The NHL is back! And what a start to the season it was for the Sens
Ottawa launched their 2020-21 NHL season with a gift to fans who waited 310 long days to see them play, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Friday night.
The convincing win was no small feat, as the majority of NHL analysts had pegged the Maple Leafs as the top team in the Canadian Division, while delegating the Senators to the basement. The performance left Toronto fans in agony, once again wondering why their team can’t live up to the expectations.
After going down 2-1 early in the second period, Ottawa rallied back a four-goal onslaught to secure the victory. Newly acquired veterans Austin Watson and Derek Stepan found the twine, as did Chris Tierney and franchise centrepieces Thomas Chabot, and Brady Tkachuk, who added two assists.
“It was an amazing feeling, I miss those winning ways,” said Tkachuk to members of the media after the game. “That’s what we’re gonna preach here, we want to win games, we want to be a playoff team.”
The following night served up a reality check. Toronto dominated Ottawa on Saturday and won 3-2 after outshooting the Sens 40-19. But despite the loss, the game delivered a highlight that will go down in Senators history.
One day before his 19th birthday, Tim Stützle scored his first NHL goal in spectacular fashion.
Chabot’s shot deflected high up into the air and landed next to Ottawa’s wünderkid, who blasted the puck on net as soon as it hit the ice, beating Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell.
“The only thing I could think other than ‘I should’ve had it’ was, ‘I just want to shake his hand,’” said Campbell. “That was a heck of a play. What a young talent, it’s good for the league.”
You could almost imagine the Senators' crowd erupting inside the empty Canadian Tire Centre. What an electrifying goal.
Through two games, “Jimmy,” as he was recently nicknamed by Tkachuk, has demonstrated that his speed and creativity already belong in the NHL. Expect the highlight-reel plays to pile up as he becomes more comfortable throughout the season. Unfortunately, he’ll be out of the lineup on Tuesday with a minor injury.
Friday provided hope for Sens fans, and Saturday served as a reminder that the team is likely in for another difficult season. But one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be fun, much more than the last three, and “Jimmy” isn’t the only reason why.
Here are some key Senators performers from last week:
Drake Batherson: Over the last two seasons, Batherson dominated in the AHL, scoring 166 points in 103 games. With only 45 NHL games under his belt, he’s still finding his footing in the major league, but he’s showing a new level of confidence making plays this season and had two assists on Friday. Watch for him to have a breakout year playing on the top line and power play.
Nick Paul: The last remaining piece from the Jason Spezza trade, Paul has solidified his place in the NHL after paying his dues in the minors. He looked dangerous on Friday, hitting a post and adding an assist on Austin Watson’s goal. On Saturday, he opened the scoring and was one of the few Senators who had a good outing in the losing effort.
Brady Tkachuk: Coming off 44 points in 71 games in 2019-20, the newly anointed assistant captain shot out of a cannon this season with a goal and two assists on Friday. An area he’s making strides in is his playmaking. He’s showing great vision and making creative passes, which is a great sign for a player who’s been categorized as a power-forward.
Matt Murray: The Senators traded for Murray this off-season and signed him to a 4-year, $25 million deal a few days later. He was between the pipes for both games this weekend and stopped 37 shots on Saturday to keep the Sens in the game until the end.
Senators upcoming week:
Tuesday, January 19 vs. Winnipeg Jets (7 pm)
Thursday, January 21 vs. Winnipeg Jets (7 pm)
Saturday, January 23 at Winnipeg Jets (10 pm)
As part of the schedule changes this year, the NHL included more MLB-style regular-season series, where teams play each other several times in a row. This week, the Senators are exclusively playing the Jets, and they may have caught a break.
Coming off a 3-1 loss to Toronto on Monday, Winnipeg will travel home to play Ottawa on Tuesday night, while the Sens will be coming off two days of rest. The Jets could be without former Senator Dylan Demelo, Defenceman Tucker Poolman, and sharpshooter Patrik Laine who suffered an injury in practice on Sunday. Points in the standings are there for the taking.
But even without Laine, the Jets have elite offence with the likes of Mark Sheifele, Kyle Connor, and Blake Wheeler. Connor Hellebuyck is a premier goalie in the NHL, but their defence is unproven.
- Colin White was a healthy scratch on opening night, dressed on Saturday night, but was practicing with the reserves again on Monday. Pierre Dorion said White was not one of the team’s four best centermen in training camp. Not a great sign for the player who was signed to a six-year, $28.5 million deal in August 2019.
- Former 2012 third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk will make his first appearance Tuesday. He was a healthy scratch for both games versus Toronto.
- Jason Spezza was put on waivers by the Maple Leafs, sparking nostalgic rumours of a return to Ottawa, but Spezza cleared waivers on Monday.
- Tim Stützle is living with Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk this season. Norris lived in Germany as a child while his dad played professional hockey and speaks fluent German.