Ottawa Senators: Despite Covid-19 and Injuries, There are a Few Bright Spots

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Lassi Thomson poses for a portrait after being selected nineteenth overall by the Ottawa Senators during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Lassi Thomson poses for a portrait after being selected nineteenth overall by the Ottawa Senators during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /
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Lassi Thomson (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
Lassi Thomson (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

On Saturday, November 13, in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Shane Pinto prepared to take a face-off. Moments later, he dropped his stick as he skated off the ice, holding his shoulder, leaving many Ottawa Senators fans worried that this injury was serious. After the game, DJ Smith confirmed the fears, saying, “it doesn’t look good” which might sum up that the Senators have been unlucky this season, both on and off the ice.

COVID-19 Protocol and Injuries

When Pinto came back to play against the Penguins, it was a bright spot on a team that has many players out due to the COVID-19 Protocol or injuries. However, this did not last very long as he went out in the second period. The day before, Darren Dreger broke the news that Erik Brannstrom suffered a broken hand. When this was reported, it marked the fifth Senator out due to injury. The other five players (including Pinto) are Colin White, Artem Zub, Clark Bishop and Angus Crookshank. Luckily Zub came back to play, giving fans a sigh of relief. However, the number of injured players just scratches the surface as there are nine players out due to the COVID-19 Protocol: Matt Murray, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Nick Holden, Austin Watson, Josh Brown, Dylan Gambrell, Victor Mete and Alex Formenton. This makes the total number of Senators that are currently out at 15.

Unlucky on the ice

On the ice, the Senators have not been exactly lucky as the bounces haven’t gone their way. In the game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Senators had a three-on-one opportunity to take the lead but Parker Kelly couldn’t finish it. Go back a few games and with a chance to tie the game, Nick Paul hits the crossbar on a wide-open net. These are just two examples as there were moments like this in other games. However, fans were in for a treat in the game against the Penguins. The Senators won six to three, Drake Batherson had a four-point game and Tim Stutzle finally scored his first goal of the season. A great performance from the team helped snap a six-game losing streak.

3. 92. 6. 91. Final

Speaking of Stutzle, he has not had much luck to start the season, such as on the ice when it is 5v5, the shooting percentage for his teammates is 3.37%. This puts him last on the team, out of players who played at least 50 minutes. Up until the game against Pittsburgh, he was -2.2 goals above expected, meaning that he has had opportunities to score at least 2 goals. He was last in this category as well, with Thomas Chabot right behind him with -2.4. This is despite the fact that Stutzle has been doing pretty well this season. Not only has he looked good via eye test but analytics can confirm this. He has had quality chances frequently and limited them just as well going his way. His xGF% is 53.15, which is nothing spectacular but still impressive nonetheless as he is fifth on his team in this category.

Youth shines in absence of roster players

Although the Senators have been unlucky to start the season, the absence of roster players allowed the youth to play. Egor Sokolov made his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins and Lassi Thomson made his debut against the Los Angeles Kings. Players such as Brannstrom, Parker Kelly and Jacob Bernard-Docker were given an opportunity to play for the big club and gave fans a glimpse of the future. The aforementioned Thomson and Bernard-Docker notched their first NHL point against the Penguins while Kelly scored.

In news outside the NHL, Jake Sanderson dominated over the weekend, scoring six points in two games. He now has 15 points in 11 games this season. A key player in the upcoming years, it gives fans something to look forward to, especially considering the fact that the defensive core this year hasn’t been so great. He is a player to keep a tab on for sure, scoring goals like this:

The depleted team has given an opportunity for younger players, and they are showing that they can play in the big league. However, once the veterans come back, the younger players will likely go back to the minor league. This is likely due to not rushing the prospects and making sure they get the reps in. Time will tell whether this is the right approach or not over the upcoming years. As for now, fans should enjoy the prospects playing with the big club. The team may have been unlucky so far this season, but that doesn’t deny the fact that the future can be bright.