Lessons the Ottawa Senators Can Take from the Win over Montreal
The Ottawa Senators sent their fans home happy on Jan. 15, taking a 4-1 win away from their matchup with the Montreal Canadiens at the Canadian Tire Centre. However, for a team struggling to find its footing, the win provides lessons and means more than just two points in the National Hockey League standings.
In the current times of the franchise, a win for the Ottawa Senators symbolizes a base to build off as well. Many frustrating games against non-playoff opponents like the Dallas Stars have given the Senators a plethora of frustrations to deal with.
Lessons learned from these games have not translated into anything remotely different for the Senators. Now, however, a win against the powerhouse Habs gives the Senators a few new perspectives. Here they are.
Play a Full 60 Minutes
During the intermission of the Senators’ TSN broadcast, host James Duthie alluded to a stat that could prove troubling for Sens fans: The Senators rank last in wins when leading after the second period.
This is mostly due to the Senators' lack of ability to develop cushioned leads in the games where they do pull ahead. While this was not done against the Habs, only leading 2-1 until the third period, the Senators’ relentless start put them in a much better position to win the hockey game.
This start is on full display in the game’s interactive box score as presented by TSN, as Montreal netminder Dustin Tokarski was pelted with shots, totaling 20 through one period of play. The Senators kept this up, which is what led to eventual success.
Captain Erik Karlsson’s postgame comments reflected as much.
"It felt like we had more energy coming out from the start here and we never let off the gas," Karlsson told NHL.com’s Chris Stevenson. "I think for the first time in a while we played three periods really well. It gave us the win."
Karlsson is right, and the Senators taught themselves that a full 60 minutes is key, especially when playing tough opponents.
Anderson Is the Starting Goaltender
There is almost no other goaltender in the NHL who provides as much stability as Craig Anderson. This was apparent in his effort against Montreal.
Anderson stopped 25 of 26 shots faced in the win, including all seven that he faced when his team ran into penalty trouble. As usual, the Senators starter of five years has been consistent since the start of this season.
This is something unique that is hard to come by with goaltenders. Examples of this can be seen in stoppers regarded as some of the best in the league.
Jonathan Quick has been hot and cold in recent seasons, with Quick posting a questionable average save percentage of .912 thus far. Additionally, he has had sub-.900 stats in his last five starts, according to ESPN.com.
While Quick and others like Pekka Rinne are constantly analyzed due to lack of consistency, Anderson’s 2014-15 save percentage of .929 is fourth in the NHL this season. Similarly, he has never posted a save percentage lower than .910 in a full season of his NHL career.
This consistency and dependency have not been seen from Robin Lehner just yet, as evident in his incomplete effort against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 13. Dave Cameron has seen this, as Anderson begins to start more and more games for the Senators.
A win like this most recent one only reaffirms that Anderson is Ottawa’s No. 1 goaltender and should be for the next few seasons. A Senators team with the consistent Anderson backstopping it can worry about other areas to improve on.
In Pageau We Trust
Fans with no vested interest in the Ottawa Senators may wonder what has happened to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Ever since his heroic playoff hat trick that downed the Montreal Canadiens in May 2013, which prompted Wayne Gretzky and Patrick Kane comparisons in The Globe and Mail, the 22-year-old has flown under the radar.
However, after a stint in Binghamton with the AHL Senators, all it took was another matchup against the rival Habs for Pageau’s game to be reignited, resulting in a goal and an assist.
“Montreal brings out the best in him,” Senators coach Dave Cameron offered in his postgame press conference on Jan. 15. “It’s certainly nice to see him get rewarded on the offensive side, because he’s done so much away from the puck.”
“He’s set up his linemates a few times, and the puck just didn’t go in. He’s been a really good player for us since he came up.”
It is evident that Jean-Gabriel Pageau is here to stay and should be as well.
As Cameron highlighted, his play away from the puck is what got him the praise he deserves within the locker room. Now his offensive output has put him back in the public spotlight.
One thing is for sure: Pageau belongs at the Canadian Tire Centre and brings large upside to the Senators team down the middle. It also doesn’t hurt that his success usually transfers into wins.