The Ottawa Senators meeting with the New York Rangers wasn’t meant to be the drama filled affair it became, but over-zealous comments from former-Senators Matt Puempel changed that. Here are some thoughts on Puempel’s original comments, head coach Guy Boucher’s reply, and on a pair of surprising developments for the Senators.
Matt Puempel walks back comments faster than a Karlsson backcheck
Earlier in the week Matt Puempel created some controversy with his post-game comments. Puempel had just scored his first as a New York Ranger after being claimed by the team off waivers. He told the New York Post “They let you play here, they let you play to your strengths. They know there are going to be mistakes. They’re not barking at you every time you come off the ice. It’s beneficial.”
The critique frustrated Sens fans who were critical of his performance in a Senators uniform.
@ian_mendes 3 different coaching staffs in OTT when Puempel was there, 1 common theme: he failed to impress any of them.
In response Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher told TSN’s Brent Wallace “I don’t want to hear about another team’s player. He’s not on our roster. I wish him good luck. That’s it.” It left a bitter taste, to a departure that was otherwise uneventful.
Prior to the first game between Puempel and his former team, he took time to restate his stance, saying he believed the quote was a “misinterpretation from mouth to paper.” Puempel emphasized that he respects the Senators coaches and management, assuring them he didn’t mean anything negative by his comments and that he had enjoyed his time in Ottawa. When asked about New York he surmised the change of scenery had brought positivity to his game, and to his mentality that had been missing.
The quotes are unsurprising, and it’s good of Puempel to walk back his statements. He was a good soldier for Ottawa, and while it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out, it’s been best for both parties to separate. Though he’s never been one to be particularly energetic in front of a microphone, he did seem sincere in his apology. This isn’t a Brandon Prust and Paul MacLean situation. Hopefully, this clarification will make the situation water under the bridge.
Erik Karlsson looks like a man possessed
Erik Karlsson has 17 points in 22 games, and has been one of the best players for the Senators all season, but that doesn’t mean his play has been without fault. In fact, the season has by all accounts been somewhat sub-par for the 25-year-old Swede. According to Dom Luszczyszyn, Karlsson projects for some 67 points.
That would lead all defensemen, and leave him 15th in the league, but would be his second lowest full-season total since 2011. It’s just one point higher than his 82 game low of 66 points, in 2014-15.
Beyond the dip in scoring, Karlssons’ underlying numbers have also suffered a massive hit. Karlsson is boasting a negative raw Corsi percentage for the first time in his career: just 48.29 CF%. That’s sandwiched between Cody Ceci and Mark Boroweicki. That phrase alone should be concerning for Sens fans. His relative CF% of -0.32% wouldn’t be overly concerning for most players, but Erik Karlsson is not most players.
This is a player who over the last two seasons leads the team with a 5.91 relCF%. It’s true the team has struggled territorially, but they were never particularly strong in that aspect. One of the team’s few constants was Karlsson. To see him posting – frankly – pedestrian numbers is very concerning.
I won’t pretend to know why Karlsson has struggled in this aspect of his game, but I do wonder if his increased shot blocking has a role to play in the dip. One other observation I have noticed is that he has been reluctant to carry the puck into the zone. In the 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens Karlsson carried the puck out of the defensive zone a whopping 15 times, but entered the offensive zone just twice, both times without control. This is a pretty strong change from years past, and could be a factor in the unusual numbers.
Breaking: Ryan Dzingel can skate fast
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Ryan Dzingel used his speed to split the defense and get a breakaway.
Ryan Dzingel gets at least one Grade-A scoring chance per game with his speed.
The 24-year-old has been the surprise of the season for the Senators, and gives the top six a dose of blinding speed that it was desperately missing. Between Mike Hoffman and Karlsson the Sens had the ability to be quick, but their speed was predictable. There were only two options. Now adding a third, it gives the Senators speed to spread throughout the lineup, and better breakout options on the man advantage. In their 4-3 win over the Canadiens, Dzingel brought the puck into the offensive zone five times (twice carrying it in, three times dumping it in), the second most on the team. Add to that the fact the Dzingel has shown he’s able to fill the net and use his speed defensively, and the Sens have the top six forward they expected Matt Peumpel, and Shane Prince to become.
Stats from Corsica.Hockey unless otherwise stated.