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Bruins top Senators in first meeting in almost two years

Bruce Cassidy picked up his 200th win as head coach of the Boston Bruins, while Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal late in the second period to lift the B’s over the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Jeremy Swayman (3-2-0, 2.22 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in five games played) made 25 saves on 27 shots against in the win for Boston.

Senators goaltender, Matt Murray (0-4-0, 3.10 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in five games played), stopped 33 out of 36 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 6-4-0 (12 points) overall and moved into 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Ottawa dropped to 3-8-1 (seven points) on the season and remained in 7th place in the Atlantic.

Boston is 5-0-0 at home this season, which marks their best start on home ice since the 1990-91 season, when the B’s also went 5-0-0 at home to start the year.

The longest home winning streak is eight games, set by the 1983-84 Bruins on the old Boston Garden ice.

Cassidy, meanwhile, became the sixth head coach in franchise history to reach the 200-win plateau with the club, joining Claude Julien (419 wins, 2008-17), Art Ross (387, 1925-45), Milt Schmidt (245, 1955-66), Don Cherry (231, 1975-79) and Gerry Cheevers (204, 1981-85) in doing so.

Prior to Tuesday night, the last time the Bruins met the Senators in the regular season was on Dec. 9, 2019, in a, 5-2, loss at Canadian Tire Centre.

Additionally, the last time the Sens won in Boston was on April 6, 2017, in a, 2-1, shootout victory at TD Garden.

The two teams will face each other three more times this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Nick Foligno (upper body) and Anton Blidh (upper body) on Tuesday, while Cassidy made a couple of changes to his lineup after Saturday night’s, 5-2, loss in Toronto.

Jack Studnicka made his return to Boston’s lineup at right wing on the third line with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and Erik Haula at center, while Curtis Lazar took over Karson Kuhlman’s role on the right side of the fourth line.

Kuhlman joined Jakub Zboril on the short list of healthy scratches for the B’s on Tuesday.

Taylor Hall turned the puck over in his own zone on a blind pass while trying to generate a rush the other direction, but Ottawa took the puck to the net, generated a rebound and that’s where Zach Sanford (1) came in to clean up the garbage with his first goal of the season– giving the Senators a, 1-0, lead 1:14 into the first period.

Ottawa’s 10th captain in franchise history, Brady Tkachuk (3) had the only assist on Sanford’s goal in what was the earliest goal against allowed by Boston so far this season.

About a minute later, Charlie McAvoy cut a rut to the penalty box for holding and presented the Senators with the night’s first power play at 2:47.

The Sens were not successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Midway through the opening frame, Drake Batherson caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 12:43, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short when McAvoy tripped up Alex Formenton at 13:14, yielding an allotted span of 4-on-4 action for the next 1:29– until Coyle slashed Nick Paul and went to the box at 13:42, however.

Ottawa was given a rare 4-on-3 power play for about 1:02 and used their timeout with 5:19 remaining in the first period to rally on the scoreboard, but the Bruins stood tall on the penalty kill as both teams resumed full strength 5-on-5 action shortly thereafter.

Sens defender, Erik Brännström, tripped Coyle at 16:27 and presented the B’s with another power play opportunity that went by the wayside as the first period came to an end with the Senators leading on the scoreboard, 1-0.

Through 20 minutes of play, the Bruins led in shots on goal, 14-11, and held the advantage in giveaways (3-2), hits (11-6) and faceoff win percentage (61-39).

Meanwhile, Ottawa dominated in blocked shots (6-1) and takeaways (4-3) heading into the first intermission.

The Senators were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play after one period.

Six seconds into the second period, David Pastrnak was assessed with a roughing minor after knocking down Thomas Chabot away from the play.

Ottawa did not convert on the resulting power play, however.

A few minutes later, Artem Zub delivered a quick, swift, cross check to Pastrnak and earned a couple minutes in the sin bin as a result at 3:46 of the second period.

This time the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the power play, McAvoy worked the puck to Pastrnak, who wired a shot towards the net off of his teammate, Brad Marchand’s (5) chest and into the twine– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Pastrnak (4) and McAvoy (5) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal at 5:12 of the second period.

About five minutes later, the Bruins were dominating attacking zone possession when Hall worked the puck to Coyle, who promptly set up Derek Forbort (2) for a shot from inside the faceoff dot to Murray’s right side– beating the Senators goaltender high, glove side, across the crease while pinching in from the point.

Coyle (3) and Hall (4) were credited with the assists as Boston snagged their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 10:58.

Less than a few minutes later, after Paul gingerly made his way off the ice with an apparent leg injury (he’d return to the action in the third period), Nikita Zaitsev (1) skated along the boards to get to a loose puck first and sent a shot through Swayman into the net to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:09.

Tyler Ennis (6) and Chabot (4) tallied the assists on Zaitsev’s first goal of the season and the Senators were surging.

A couple minutes later, Trent Frederic went down the tunnel after Josh Brown made a hit in open ice that knocked Frederic out of the rest of Tuesday night’s action with an upper body, as the B’s would later tweet prior to the start of the third period.

With tensions rising, it didn’t take much for Connor Clifton and Formenton to get tangled up while the puck was making its way to the other end of the ice.

Clifton and Formenton dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs as a result in what was Boston’s second fighting major of the season– the first since Frederic fought Jacob Middleton on Oct. 24th, when the San Jose Sharks were in town in a, 4-3, win for Boston.

Rather than heading to the box at 18:10 of the second period, both Clifton and Formenton got a head start in the showers before the second intermission began.

Shortly after the fight, a scrum ensued when Murray froze the puck, leading Marchand and Chabot into a bit of a shoving match that resulted in roughing minors for each player at 18:24.

For the next two minutes, the Bruins and Senators would skate at 4-on-4 once more.

Less than a minute after fisticuffs were exchanged and roughing minors were dealt, Bergeron (5) settled an indirect pass from Pastrnak that ricocheted off of a broken stick before firing the rubber biscuit under Murray’s arm.

Pastrnak (5) and McAvoy (6) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 3-2, at 18:40 of the second period.

Entering the second intermission, Boston was atop the scoreboard, 3-2, and in shots on goal, 29-17, including a, 15-6, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Ottawa held the lead in blocked shots (16-2) and hits (20-16), while Boston led in faceoff win% (58-42) and both teams split takeaways (5-5), as well as giveaways (3-3).

The Sens were 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 heading into the final frame of regulation.

There was no scoring in the third period, though there were a pair of minor penalties against Boston as the Bruins looked to hold off the Senators for the win.

Studnicka tripped up Zub at 2:11 of the third, but the Sens couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play.

Boston’s penalty kill remained effective in doing their job when Hall was sent to the box for hooking Brännström at 11:42.

Ottawa was down to their last hope with about 1:34 remaining in the game as head coach, D.J. Smith, pulled Murray for an extra attacker.

Despite his best efforts at hitting the empty net, Pastrnak iced the puck with 1:26 remaining, but Boston went unscathed in the ensuing defensive zone faceoff.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-27, despite trailing the Senators, 10-7, in shots on net in the third period alone.

Ottawa wrapped up Tuesday night’s action leading in blocked shots (19-4) and giveaways (5-4), while Boston exited their own building with the advantage in hits (27-26) and faceoff win% (58-42).

The Sens finished the night 0/6 on the skater advantage while the B’s went 1/3 on the power play.

The Bruins improved to 1-2-0 (1-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-2-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 4-0-0 (3-0-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Meanwhile, the Senators fell to 2-4-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when scoring first, 2-3-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 0-6-0 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

Boston wraps up a two-game homestand on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers before hitting the road for a Saturday matinee with the New Jersey Devils prior to returning home to face the Montréal Canadiens on Sunday.

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Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 23-28-5, 51 points

6th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the fourth-straight year

Additions: F Pontus Åberg, F Andrew Agozzino, F Scott Sabourin, F Kole Sherwood, D Michael Del Zotto, D Dillon Heatherington, D Nick Holden (acquired from VGK)

Subtractions: F Vitaly Abramov (KHL), F Michael Amadio (signed with TOR), F Artem Anisimov (signed to a PTO with COL), F J.C. Beaudin (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Evgenii Dadonov (traded to VGK), F Jonathan Davidsson (HockeyAllsvenskan), F Ryan Dzingel (signed with ARI), F Jack Kopacka (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Zachary Magwood (ICEHL), F Matthew Peca (signed with STL), F Derek Stepan (signed with CAR), D Olle Alsing (KHL), D Mikael Wikstrand (SHL), G Joey Daccord (expansion, SEA), G Marcus Högberg (SHL)

Still Unsigned: F Logan Brown (RFA), F Micheal Haley, F Brady Tkachuk (RFA), D Brandon Fortunato, D Cody Goloubef, D Erik Gudbranson

Re-signed: F Drake Batherson, F Clark Bishop, D Victor Mete, D Artem Zub, G Anton Forsberg, G Filip Gustavsson

Offseason Analysis: Ottawa announced a multi-year extension on Tuesday for their General Manager, Pierre Dorion, that runs through the 2024-25 season and Dorion proudly exclaimed that “[t]he rebuild is done”.

Well, we’ll see.

It’s not hard to admit there’s a lot to like about the Senators’ roster. Drake Batherson is coming off of a career-year so far with 17-17–34 totals in 56 games last season and signed a six-year extension worth $4.975 million per season, which will eat up a couple of years of potential unrestricted free agency.

I cannot emphasize enough how good of a contract Batherson’s team-friendly deal is, considering he is only 23-years-old and playing first line minutes.

It was also his first full season, technically, but 34 points in 56 games is a 50 point pace in a full 82-game schedule. That’s some solid production from a first year player.

Brady Tkachuk led the Sens in scoring last season with 17-19–36 totals in 56 games and is currently an unsigned restricted free agent, while Connor Brown and Josh Norris each tallied 35 points in 56 games to round out the top-three in team scoring.

Ottawa took their time to construct a younger roster over the last few years by a combination of high draft picks and trading for quality prospects and now might see the fruits of their labor begin to blossom.

Tim Stützle left many in the crowd and press box awestruck by his spin moves, skillful hands and 12-17–29 totals in 53 games last season after being drafted 3rd overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Signing Tkachuk to a bridge deal, at least, is of the utmost priority for the Sens to keep their band of youth infused with experience together and striving for more this season, despite Ottawa’s roster being made up of an average age of 26.3.

Had their been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, it’s not hard to see that the Senators’ late season surge might have put them into playoff contention with the special “top four teams per division qualify for the playoffs” playoff format for last season.

Can Ottawa make it back to the playoffs in 2022? It’s possible, but they’ll also be facing a lot more teams than just the six other Canadian teams they faced through 56 games last season.

How will the Senators stack up against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion and fellow Atlantic Division rival, Tampa Bay Lightning, for instance?

The Sens should improve, but they’re best bet might be playing spoiler with a side of forward progress.

Michael Del Zotto’s re-emergence as a solid bottom-pairing defender in the league brings experience and stability to the blue line of a team that had a minus-33 goal differential last season.

Del Zotto had four goals and nine assists (13 points) in 53 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and was a plus-five rating.

Along with the acquisition of Nick Holden in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov that also brought a 2022 3rd round pick to Ottawa, Del Zotto and Holden bring over 1,200 NHL games of experience to the Sens defense as a pair of low-risk, high-reward moves (though, again, not as your surefire first pairing superstars).

As a bonus in the acquisition of Holden from the Golden Knights, Dorion rid himself of Dadonov’s $5.000 million cap hit through 2022-23 and his continuing decline from 70 points in 82 games with the Florida Panthers in 2018-19, to 47 points in 69 games with Florida in 2019-20, to a dismal 20 points in 55 games with the Senators last season.

At the end of the day, the Sens are building towards something.

They should be more competitive, but they can’t quite win a Cup just yet. They could make the playoffs, but they shouldn’t make it out of the First Round.

Alternatively, they could miss and land another lottery pick.

Regardless, an important question remains in the crease– can Matt Murray rebound from his 10-13-1 record in 27 games last season– as well as his 3.38 goals-against average, .893 save percentage and two shutouts in that span– or will Filip Gustavsson emerge as the expected “goaltender of the future” in Ottawa?

Gustavsson went 5-1-2 in nine games with a team-best 2.16 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in that span. He also had a 5-7-1 record in 13 games with the Belleville Senators (AHL) last season.

It might be throwing him into the fire, but if it’ll help keep Ottawa’s overall goals against down, then a little healthy competition for the starting job can’t hurt anyone.

Offseason Grade: B-

Dorion’s extension for Batherson could be praised as one of the best contracts in the league in the next couple of seasons for its value. That said, getting a deal done with Tkachuk is paramount for Ottawa’s young, developing, chemistry.

The Senators didn’t snatch any big names via free agency or trades, so they didn’t “win” the market in that sense this offseason, but they quietly went about patching some needs.

Now it’s a matter of whether or not things will pan out as the Sens look to improve off of last season’s late surge and gain momentum towards being a competitive playoff team with the end goal of opening a Stanley Cup window while their younger players are only just entering their prime.

If anything, Dorion deserves credit for not tearing things apart or making matters worse this offseason and that alone can get you an above average grade– stay the course and be a spoiler at worst or a competitor at best.