Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Gustavsson Steals the Show
The Ottawa Senators won a game today that they would have had no shot at winning just a few short months ago. Despite being outplayed by the Winnipeg Jets, the Senators were the beneficiaries of spectacular goaltending from Filip Gustavsson which allowed them to seal the deal on a 2-1 win. Here are today’s thumbs:
Thumbs Up: Clarifying the Expansion Draft Picture
One of the big questions facing the Senators this offseason is who to protect in goal for the upcoming expansion draft. While the sample size is incredibly limited, Gustavsson has put forward enough of a case in his minutes this season to suggest that he should be ‘the guy’. In six appearances, the 22-year-old goaltender boasts a 1.87GAA and .944SV%. Those stats aren’t sustainable in any way, shape, or form, but they do paint the picture of a goaltender who can contribute at the NHL level.
Today’s game was a microcosm of that bigger picture reality. This, as stated, was a game that the Senators had no business winning. That they were able to hang around in a tie game for so long before Nikita Zaitsev scored the winner is a testament to the goaltending that Gustavsson was able to provide.
Thumbs Up: Competitive in More Ways than One
I’ve remarked on a few occasions that the Senators are a more competitive hockey team than a lot of people give them credit for. Their reputation was mired by early season struggles, but since snapping out of that major rut they’ve been a respectable NHL team. The mark of really competitive teams is that they manage to win games they shouldn’t. Even when grossly outplayed, great teams find a way to win. That’s what happened today, thanks to Gustavsson.
Thumbs Up: Connor Brown, Second Most Valuable Player
Gustavsson will steal the headlines, but don’t let that take away from the fact that this was a wonderful game for Connor Brown. In addition to scoring the opening goal – his 18th of the season – Brown played significant penalty-kill minutes in the winning effort. The Senators were shorthanded six times in this hockey game, and Brown was a major reason that the Jets were unable to convert. The underlying numbers lined up with the eye test accolades, as Natural Stat Trick showed Brown as allowing less than half of an expected goal in nearly eight full minutes of PK time.
Thumbs Down: Thomas Chabot’s Ugly Injury
The two points are nice, but the Senators would gladly trade them for a healthy Thomas Chabot. He was hit hard and left the game early with what looked like a sore arm. Per Bruce Garrioch, the Senators did not provide an update post-game. The only thing we can do is hope for the best.
Thumbs Up: Opportunity Knocks
If Thomas Chabot is injured and can’t play – or even if the Senators just want to be cautious with their prized defender – there’s no reason that Jacob Bernard-Docker shouldn’t see minutes in the next game.
Thumbs Up: Stepping Up
With Chabot injured, DJ Smith needed his other defenders to step up. If you take a look at Natural Stat Trick’s five-on-five expected goal rankings, do you know who the two best non-Chabot defenders were for Ottawa? Erik Brannstrom and Victor Mete. As much as Ottawa was outplayed in this game, the young players stepped up to the extent that they could. It seems very possible to me that we would be talking about a very different result had it been players other than Brannstrom and Mete in the lineup.
The Senators will see the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
As always, thanks for reading.