3 Takeaways From Senators’ 6-2 Win Against Maple Leafs

In the latest edition of the Battle of Ontario, the Ottawa Senators came out on top with a commanding 6-2 victory. The Senators’ offense was firing on all cylinders, they were defensively stable, and Anton Forsberg had a great showing. When the entire team can click the way they did Friday (Jan. 27), they show the true potential of the exciting, improved team that many expected to see more consistently throughout the season.

The Senators were initially expecting to face Matt Murray for the first time since trading him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but during warmup Murray took a shot up high from William Nylander, and the Maple Leafs had Ilya Samsonov take the crease instead.

With the victory, the Senators move to 22-23-3 on the season, and after 48 games, they sit 10 points outside of a playoff spot. While the playoff aspirations are fading with each passing day, they are still showing up to every game with something to prove. They did just that against the Maple Leafs, and here are three takeaways, and some comments on additional noteworthy performances.

Even-Strength Production Finally Returns

It has been 85 days and 38 games since the Senators scored four or more 5-on-5 goals. One of the team’s biggest struggles this season has been producing at even strength, but against one of the NHL’s top teams, the Senators proved they have the ability to score more than just power-play goals.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brady Tkachuk had a pair of even strength goals, and Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson and Claude Giroux all scored one. While special teams have been successful and important, a team has to be able to rely on more than the power play for production. Batherson has struggled to score at 5-on-5, as that was only his fourth even-strength goal of the season, and he is now tied with Mark Kastelic and Derrick Brassard.

Balanced Depth Continues To Be Effective

As mentioned in the takeaways from the last game against the New York Islanders, the top nine getting a significant shakeup seems to be working very well. DJ Smith has broken the top-six into three duos to spread out around the lineup. Tim Stutzle and Tkachuk are on the top line, Alex DeBrincat and Giroux on the second line, and Shane Pinto and Batherson on the third. Each one of these pairs have shown great chemistry this season, and it gives the Senators a great opportunity to have deployment options that can always be an offensive threat on the ice, unless they use the true shut-down fourth line they have.

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Mathieu Joseph, Ridly Greig and Brassard have been the three additions to the line with the established duos, and all three have looked great in their new positions. The Senators’ forward depth is truly shining right now, and without Tyler Motte and Josh Norris, this is just a glimpse of how good the forwards can be when healthy.

Defensive depth is the next big thing to work on. The left side of Chabot, Jake Sanderson and Erik Brannstrom is more than good enough, but Nick Holden and Nikita Zaitsev being the two options for the top pair is not going to cut it. I am still puzzled as to why Jacob Bernard-Docker was sent to Belleville, but once Artem Zub is healthy, it will help improve things on the right side.

Anton Forsberg Earning Trust Back

Anton Forsberg had a very rocky month of January. After Cam Talbot left the last game with a lower-body injury, Forsberg had to come into the net, and take over until after the All-Star break.

Forsberg has had some excellent performances, including four games with a save percentage (SV%) of .939 or above, but has had an equal amount of disappointing performances, with three games with a SV% of .833 or below. He has shown that he can be trusted in the past. That is why he earned his three-year contract.

Anton Forsberg Ottawa Senators
Anton Forsberg, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forsberg’s .939 SV% and 2.11 goals saved above expected (per MoneyPuck) against the Maple Leafs was the performance everybody was hoping to see. He had some fantastic saves, keeping the Senators in the game when it was tied. He will be expected to start the second game of the back-to-back, and again on Tuesday (Jan. 31) to bring the team to the All-Star break. This will be a great opportunity to take the crease back, and emerge as the Senators’ number one guy.

Individual Noteworthy Performances

The team played a fantastic game all around, but there are some players who didn’t show up on the scoresheet in any significant way, but had an outing worth acknowledging. Greig, in his second career NHL game, didn’t have any stats that jump off the page like he did in his debut, but he earned four minutes of power-play time, and was even spotted killing penalties. He is clearly doing what he needs to do to earn the trust of the head coach, and he brings an energy that the Senators have really needed to spark their forward group.

Sanderson continues to be defensively dominant, and he is proving that he can do it on a consistent basis against some of the top players in the league. It is very rare to find Sanderson out of position, or to get beat cleanly on a rush. He does an excellent job boxing out the middle of the ice, he has hard backchecking, and combined with his speed, he should be on the ice for any shut-down situations.

Jake Sanderson Ottawa Senators
Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brassard continues to be a great, versatile addition to the lineup, and on a line with Pinto and Batherson, he is being put into a position to succeed yet again. He scored a slick power-play goal, did a great job at collecting the rebound and pulling the puck around Samsonov, but at even strength he played well, too. At this point in his career, he isn’t going to amaze with the things he does, but he does a good job at getting the puck to the other two when they have an opportunity to make something happen.

What Comes Next

As mentioned, the Senators are on a back-to-back, and they play the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (Jan. 28), and again Tuesday. The heavily depleted Canadiens roster will give Ottawa a chance to string together some wins, and continue their streak headed into the upcoming break.

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