Game Time: 6:00 Central
TV/Radio: NHL-N, WGN/WGN 720
Whole Mess of Whippersnappers: Silver Seven Sens
After dropping two one goal games in a row, the Hawks face another team that’s off to a surprising little start. The Sens lost their first game before rattling off 4 wins in a row before losing last night in OT. That’s a damn good start for a team that’s not expected to do very much this season. They’ve had their previous captain and most beloved player in franchise history head south before last season. The guy next in line, Jason Spezza, was moved down to Dallas. Ales Hemsky, a pick up from the Oilers at the deadline, also went down to the Lone Star State. Also gone, Joe Corvo – who seems allergic to playing on a team for consecutive years these days and Matt Kassian who went back to the Wild.
But fear not because the Senators did add plenty to compliment their young team by adding David Legwand. So that’s… something.
The big story for the Sens so far has been the outstanding goaltending early in the season. Both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have started three games a piece and have Sv% of over .935, putting them both within the top 10 early this year. Lehner was in the net for last night’s game against the Devils, so one would expect Anderson to get the start tonight. Which means we’re likely to see the battle of the local boys in the nets. Anderson grew up in Park Ridge and with Crawford still on the shelf, we’re likely to see Scott Darling, from Lemont, get his first NHL start. Expect this to be mentioned and gushed over by Eddie-O approximately 31 times tonight.
Outside of goaltending, the Senators are really a one-line-ish and one pairing team. And even that pairing on D is basically just Erik Karlsson doing it all his own damn self. Karlsson led Ottawa in points last year (20G, 54A) and is doing so again this year with two goals and 3 helpers. He’s also leading the team in shot attempts with Clarke MacArthur coming in 11 shots behind him. That’s kind of what happens when you play just about half of the game though. Karlsson leads the team with 27:21 TOI/G… and we thought we had it bad with Keith. At least he’s averaging a full minute less per game.
Up front, the Senators have split up their expected top line to get more depth. Versteeg’s punching bag Kyle Turris is still at the dot with MacArthur and Stone on his wings. That pushes Bobby Ryan and Alex Chiasson to the second with Mika Zibanejad (fun name!).
For the Hawks, I wouldn’t expect many changes from what we’ve seen. Yes, they’ve lost two in a row but neither of them have been panic inducing losses. Some of it is luck, some of it has been just getting sloppy. In both loses, they’ve had dominant third periods. Sure, they’ve had their backs against the walls but they’ve been able to respond and at least make things close. This game could be a fire drill though. The Hawks are averaging the most S/G (37) and Ottawa is in the bottom is SA/G (34.5). Last night against the Devils was the first time they’ve held an opponent to less than 30.. with 29. The Senators like to play the uptempo style but outside of Karlsson, don’t really have the blue liners to do it. Quick, name two other blue liners for the Sens outside of Karlsson. I couldn’t do it without looking it up.
The game plan against the Sens is simple. Don’t give Karlsson tons of space to burn you and look for a quick transition in the space he’ll leave behind him. Even with the most points on the Sens last year, he was still -15 and he’s -2 so far this year. Last year’s game in Chicago against the Sens saw 11 total goals overall with 77 shots on goal. With the way both these play and with an untested rookie in net for the Hawks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one again.
Lets Go Hawks