OTTAWA, ON – At some point, the Ottawa Senators might have to trade one of what coach Guy Boucher referred to Monday morning as “a plethora of quality players that are ready to play in the NHL” along the blue-line.
Only eight teams had a worse goals-per-game average than their 2.51 last season, and they probably should try to replace Clarke MacArthur with a proven, veteran point producer to play in the top nine at forward.
General manager Pierre Dorion himself said earlier this week that his primary concern was whether the team could score enough.
For what it’s worth, lighting the lamp wasn’t a problem in pre-season game No. 1 at Canadian Tire Centre on Monday night.
Minus Erik Karlsson and their top two offensive centres, Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard, the Senators thumped the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 6-2 count in front of an unannounced number of witnesses.
They didn’t exactly beat up on a team of minor leaguers, either. The Senators had 10 National Hockey League veterans in their lineup, while the Leafs dressed 12.
The Senators did not emerge from this one unscathed, however. Forward Colin White dove to block a shot by Calle Rosen with less than two minutes to play and left the ice in pain, favouring his left arm.
Fifteen minutes after the game, White walked through the dressing room still clutching his left arm with his right and with a pained expression on his face.
Leading the way for Ottawa with a a goal and two assists was Mark Stone, who was wearing an assistant captain’s ‘A’ for the first time here. Mike Hoffman scored twice, while Cody Ceci, Gabriel Gagné and Tyler Randell had the others.
Randell, a tough-guy who had six goals and zero assists in 27 regular-season games with the Boston Bruins, also chipped in with a helper, while Dion Phaneuf had two of them.
Prized prospect Thomas Chabot turned in a strong performance with and assist, and a plus-3 rating. Also making a strong first impression was defenceman Christian Jaros, who had an assist and was stopped just short of adding a goal. While most of the talk about Jaros centres around his physical play and energy, the big Slovak has offensive skills.
Auston Matthews and William Nylander scored goals for the Leafs, while Matthews also had an assist.
Craig Anderson stopped 15 of 16 shots while playing the first 31:25 in net for the Senators, at which point the Maple Leafs also replaced starter Curtis McElhinney, who was beaten four times on 12 shots.
Anderson’s best save came near the three-minute mark of the second period, when he slid across his crease to get a right pad on an attempt by Morgan Rielly.
Subbing in for Anderson was veteran minor-leaguer Danny Taylor, who stopped 14 shots in his Senators debut. He was beaten only by a Nylander one-timer with 2:55 remaining in the game.
Garrett Sparks made 11 saves after coming off the bench for Toronto.
Chabot, who jumped into the play more as the night went on, did the legwork on Gagné’s second-period goal. He fooled Maple Leaf checkers with a backhand pass along the end boards to Randell, who moved the puck out front to Gagné.
It was the first of two Senators goals in the middle period. The other was scored by Ceci at the end of a neat three-way passing play that included Stone and Zack Smith. Ceci, who had just two goals during the 2016-17 season, roofed a perfect shot past Sparks.
The Senators led 4-1 after the first period despite being outshot 10-9.
Randell kicked things off when he took a soft backhand feed from Stone and blasted a shot from the right wing by McElhinney on the glove side. Starting the play was Ben Sexton, who made a deft move in the neutral zone to get the puck to Stone.
Hoffman followed up with his first of the night with the Senators on the power play. Moments earlier he had a chance from the high slot, but sent the puck over the net. Disgusted with himself, Hoffman threw his stick straight up, then caught it just before the puck came back to him near the same spot. This time, he jammed the puck under McElhinney.
Hoffman made it 3-0 after a smooth give-and-go with Jaros sent him in on a breakaway, then finished the play with a backhand over McElhinney’s glove.
Matthews scored on the Leafs’ only power play of the period, when he took a step in from the left side and whipped a perfect shot over Anderson’s catching mitt.
Stone quickly answered, taking a feathered pass by Jean-Gabriel Pageau and beating McElhinney for his third point of the period.
The Senators and Maple Leafs face off again Tuesday night in Toronto.