October 20 2011 01:50PM
On the heels of a somewhat disappointing outcome in the Big Smoke last night, Winnipeg's two game roadie finishes this evening with a game versus one of the few teams likely to be looking up at them by season's end. Our nation's
sump hole for tax dollars capital hosts a very bad hockey team, one that seems a clear favourite to have the best shot in the Nail Yakupov derby next spring.
How bad are the Sens? Well, through the opening six games this year, they've been outscored by a two to one ratio overall while allowing three goals a game 5v5. It's early days, of course, but as a frame of reference, only six clubs gave up as many as two goals per game 5v5 last season, so it's not a pace a team can live with.
Most, but not all, of what's been ailing Ottawa thus far has been occurring between the pipes. Craig Anderson is batting a smooth .875 at EV in his first five games, and he's been the superior option in net when one sees Alex Auld at .853. Ouch. I don't doubt that they've faced plenty of good chances, but those numbers would be inexcusable for ECHL goalies. Anderson will likely get the ship righted in time, although there's a greater problem lurking even if he sharpens his play.
As I've mentioned in the recent past, Ottawa has a dreadful group of forwards. I quite like Jason Spezza, but after him, their next best forward might be the shell of Daniel Alfredsson that's currently on display, and that's a certain recipe for a bad year. Mika Zibanejad might be good someday, obviously, but like a fellow draftee we're more familiar with around these parts, he's not ready to be a difference maker right out of the box. The rest of the forwards are dismal, really. Winnipeg has a plethora of options in comparison, and it's no secret that the Jet forwards are nothing special at all.
The Sens aren't particularly better on D, especially with Sergei Gonchar falling off the planet. Paul MacLean has been trying to give Erik Karlsson and David Rundblad a leg up, but the outshooting numbers against Gonchar are very, very bad, even with that context noted. Again, having bad forwards in front of you won't help any defender's advanced stats, so some of Gonchar's work has to be viewed with that in mind. He's still been lousy, though, and he has two more years left on a pricey 35+ deal. Bryan Murray is a hell of a GM.
As I mentioned up top, losing to Toronto last night wasn't good, although the Jets likely shaded matters at EV before falling in the skills competition. There's still plenty of room to improve for the first line in particular, as Ladd, Wheeler and Little have been a bit slow to get off the mark in the first five games. Tonight might the time to get that line going, given how dire Ottawa has been to this point.
On the flip, Alex Burmistrov has the look of a player about him at the moment. He, Antropov and Wellwood have been perfectly acceptable since uniting a few games back, carrying the load to a degree as the first line has scuffled. Burmistrov's PDO is around 114, so his results might drop on the scoring side soon enough, but the actual level of play he's exhibited is promising. He's looked better on the wing and Antropov has seemed comfortable at center, so I suspect that arrangement will hold until further notice.
One other positive from last night was a PP that appeared to resemble a NHL unit rather than the house league outfit wearing Jets jerseys that we witnessed in the opening three games. Winnipeg might get some traction tonight 5v4 against a Senator PK that's killing at a 64.5% rate thus far. Their goalies haven't stopped much, but the Sens are also allowing 65.9 shots/60 4v5, which is a terrible rate unless your goalie is Dom Hasek circa 1999.
Gamewise, this is a matchup that Winnipeg should win, even noting that it's the second leg of a B2B. I suspect Claude Noel feels that way as well since he's apparently giving Ondrej Pavelec the start in net rather than rolling the dice by using Mason against a poor club. Puck drop is 6:30-ish CT, with coverage on TSN Jets, presuming that Shaw can be arsed to turn the coverage on before the 15 minute mark this time around.