If you were concerned about the Ottawa Senators after they started the season with back-to-back defeats, their first win should calm your nerves. D.J. Smith’s squad produced an elite offensive performance to beat the Boston Bruins 7-5 in their home opener, fuelled by a supercharged crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The Senators benefited from Daniel Alfredsson’s return to the arena, with his surprise appearance boosting the mood in Ottawa. “It was playoff [like] when we scored early,” said Smith (from ‘How’s that for a home opener? Senators take a wild one over Bruins for first win of the season’, Ottawa Sun, 10/18/22).
“The noise from Alfredsson carried into the opening period. I thought we played really well in the first two games and didn’t get the result. We’ll just take the win and move on.”
Brady Tkachuk added: “It was pretty amazing. I don’t think the rink has felt that excited for a game before. Credit to all the fans and supporters who came out tonight, it was an amazing experience.”
They aren’t wrong. The Senators, buoyed by the home crowd, scored three times within 13:14 of puck drop to stun the Bruins. By the end of the second period, the hosts led 6-5. Artem Zub was the only player to light the lamp in the final frame, tying a bow on the second 7-5 victory in franchise history. In the aftermath of a scoring frenzy, here are some key takeaways:
Senators’ Victory Proves Offensive Quality
If the Senators continue to produce offence like that, they will upset plenty of playoff teams this season. They were the dominant force at five-on-five, with seven different players – including several members of the core – scoring.
“I think we had chances to win the first two games,” Tkachuk explained. “So, it was just important to grind it out and finish it off. I think we’ll learn from that and be better because of it. We had a bunch of chances in those games and it is good for guys to get their confidence back by getting one in the back of the net early. Everybody feeds off that energy and excitement. It helped everyone find their game a little bit more.”
Tkachuk was a standout figure for the Senators. He produced three points (one goal, two assists), landed five hits, and helped control the team’s nerves in the final minutes. But he wasn’t alone. Claude Giroux scored his first goal for the club, while Shane Pinto continued his fine form with another successful one-timer.
“Offensively, we did all the things we wanted to do tonight, but clearly we gave up too much,” Smith explained. “There were a lot of nerves, you could see it on the bench. I thought we played really well in the first two games [of the season] and didn’t get the results, so we’ll just take the win and move on.”
Senators Must Work on Defensive Zone Coverage
The Senators’ blue line provided a true Jekyll and Hyde performance versus the Bruins. They were excellent in the offensive zone but left plenty to be desired defensively. Let’s start with the positives.
Zub found the net in fashionable style, joining the attack to convert Drake Batherson’s flashy pass into the game-clinching goal. It wasn’t the only time a defender from the Senators made an impact in the offensive zone as Erik Brännström recorded an assist while Thomas Chabot dazzled with a few key passes.
However, there were also more than a few defensive lapses – several of which left netminder Anton Forsberg without protection. Smith isn’t too concerned, though.
“We’ve clearly got to learn how to handle those situations,” he said of throwing a three-goal lead away. “But, in saying that, we stayed on them, we had lots of chances and we won the game.”
If they are serious about sticking around in the playoff race, the Senators must improve defensively. Until then, they should take confidence from their slick offence: it’s potent enough to dig them out of trouble for now.
Senators Show Resilience in Back & Forth Win
Resilience isn’t a word that has been associated with the Senators in recent years. However, that could change this season. While it’s never ideal when a team allows a multi-goal lead to slip away, there is something to be said about how they respond to adversity. Ottawa passed the test versus the Bruins.
“It creates confidence for us,” Tkachuk said of the Senators’ response to conceding three unanswered goals. “We faced adversity, we couldn’t get it done in the first two games, but we got back to our plan, worked on it shift after shift, and trusted that it was going to work out. We took the next step to get the job done tonight.”
If the Senators maintain the standards they set against the Bruins, they will enjoy plenty of positive moments this season. Their latest performance proves that they are a team on the rise.
Looking Ahead for the Senators
The Senators continue their homestand on Thursday (Oct. 21) with a visit from the Washington Capitals. After that, the Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, and Minnesota Wild will pass through town before the team heads across the border for road games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. If they finish the month above .500, it should be viewed as a success.
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.