The Senators are eight games into their 2018-2019 hockey season and it seems from the first round of games that the Senators are heading in a better direction then most people around the league and in Ottawa would have thought. Even attendance at the Canadian Tire Centre has been better than expected.
To open the season, this team looks nothing like the team from last year, not only on paper but on the ice as well. This team has speed, plays with passion and also plays an exciting brand of hockey. That’s not something I would ever think I would say about a team coached by Guy Boucher. It sure seems as if Boucher has changed his system this year to help give the young guys and chance to succeed, but it also looks like he’s put in a system that will be entertaining for fans as well. Thus far into the new NHL season, every home game this year has been some of the best hockey in which the Canadian Tire Centre has seen in the last 365 days.
Coach Boucher even mentioned after Saturday night’s win against the Montreal Canadiens that people who aren’t buying tickets to watch this Senators team are really missing out on some rather entertaining hockey.
The young players sure have looked great and nobody has looked better than defensemen Thomas Chabot. The 21-year-old native of Sainte-Marie, Quebec sure is making it easier for some fans to deal with the departure of Erik Karlsson. Chabot has looked poised with the puck and really helped quarterback the leagues number 10 ranked power play.
It’s a far cry from last year’s 27th team with the man advantage. Chabot’s best game of the year so far was his game October 6th against the Toronto Maple Leafs where he put up 3 points and was a +4 in a Senators 5-3 victory over the blue shirts at Scotiabank Arena.
Not to be outdone by Chabot is surprise rookie defensemen Max Lajoie. He really shocked a lot of fans in making the Senators roster out of training camp at SensPlex and it sure looks like the team was right in giving him a spot on the big club to start open the new season. Lajoie hasn’t looked out of place at all.
He’s been very aggressive in the offensive zone, getting in the scoring areas and helping out the forwards. Lajoie, who’s only 20 and looking like a solid, has poised young defensemen and could be the steal of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft where the Senators selected him in the fifth round, 133rd pick overall.
The 4th overall pick from last year’s draft, Brady Tkachuk, has been battling health issues to start the year and is currently on the IR with a ligament tear in his leg. When healthy, he’s looked like the true power forward he was made out to be. The net presence he has in the offensive zone is something the Senators haven’t had on their team in a very long time.
His offensive touch looks a little better than the eight goals he put up last year at Boston University. The line of Tkachuck, Chris Teirney and Mark Stone has been a force on the ice when placed together by Guy Boucher. Always buzzing around the opponents net and creating many scoring chances during the game, it will be nice to see them reunited when Tkachuk returns from tue injured reserve in two-three weeks time.
From the looks of it so far, it seems as if this Ottawa Senators team won’t be out worked by an opposition too much this year. They’ve looked good and have been competitive in every game so far but one. It looks like goals will come, but there will be some nights where the young Senators defence will struggle.
On nights when that has in-fact been the case, veteran goaltender Craig Anderson has been very good to bring out a positive factor as needed. In order to stay in the hunt for a spot in the postseason, Anderson will have to keep his strong play up as will his backup in 28-year-old Mike Condon. Going into Friday night’s affair against the Colorado Avalanche, Anderson owns a .915 save percentage and a 3.14 GAA.
It seems as if the Senators identity this year will be that they’re a young, fast team that will forecheck hard, create turnovers and be very good when on the power play. While the Senators are in a rebuild, it seems at this point that it will be fun to watch and that the wait for them to be a competitive team again isn’t as far off as we thought.
The Senators open a three-game road trip in Denver on Friday night which will be followed by visits to the Arizona Coyotes as well as the Vegas Golden Knights. It will certainly be interesting to see how the team looks on this road trip after having 18 days straight to play the advantage on home ice.
Tonight’s game can be seen on TSN5 and RDS2 when the puck drops at the Pepsi Center at 9pmET. This game will also be available for viewing on NHL.TV while it can be heard via radio with play-by-play commentator Dean Brown who will have the call carried for you on TSN Radio 1200 Ottawa/CFGO AM.