Saturday, February 27, 2021

SENATORS AFTERTHOUGHTS: When Chabot’s missing, the Senators’ structure is gone

SENATORS AFTERTHOUGHTS: When Chabot's missing, the Senators' structure is gone

So much of what the Senators normally do flows through the alternate captain that it’s easy to forget what the team would like without him.

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WHY THEY LOST: The final score read 7-3 and the Ottawa Senators were lost without No. 72.

Talk about the goaltenders, talk about two more goals from Auston Matthews, talk about a tired-looking team wrapping up a five-game road trip with an overall sloppy performance.

All of the above contributed to another lopsided Senators loss.

Don’t lose sight, however, of who wasn’t involved. That would be defenceman Thomas Chabot, who was a late scratch due to an upper body injury.

Chabot leads the Senators with an average ice time of 25:29, seventh overall in the NHL.

So much of what the Senators normally do flows through the alternate captain that it’s easy to forget what the team would like without him.

From coach D.J. Smith to goaltender Matt Murray to winger Connor Brown, the Senators talked about the Maple Leafs taking full advantage of the Senators’ inability to successfully break the puck out of their own end on a consistent basis.


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Chabot, of course, is the leader on that front. There are others pushing to secure themselves a position doing that on second or third pairings, including Erik Brannstrom, Christian Wolanin and Mike Reilly, but none of the above can answer the call of being a top-flight No. 1. At least not yet.

Due to Chabot’s absence, Smith was mixing and matching the pairings, but none of them had a good night, spending far too much time hemmed in their own zone and/or chasing the Maple Leafs around.

It’s not simply a coincidence that everything seemed out of sync without Chabot. In the only other game he missed this season, the Senators yielded eight goals to the Edmonton Oilers.

Chabot’s season hasn’t been without warts. He has been guilty of too many turnovers, of being caught up ice pressing for offence, of being too lax in one on one battles in his own end. There’s little doubt he has, at times, been trying to do too much to keep the Senators in games.

When he’s not there, though, it makes for even longer nights.


2: Points for Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle. Stuetzle, who scored a goal and an assist, now has nine points (five goals, four assists) and trails teammate Josh Norris and Chicago’s Pius Suter by only one point in the rookie scoring race.

4: Posts hit by the Senators: The blueline Eriks — Gudbranson and Brannstrom — hit iron. So, too, did Auston Watson and Nick Paul. Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson looked vulnerable at times as the Maple Leafs gave Frederik Andersen a rare night off, but the Senators couldn’t cash in.


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6: The hit count for Brady Tkachuk and Nikita Zaitsev, leading the Senators. In Chabot’s absence, Zaitsev led the Senators with 22:19 of ice time.

11: Total points for the line of Joe Thornton (one goal, two assists), Auston Matthews (two goals, two assists) and Mitch Marner (one goal, three assists). Matthews has now registered at least one point in each of his past 15 games.


Senators coach D.J. Smith

“I just think they got a couple early and we got away from the way we have to play. We got sloppy and we just allowed them too much room to play. That’s part of it for teams that haven’t won a ton. You kind of go on your own sometimes, but the positive is that in the third, we got back to playing the way we do.”

Senators winger Connor Brown

“They capitalized on their chances. They were moving their feet. We gave them too much time and space and when top end players in the league get time and space, they make things happen. We didn’t close our gaps quick enough, gave them a little too much time and they made us pay.”

Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson

“I felt more comfortable as the game went on. The guys score seven goals, that makes the game much easier.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Welcome home, again. After going 2-3-0 on the road trip — highlighted by Monday’s come-from-way-behind 6-5 overtime win over the Maple Leafs — the Senators return home for a day off Friday before opening a pair against the Montreal Canadiens, beginning Sunday.

The Senators were decent in their first two meetings against the Canadiens, splitting a pair of one-goal decisions. If there’s any advantage for the Senators here, it’s that the Senators will have had a rare three days off while Montreal will be not so fresh from playing the Maple Leafs on Saturday.

If, as expected, Carey Price plays against the Maple Leafs, the Senators will likely be seeing Jake Allen in the Montreal net. It will also be a return home for Tyler Toffoli, one of the NHL’s early season scoring leaders, who, once upon a time, was a prolific scorer with the Ottawa 67’s.


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