The Ottawa Senators have now played five games this season and hold a record of 1-3-1 for a total of five points. After starting out 1-1-0, the Senators have dropped three straight to the Winnipeg Jets and sit at the bottom of the Scotia North Division. Through the first three games of the season, the Sens held a zero-goal differential. However, after the last two performances, they now hold a minus-6, and the balance of power has evened out.
Goaltender Matt Murray was pulled for the first time this season on Thursday against the Jets. He let in four goals on just 26 shots and didn’t come back out for the third period. Head coach D.J. Smith has continued to tinker with his lines, consistently dressing and scratching players to try and find a balance. All things considered, the Sens haven’t looked as bad as predicted, and there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played.
Item One: Senators Pack for the Road
After spending the season opener and the three games that followed at the Canadian Tire Centre, the Senators will hit the road for the first time this season. For the next 13 days, they’ll play seven games away from home. The first was last night against the Jets, where they lost 6-3. It was the first start of the season for goaltender Marcus Hogberg, but unfortunately, it didn’t go his way, as he allowed five goals on 37 shots. The Sens and Jets were exchanging blows back and forth all night until Derek Stepan committed a costly penalty by shooting the puck over the glass.
It opened the flood gates for the Jets to capitalize on the win, and the Senators quickly have to put this mistake and game behind them. They’re off to Vancouver now to take on the Canucks for three games, followed by Edmonton to play the Oilers twice and then off to Montreal, where they face the Canadiens twice. Both the Canucks and Oilers have struggled in their own right, so it would be nice for the Sens to pick up some wins here before they play the Canadiens, who have looked very strong this season so far. A couple of points in Western Canada will put the Sens in a better position — standings-wise — before coming back home.
Item Two: Smith Continues to Juggle the Lines
As mentioned earlier, Smith has been no stranger when it comes to penciling in different lineups every night thus far. He has continued to dress and scratch a handful of guys through the first five games of the season, and there are no signs of any plans to stop that trend soon.
Saturday’s game had Alex Galchenyuk, Colin White and Braydon Coburn scratched and Micheal Haley, Artem Anisimov and Christian Wolanin dressed. Sens fans have had mixed reactions to the veteran players getting more ice time than the younger prospects, but Smith has remained confident in his decisions. Here’s what he had to say about Saturday’s changes.
Smith inserting Haley into the lineup had a lot to do with how Thursday’s game concluded. The 4-1 loss to the Jets had ended with the gloves being dropped, and Smith openly admitted he didn’t like how Brady Tkachuk was in the middle of it all. “I need Brady to be who he is. And, you can’t fault him for it. You know we didn’t have a great game. He’s trying to wake the team up. But we have to have other guys share in that. Allow Brady to be the top line left winger that he is,”
In just 271 NHL games, Haley has recorded 692 penalty minutes, so he knew exactly why he was playing against the Jets. It didn’t take long — 6:04 minutes to be exact — before Haley and Nathan Beaulieu dropped the gloves. It will be interesting to follow how Smith decides to shape his roster over the course of this road trip.
Item Three: Stützle Still Out With Injury
Tim Stützle was moved to the injured reserve (retroactive to Jan. 16) this week. The thought was he’d be ready to go for Saturday’s game, but the Senators don’t want to rush anything when it comes to their top prospect. He’s now missed three games as a result of an injury he sustained playing for Germany at the World Juniors.
Saturday morning’s skate had Stützle on the fifth line with Galchenyuk and White, so he will be eligible to play Monday at Rogers Arena against the Canucks. In the two games Stützle has played, he has just one goal, but he has looked like he fits in the NHL game perfectly. Some time away from the lineup may have Smith looking at other options for where Stützle will play when he returns. One suggestion that’s floated around is pairing him with Nick Paul and Evgenii Dadonov would work nicely, and it would be nice to experiment all the options the Sens have.
What’s Next for the Senators?
The Senators will continue to chip away at the season and battle for every point in the Scotia North Division. Even though they have dropped straight games, the division race will still be tight if they can pick up some points in Western Canada. Surprisingly, Nikita Zaitsev still leads the team in scoring with five points. Right behind him, with four points each, is Paul (2G, 2A), Tkachuk (2G, 2A), and rookie Josh Norris (1G, 3A). Paul and Zaitsev have by far been the biggest surprises for the Senators, and they look to continue that trend as the season goes along.
Chris Tierney is also having a great start to his campaign, as he leads the team in goals with three. What’s shocking about Tierney is that he has only had three shots on goal, giving him a 100% shooting percentage thus far. Surely this won’t last as the season goes along, but it’s a great confidence booster. The second game of the Sens’ road trip is on Monday at 10 P.M. EST when they visit the Canucks.