Who: Ottawa Senators
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Know thine enemy: Offensively, the Senators are off to a slow start. No one on the team has more than two goals and defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the club with five points through the first seven games. Despite their slow start, there is still a bit of firepower on this club. Bobby Ryan is always a threat to have a big game and the duo of Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris has clicked since the former’s arrival in Ottawaa. Newcomer Alex Chiasson is acquitting himself well in his new home, having been dealt to Ottawa in the Jason Spezza deal, with a pair of goals and assists.
Defensively, this isn’t a group that jumps out at you, but they’re doing the job. It’s especially impressive given the fact that they’ve done it without Jared Cowen, the 23-year-old defenseman whom the team used a top pick on a few years ago. He’s struggled to keep his spot in the lineup and has been a press-box spectator for the most part.
Then again, it also helps when you’ve got a pair of stellar goalies to rely on. Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson have split the duties pretty evenly at this point. Lehner is 2-0-1 with a 2.23 goals against average and .936 save percentage, while Anderson is 2-2-0 with a 2.01 goals against average and .944 save percentage. They’ve helped put the Senators into the top 10 in goals against per game and it’s the reason the Sens are off to a quality start.
The Senators have middling special teams (20th in power play, 21st in penalty kill), something that could come back to bite them if they don’t improve at least a little bit.
About the Blue Jackets: The Jackets are struggling a bit. They dropped back-to-back contests against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings during their west coast trip, but it’s probably not that bad to lose to two of the top contenders out of the west early in the season.
Sergei Bobrovsky struggled during the road trip, taking both losses, and now sits at 4-4-0 with a bloated 2.81 goals against average and .908 save percentage. He’ll need to be better as the season goes, but part of the issue is his workload. He’s started eight of the nine games and played half of the ninth due to an injury to Curtis McElhinney. If McElhinney can take some of the load off of Bobrovsky, his numbers should even back out.
Beyond the nets, the Jackets continue to get the most out of who they have in the lineup. Ryan Johansen, Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno (who suffered a scary injury Sunday, but has been deemed “okay”) have combined for 30 points in the first eight games of the season, with Johansen leading the team in goals. Matt Calvert has been placed on injured reserve, so there’s a chance rookie Alexander Wennberg could step into his place.
The last time these two played: As has become a growing trend with the Blue Jackets of late, they got out to a slow start and found themselves trailing by a pair seven minutes into the second period when these two met back on October 18th. As they have continued to do, the Jackets mounted a comeback just minutes later, heading into the dressing room tied at 2-2.
In the third period, Mike Hoffman beat Bobrovsky, stepping in for the injured McElhinney, to give the Senators the 3-2 victory. Of course, it also helps that Lehner stopped 38 of 40 shots in the victory, helping stave off several pushes from the Jackets.
The part where I predict things: Coming off back-to-back losses and heading home to Columbus, the Jackets are ready to snap their streak. They get a team depending on their goaltending and if they can just turn their slow starts into a quick one, could quickly overwhelm the Senators.
Look for Hartnell to pick up his second as a Blue Jacket and Johansen to continue his scoring streak as the Jackets pick up a huge power play goal to push them over the top.
Score: 2-1 Blue Jackets
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