In the offseason, fans, media, and hockey insiders label teams as winners and losers based on the moves (and sometimes the non-moves) of each individual team.
By all accounts, the Ottawa Senators were an overwhelming “loser” this offseason. There was the cyberbullying allegations levied at Mike Hoffman’s girlfriend by Erik Karlsson’s wife, and then the subsequent trades of both players to the San Jose Sharks (who flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers for arguably a better package return and causing the Senators to tack on a condition to picks in the Karlsson deal if he ends up in the same conference as Hoffman did). The Karlsson trade was widely panned as underwhelming, considering the caliber of player that was involved.
Then there was a whole slew of other weird and head-scratching things that happened, as detailed by Down Goes Brown’s look at the Eastern Conference before the season:
All of that led to most people picking the Senators to be dead-last in the whole league, as well as their conference. Maybe the complete removal of any kind of expectation has contributed to the team looking somewhat better than the “AHL-replacement-level roster competing against NHL teams” some fans would expect to see every night in Ottawa.
The team is off to a 2-2-1 start, not exactly lighting the world on fire, but a middling start. They’ve beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 and the Los Angeles Kings 5-1. They’ve lost 6-3 to the Boston Bruins and 7-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers, and tacked on a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Many wondered where the offense would come from with the departures the team had this season, but they’ve scored at a comparable level to the Dallas Stars so far. Like Dallas, they’ve got a hot power play and a mediocre penalty kill. The difference between the two teams is in the goaltending, where Dallas’ goalies have outperformed Craig Anderson, and the quantity of shots Ottawa is giving up (161 shots against through five games, 4th most in the league - Dallas goaltenders have faced a combined 117, with Bishop facing 92 shots against for context.)
As long as the Stars win the Jim Montgomery five keys (win net front, don’t take unwarranted penalties, win 56%+ of the faceoffs, three or fewer odd-man rushes against, and winning special teams), this game should be more than winnable. But it’ll be important that Dallas not sleep on an Ottawa team that has nothing to lose this year - and every reason to make some waves and prove that they’re not an “easy out” on the schedule.
Here are the new-look lines the Stars are running for today’s game:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Blake Comeau
Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Devin Shore - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Julius Honka
Miro Heiskanen - Connor Carrick
Ben Bishop will start tonight. That’s not unexpected given that Montgomery indicated he wanted Bishop to get the team’s first road start when explaining the call to start Anton Khudobin at home on Saturday night.
The defensive pairs have not changed from the last game. Small sample sizes, of course, but the defensive pairings looked solid in the team’s come-from-behind win against the Anaheim Ducks this weekend. Especially that Heiskanen/Carrick pairing:
Defense pair shot rates are updated too.— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) October 14, 2018
The Senators lineup should look something like this:
Mikkel Boedker - Matt Duchene - Colin White
Brady Tkachuk - Zack Smith - Mark Stone
Magnus Paajarvi - Chris Tierney - Bobby Ryan
Nick Paul - Tom Pyatt - Paul Carey
Thomas Chabot - Dylan DeMelo
Mark Borowiecki - Ben Harpur
Max Lajoie - Chris Wideman
Craig Anderson is the likely starter with Mike Condon on backup duty.