Given Circumstances, Ottawa Senators Western Road Trip A Success

The Ottawa Senators finished off their California road trip Saturday night. The trip ended in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. However, the overall trip saw them go 2-1-0 in Cali. While this is a minor victory, it becomes more impressive given the circumstances and is why the Senators Western road trip can be considered a success.

Senators Western Road Trip A Success

The Circumstances

So what were the circumstances? Well, for starters, the Sens were missing several key pieces. Starter Craig Anderson is out with a concussion. Along with him, all-star defenseman Thomas Chabot is also on the injured reserve.

These two players alone would make it tough going for a Sens lineup that is already depleted of talent. However, then you have to look at the next in line. Matt Duchene missed the road trip as he became a father this past week. While very understandable, this is still a tough loss for the Senators. Losing your 1C is never easy.

Lastly, Colin White went down in the second game of the trip when he took a massive hit from Jake Muzzin. This left Ottawa without their 2 best centers, best defenseman and starting goalie for a game and a half. While they didn’t get the win in San Jose, they still put up a great effort.

Anaheim Ducks

Let’s take a look at game one, against the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were also struggling to enter the game. Both teams had lost their last 8 games, and Anaheim was quickly falling out of a playoff spot. The Senators took full advantage of this, coming together to get a win for Matt Duchene and his new son.

The Sens fell behind earlier in the game but showed resilience as they scored 2 third period markers to take the 2-1 victory. While they were out-attempted in the game, they made up for it in the quality. The Sens had the same amount of high danger chances as the Ducks and capitalized.

In the process, they beat the best goalie in the league, John Gibson. Gibson has been lights out this year and really the only reason Anaheim stayed relevant through injuries.

Los Angeles Kings

Next, the Sens played the Los Angeles Kings on the very next night. This was the game White got hurt. Despite that, the Sens once again buckled down and found a way to win. Once again allowing the first goal, the Sens continued to fight and put up four unanswered on the Kings.

The Kings battled back and score effects take part in some of the skewed numbers. However, Ottawa managed to limit the chances and take advantage once again. Both these games are not recipes for how games should always be won, but, when the circumstances were as dire as this, a win is a win.

San Jose Sharks

The Senators Western Road Trip ended in San Jose. Facing former captain Erik Karlsson. The game was low-scoring for most of it, however, very entertaining hockey. Once again, the Sens went toe-to-toe despite missing key players. The Sens fell to the Sharks 4-1, but it isn’t as bad as it seems.

The Sharks are one of the top teams in the West and have to be considered as Cup Contenders this year. Despite this, the Senators went toe to toe with them all game trading chances. Ottawa kept the shots relatively close and had chances of their own throughout the game. The game itself was wildly entertaining, even if it only had one goal after 40 minutes.

On the last game of the Senators Western road trip, they managed to give the Sharks all they could handle. That has to be considered a success. Points from the game would have been nice, however, this is a good thing to build upon for momentum heading forward.

Anders Nilsson

Let’s take a look at some key players in the Senators Western road trip, starting with Anders Nilsson. Nilsson ended up starting all three games on the trip. Effectively taking the starters role from Marcus Hogberg until Anderson returns. Nilsson was absolute lights out and a crucial reason the Sens took 4 points.

He stopped 93 of 98 shots faced over the trip. This gives him a 0.949 save percentage over the three games. It’s easy to see why Ottawa had a good trip. It wasn’t just easy shots, however. Nilsson faced his fair share of tough ones over the trip. Part of Ottawa’s run and gun style is it leads to lots of chances back the other way. Nilsson faced more than a few odd-man rushes and breakaways. Most of which he shut down. He also made some difficult reaching saves for the Senators, which really kept them in the game.

The Nilsson trade is really looking good for Pierre Dorion. If he can keep solid play up he will likely take the backup role once Andy is healthy. He may even be able to provide some more rest for Andy, something he badly needs.

Mark Stone

Mark Stone ended off the Senators Western road trip on a tough note. He coughed up the puck to give Melker Karlsson the game-sealing empty netter in San Jose. Despite this, Stone was far and away the best skater. Stone was all over the ice and it felt like every period he had a great chance.

From dangling to breakaways, he did everything he could to remind us he is the best Senator. It’s a shame he didn’t get more rewarded for his play. In his own end, he was amazing as usual. Constantly forcing turnovers and picking players pockets. Stone just did more of what we have seen all year, and for multiple years from him.

Players Stepping Up

Anyone who follows me knows I’m a huge numbers guy. So that’s why things like this may seem weird. But, what people, myself included, seem to often forget is just how luck driven of a sport hockey is. All it takes is the right bounces or a few right moves for a game to sway.

That’s why it was very nice to see guys step up and fill in some of the Sens missing offence this road trip. Chris Tierney played some good hockey, Bobby Ryan looked like he was back in 2017 playoff form. Even guys like Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur had better trips. Both guys seeing a positive possession game or two, a feat that doesn’t usually happen.

Overall, this road trip has to be a feel-good moment for a locker room that has had a long season. Players stepping up, and improvement in net is promising. The formula of being outshot will need to change, but getting their star talent back should also help that. For now, two out of three wins on the Senators Western road trip should be looked on as a positive for the team. Especially because that saw them moved out of last in the NHL.

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