Mathieu Joseph to make an impact on the second line.
“He’s obviously a really good penalty-killer. He’s strong and smart,” Smith said of Motte. “He will be useful in all situations.”
When asked about Ottawa’s play on the penalty kill, he added, “We don’t win if we don’t kill off the double minor, which gave us momentum. But even as it was two-nothing, I thought we played better and had a lot of the puck – we just didn’t get rewarded [until the third period].”
Sanderson Upbeat After First Preseason Appearance
Dorion’s failure to upgrade his blue line this offseason has left some a little unsure about what to expect from the team this season. While it’s clear they have improved, question marks still linger over the quality of the defense corps.
Jake Sanderson will be in the spotlight in his rookie season. He enjoyed a solid collegiate career with the University of North Dakota and has a realistic shot at securing a top-four spot.
The former fifth-overall pick appeared in the Senators’ loss versus Toronto and led the team in ice time with 21:39, including almost four minutes across the power play and penalty kill. He partnered with Travis Hamonic, taking positives from the experience.
“I thought I always alright,” he told reporters. “I knew before the game that I was going to make mistakes, but that it was important to stay confident throughout. I can’t remember the last time I had two penalties in a game, but that’s hockey. I just need to turn the page and learn from it. I felt like I was pretty prepared, but the guys are so smart and fast – it was just the next level for me. Once you get into a game, it’s a different experience [from practicing as a professional].”
When asked about playing alongside Hamonic, he added: “It was awesome: he’s a rock down the right side and gives me the confidence [to perform]. I’m playing with a great player who I can lean on throughout games. He’s an awesome guy. He’s always talking to me, and I really appreciate that.”
Senators’ Busy Preseason Schedule
With their doubleheader in Toronto out the way, the Senators have a busy preseason to navigate. They face the Winnipeg Jets next, with games against the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens to follow. Then, on Oct. 14, their season starts on the road versus the Buffalo Sabres.
In the meanwhile, stay up to date with the latest news and analysis from across the NHL with The Hockey Writers. This is just the beginning of a hectic month of preseason action.
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.