It’s the headline everyone is talking about. Matt Duchene makes his return to Pepsi Center ice for the first time since being traded last November.
How will the fans welcome him back tonight? With Boos or Cheers?
No matter your feelings on old #9, there is little doubt the impact he made for nine years while with the Colorado Avalanche. Our fearless leader at MHH wrote a great piece on Matt Duchene’s career as an Avalanche and the commentary is filled with some of your favorite memories of Dutch. You can find the article here.
When these two teams met last year, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Five days after that infamous trade which sent Duchene to the Senators and a pile of treasured assets to the Avs, the two clubs met in Sweden for the NHL Global Series.
The Sens came away victorious in both games but it was a turning point for both teams. While the Avalanche went onto to play mediocre hockey for the next month but still maintaining a .500 record, the Senators lost 16 of their next 20 games and eventually ended the season as the second worst team in the league behind the Buffalo Sabres.
This year is supposed to be no different. With key departures like Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman plus an ailing Brady Tkachuck, the Senators are projected to finish near the bottom of the league yet again. And with the Avalanche owning their first round pick in the 2019 draft there is extra incentive for the Sens to fail this year.
The Avs are coming off a tough but encouraging loss to a deep Lightning team on Wednesday night.
The lack of secondary scoring is a concern and it’s starting to sound like a broken record but the Avalanche were held off the score sheet first time this season. When the top line goes cold, the team will eventually need someone to step up and start potting goals. The team has often times been bailed out by their phenomenal defensive game and stellar goaltending.
Speaking of the defense, I don’t think we’ve talked enough about their play this year. Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson have most certainly leveled up as a pair and are completely shutting down the top lines of opposing squads. Tyson Barrie and Ian Cole have probably been the most inconsistent pairing but Cole more than makes up for it on the penalty kill. And while we won’t see many scoring chances generated from the third group, Coach Bednar typically deploys Zadorov and Nemeth in the defensive zone with ZSR ratios of 45.9 and 41.6, respectively.
Vladislav Kamenev is finally getting back in the lineup. He will center a line with Tyson Jost and Colin Wilson while Gabriel Bourque will head to the press box.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Sven Andrighetto - Alexander Kerfoot - Marko Dano
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Tyson Jost - Vladislav Kamenev - Colin Wilson
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
The Sens are screwing everything up. They’re currently 11th in the draft lottery standings, and their shocking hot start has given them a lot of work to do to catch the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings. They’ve beaten the Maple Leafs, Kings, Stars, and Canadiens in low-event games, and even when things don’t go perfectly and they lose — like in games against Boston and Philly — they don’t look embarrassing. They should come back down to Earth sooner or later, right?
Craig Anderson is back to a very good .915 save percentage and he’s 4-2-1 in his seven starts. Mark Stone has obviously been the best player on the Sens this season, and his high-quality play has really elevated linemates Chris Tierney and Ryan Dzingel, especially Tierney on the power play. His four power play points have catapulted him to over a point per game. He’s one point behind team leader in points Thomas Chabot. The 21-year-old has the best shot-share of any defenseman on the team (still a below-average 49%). Watching his development as a player has been interesting to see; he’s been given Erik Karlsson’s old role, and has notably stayed above water.
Mikkel Boedker - Matt Duchene - Colin White
Ryan Dzingel - Chris Tierney - Mark Stone
Alex Formenton - Zack Smith - Bobby Ryan
Max McCormick - Tom Pyatt - Magnus Paajarvi
Thomas Chabot - Dylan Demelo
Maxime Lajoie - Cody Ceci
Christian Wolanin - Christian Jaros
Philipp Grubauer is going to get back in net tonight on the first leg of the back to back. He is on a two game winning streak and sits with a .925 sv%.
In the visitors net we are going to see another familiar face as Craig Anderson gets the start for the Senators. The old man comes into the game with a 4-2-1 record and a .915 sv%.