As a team that has been labelled by many as ‘rebuild-bound’, the rideau river tides continue to turn on the shores of the nation’s capital. Somehow, the injury-ridden Ottawa Senators keep finding ways to win.
Lately, that winning has been mostly thanks to Big Ben Bishop. The 6’7, gargantuan goaltender has been leading the team, after stepping in mid-game for an injured Craig Anderson four games ago against the Rangers. Named as the third star of the week in the NHL, Bishop’s recent performance has been nothing short of oscar-worthy.
Tonight, on their third shootout victory in seven days against the Habs, the Sens continue to be the heart-attack kids of the NHL.
Unfortunately, that victory was largely on the shoulders of an overworked Bishop. Bishop stopped 44 shots against the Montreal Canadiens during the February 25, 2013 game in Ottawa. As the final home game before a 5 game road battle, Ottawa was lucky to get the boost, but the team won by an unsustainable means; ‘Big Ben’ was unconscious in the pen.
After a great 2nd period, far-side slapshot goal by rookie Dave Dziurzynski (his 2nd of the season), Ottawa took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd period and seemed to be getting back into the game (as the Canadiens outshot the Senators 12-5 in the first period).
But the training wheels fell off again with 3.8 seconds to go in the 2nd, as Andrei Markov rifled a power play point shot that beat the screened Bishop. The back-breaking goal sent the Sens into the locker room. At the end of the period, the Habs were outshooting the Sens by a mark of 30-15.
Momentum seemed lost for the Sens going into the third, but after a few back and forths went nowhere, the battle of Quebec and Eastern Ontario continued into overtime. After a few strange penalty calls (on both Subban and Methot), the battle-worn Bishop and the Sens were headed to yet another shooutout.
After beating both Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist in shootouts this past week, Jakob Silfverberg continued to earn his stripes by denting the twine behind Carey Price. Unfortunately, David Desharnias beat Bishop directly after Silfverberg’s netter on a fancy fake-whiff move.
Once again, the score was evened up.
And once again, an unlikely hero emerged for the Sens in the form of Peter Regin who beat the haughty likes of Carey Price on a decent deke.
And once again (am I sounding like a broken record, here?) – it was all up to ‘Big Ben’ Bishop.
As Plekanec emerged down the wing, Bishop stood his ground and absorbed the weak wrister and then bounced out of the net in sweet relief of the fact that the Sens had won their third shooutout victory in seven days, and their fifth game in a row…and that he did not have to face one more shot in this game.
In fact, if the Senators want to continue their winning ways, they are going to need to find ways to get the puck away from Bishop. In his last five starts, Bishop has seen an average of 30.6 shots per game (including 37 on February 9 against Winnipeg and 44 on Feburary 25 against the Canadiens).
Even with the ‘young-team-Cinderella-story’ lighting their magical path, the Senators need to get their defensive game into gear. Many mistakes were made in front of their own net, and even though Bishop bailed them out, one man can’t win every game.
But so far, and after such a long and dreary fall season of lockout lackadaisicality, Big Ben and his young band of misfits are helping us cynical fans to remember what this game is all about.
The Sens travel to Boston on Thursday to face the big, burly Bruins.