Let’s start with the bad news.
The Canucks enter this three-game series against Ottawa as the most disgusting team defensively in hockey. After starting the season with a 5-3 win against the Oilers, they’ve lost five of six and their only win came in a shootout.
So, what’s the good news? The Ottawa Senators are in town.
After a busy offseason, more of the same is expected from the Senators. They’ve now lost four straight after winning their season opener 5-3 against the Maple Leafs.
It’s the proverbial immovable forces versus the impenetrable object...except for the fact that you can move the puck and penetrate both of these defences with ease.
Shitty metaphor aside, you’d think something has to give in this series. Will the Canucks find their legs against the worst team (on paper) in the division, or will their horrendous early-season slide continue?
Let us know if you feel better or worse about Vancouver’s chances after chewing on these pre-series tidbits of info.
Ottawa is of the most permissive teams in hockey...aside from Vancouver
No one has given up more goals, more expected goals, more scoring chances, and more mind-boggling turnovers than the Canucks this season.
Okay, I can’t quantify the “mind-boggling” part. The Canucks somehow, are only 14th in giveaways per-60. The Senators, for the record, have turned the puck over fourth-most early in the season.
However, if you’ve watched the Canucks this season, you know that they’ve mastered the art of glaring neutral zone turnovers.
Most noticeable stat that jumps off the sheet between these two teams tonight was in the "giveaway" column:#Canucks 11#GoHabsGo 2— Joey Kenward (@kenwardskorner) January 24, 2021
In their 3 game series this week, VAN was credited with 25 giveaways while MTL had only 7.
Thankfully, Ottawa is not the staunch defensive team that Montreal is. They rank bottom five in both Corsi and scoring chances against early in the season.
If there’s a time for this Canucks offence to find their game, it’s this week against the Sens.
The Sens young gun top line
One of the most interesting top lines in hockey is the Sens trio of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Drake Batherson.
It’s probably the most baby-faced top line in the NHL, but the early returns have been promising. The trio has a combined 11 points through 15 games, and their expected goals-for percentage of 68.8% is one of the best totals in hockey.
Although the season is early, I truly believe that the younger Tkachuk is a breakout candidate, especially if this line continues to find their offensive touch.
The Sens employ Erik Gudbranson
So Erik Gudbranson still plays in the NHL. Good to know he’s been working hard to become a more well-rounded play—
Gudbranson and Watson comparing fight notes at practice.— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) January 22, 2021
Vid from i/bardown
The hulking defenceman found a home with his hometown Senators in the offseason, after the Ducks traded him there for a 2021 fifth-round draft pick.
He started the season on the top pairing with Thomas Chabot. Not sure what Chabot did to anger head coach DJ Smith, but it seems that Chabot has now been granted forgiveness. Gudbranson found himself on the third pair with Christian Wolanin during Ottawa’s last game against the Jets.
Ottawa’s “overhauled” offence
Aside from the Sens new-look top line, there’s a lot of new faces in the Nation’s capital.
The Sens traded for Derek Stepan in the offseason. They also added Evgenii Dadonov and Alex Galchenyuk as free agents.
However, Galchenyk, the former 30-goal scorer, has been a regular healthy scratch, playing two of the Sens’ five games.
Instead, Smith and general manager Pierre Dorion took a page out of the “meat and potatoes” book with their new-look tough guy fourth line of Michael Haley, Cedric Paquette and Austin Watson.
Galchenyuk not even in the lineup is... a choice.— Bonk's Müllet (@BonksMullet) January 23, 2021
2020 third overall pick Tim Stutzle also made the team out of camp, but he’s missed the last couple of games with an injury. The 19-year-old did score his first NHL goal earlier in the season already.
Ghastly goaltending all around
Although both teams do their goaltenders no favours, neither team is off to even an average start in net.
The Canucks have the second worse even-strength save percentage early in the season, and the Sens aren’t much better, ranking 26th overall.
Here are the basic statistics for each goalie so far.
- Braden Holtby (VAN): 3.70 GAA, .888 SV%, 2-2-0
- Thatcher Demko (VAN): 5.47 GAA, .866 SV%, 0-3-0
- Matt Murray (OTT): 3.79 GAA, .880 SV%, 1-2-1
- Marcus Hogberg (OTT): 3.78 GAA, .875 SV%, 0-1-0
It’s hard to believe that statistically, Holtby is the best goaltender so far this year between the four netminders.
The 31-year-old has had success against the Sens in his career. He has a 9-3-1 record with a 2.06 GAA and a .931 SV% in 13 career games against Ottawa.
Matt Murray, on the other hand, is still scarred by Brock Boeser.
Murray has given up 16 goals against the Canucks in six career games. Six of those 16 goals he’s given up are courtesy of Brock Boeser.
Pettersson’s capital city success
If the Canucks are serious about ending their early-season troubles, they need their best player to get things going.
It’s been an uncharacteristically slow start to the season for Elias Pettersson. He finally scored his first goal of the season in the Canucks last contest against the Habs, but he has just a goal and an assist in seven games this season.
Luckily for Pettersson, he’s had success in limited minutes against Ottawa so far. The 22-year-old has four goals and seven points against the Senators in four career games. That includes his first career hat trick that he posted against them in his rookie season.
If there’s a time for Pettersson to get going, it’s against this lousy Senators defence.