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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Young Players Lead Senators to Victory

February 22, 2021, 12:42 AM ET [33 Comments]
Michael Stuart
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 3-2 in overtime on Sunday night, led by a solid goaltending performance from Matt Murray and offensive contributions from the future and current faces of the franchise. The victory delivered just about everything a Senators fan could want to see these days. Here are tonight’s thumbs:

Thumbs Up: Matt Murray Sticks with It
When Nick Suzuki beat Matt Murray to open the scoring just over a minute into the game, it was difficult not to have that “here we go again” feeling in the pit of your stomach. Alas, any concern turned out to be unwarranted. Murray settled right into a rhythm and delivered an excellent performance against a very good opponent.

Things have snowballed out of control for Murray on too many occasions this season, which made tonight’s turn of events really nice to see. He stopped 30 of 32 shots fired his way, and was full value for the win.

Thumbs Up: The Power Play, Strangely
Even though it went 0/4 on the evening, I thought the Senators’ power play unit had one of its better performances in recent memory. The use of Tim Stützle on the half-wall has opened up so many new options for the man-advantage group, as the German’s skill allows him to singlehandedly create opportunities for his teammates. There were a number of times when he fed a perfect cross-ice pass from that spot, only to have the recipient miss connecting by a matter of inches. If this sort of thing keeps up, it’s only a matter of time before the power play starts converting on opportunities.

Thumbs Up: Drake Batherson Gets a Bounce
Drake Batherson has been so, so good for the Senators to start this year, despite struggling to show up on the scoresheet in most of his games; he simply hasn’t been getting the bounces his quality play deserves. That changed tonight, as he quite literally received a bounce to score his fourth of the season. A phenomenal individual effort, the goal came after a slick zone entry and toe-drag move… and a bit of ping-ponging around from the puck.

Beyond the goal, Batherson was also credited with an assist on Brady Tkachuk’s overtime winner and a stellar set of underlying numbers. It was, quite simply, a monster performance from a player who continues to impress.

Thumbs Up: Erik Brannstrom is a Star… I think
There is a massive disconnect between what I thought I saw and what the underlying numbers tell me with respect to Erik Brannstrom’s game. With Thomas Chabot still sidelined, I thought Brannstrom stepped up in a significant way. He looked like he was moving his feet. He looked like he was pushing the puck up ice. He looked like the kind of defenceman teams dream of finding either by way of trade or the draft.

His underlying numbers, though? Per Natural Stat Trick, he ranked right near the bottom for Ottawa skaters. I can’t explain the disconnect. Was I alone in thinking that he looked good out there?

Thumbs Up: Overtime
Montreal just kind of stopped playing when overtime began, which allowed Ottawa to really dictate the play and push the pace. There was no better example of Montreal’s nonchalant attitude towards the extra frame than Tkachuk’s game winner. What were the defenders on that play thinking? They let Tkachuk take the puck from behind the net to the middle of the slot freely, which really simplified the Ottawa forward’s task. It was a strange play, but the Senators aren’t complaining.

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The Senators will get another chance to flex their muscle against these same Canadiens on Tuesday.

As always, thanks for reading.
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