The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (14-3-0) at the Ottawa Senators (6-9-1). SBN Blog: Silver Seven Sens.
The Time: 1:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN
Banged Up and Inconsistent
Many people expected the Ottawa Senators to make a jump up the standings this year after they acquired Claude Giroux an Alex DeBrincat during the offseason. Giroux has brought his usual excellence to Ottawa, with eight goals and nine assists in 16 games. DeBrincat has 14 points in 16 games, but got off to an ice cold shooting start before scoring three goals in his last three games. The trouble with the way the Ottawa roster is constructed at the present moment is not that they do not have high-end forward talent - they certainly do. The problem is depth and defense.
Depth has been problem for much of this season because Josh Norris and Artem Zub have been out for a few weeks, each, with upper-body injuries. Zub has been decent with Ottawa, providing solid defense over the past few seasons. Norris had an excellent year last season with 35 goals in 66 games. Without their second-best defenseman and a very good goal-scoring center, the Senators have struggled. To make matters worse, Thomas Chabot has been out with a concussion since the Senators played Philadelphia two days after they lost to the Devils in overtime. That’s over 25 minutes a game on the back-end they’ve needed to replace in the past week, and the Devils should look to exploit this weakness tonight. When Ottawa last played the Devils, Chabot was on the ice for 31:58. You would think Ottawa would have learned how not to drive their top defender into the ground after how inconsistent Erik Karlsson became over time.
10:55 Edit: Senators have announced Artem Zub will play this afternoon. Previous paragraph lightly edited to account for that.
Sens will get a boost to their blueline today. Artem Zub is a Good at defending among Ottawa defensemen. #NJDevils https://t.co/L6MmnLcTnS— All About the Jersey (@AATJerseyBlog) November 19, 2022
Ottawa’s Last Lineup
With some of their top players out of the lineup, Ottawa has been making adjustments. If the lines hold from their recent victory over the Sabres, we can expect tonight:
Stutzle - Giroux - Tkachuk
DeBrincat - Brassard - Joseph
Motte - Pinto - Batherson
Watson - Gambrell - Kelly
Sanderson - Hamonic
Brannstrom - Bernard-Docker
Larsson - Holden
The only defensive pairing I expect might be able to do their job against the Devils is the top pairing. Jake Sanderson is an excellent defenseman, and he has been able to step up in the absence of Chabot. However, the second and third pairings are much weaker for this, as Brannstrom is really a third pairing defenseman at best and Jacob Larsson has been uninspiring in his NHL career. I would be willing to say, though, that Sanderson is the rightful top defenseman on the team - and they should make adjustments even after Chabot returns to account for that.
Jake Sanderson has been really, really good through his first 16 NHL games. The 20 year old leads Ottawa defenseman with 9 points and a +6 5v5 goal differential. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/oV6Z4N1n5B— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) November 18, 2022
10:55 Edit Note: With Artem Zub’s return to the lineup, I would expect him to displace Nick Holden from the lineup, and he should end up with Sanderson or Brannstrom. If he ends up with Sanderson, that should be a legitimately tough top pairing. If he is with Brannstrom, then the Senators have two pretty decent pairings.
What the Devils Need to Do Tonight
With Ottawa’s defensive deficiencies, I would like the Devils to get out to a fast start this afternoon. They will be heading home for a couple games before Thanksgiving, so this has been a purely eastern Canadian road trip - really not too bad in terms of travel - so I hope they come out guns blazing, with their legs already going in the first period. Since the western Canadian road trip, the Devils have adopted a slower approach in the first, letting their defense do the talking before overwhelming opposition during the second and third periods.
"I always did believe in this group, I really did... great players, lots of talent, and it's just clicking right now."— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) November 18, 2022
Nico Hischier joined #NHLNow to discuss the dominating @NJDevils, Lindy Ruff and their pride as a team.@KevinWeekes | @asgrimson | @Jackie_Redmond | #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/uDb5NVNGED
Against Ottawa, who have an immensely talented top six, I do not see that as a good option unless they shut down everything. The Devils cannot allow the Senators as much puck possession as they allowed the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Sure, they were able to clog the passing lanes to prevent chances down low, and they blocked 17 shots as a whole. But I see Ottawa as a faster team than Toronto, and the Devils should put their foot down in the first period rather than wait out the opposition to wear them down. Get out in front early; hold and expand the lead throughout. And if it gets to overtime again, they’ve been there before.
THIS HAPPENED. pic.twitter.com/gR8wuKOIvZ— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) November 11, 2022
Dawson Mercer will be playing in his 100th game in the NHL this season. I have not been too enthused with the way he has been utilized lately, but he has taken a step in his 200-foot game. He is defensively solid, but I would really like to see him play a game without Jesper Boqvist on his line. I certainly would not mind seeing a Sharangovich - Mercer - Holtz third line to try and kickstart their even strength scoring, which has largely stagnated over the latter half of this winning streak. One thing for Mercer is for sure - he is a durable player so far, being the fifth player in Devils history to play 100 consecutive games.
What do you think of this afternoon’s game? Do you think the Devils will continue their heater to 12 games? How do you think the game will go? Will Nico Hischier break any ankles tonight? Will this game end in regulation, or overtime? Will John Marino and Jonas Siegenthaler be able to shut down the Ottawa top six? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.