Expectations can be a crumpling and overpowering force in the lives of those in the spotlight.
For the rebuilding Ottawa Senators, though, who are now past the halfway mark of their season, it seems that they may finally have something to play for; the fast-approaching, golden jewel-encrusted and sacred chalice of the 2014 NHL playoffs.
Notching their fourth win in a row, the RABHA emerged a little shaken but unscathed from a rejuvenating 4-3 OT victory against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Mount Royal.
The almost-loss-but-actual-win not only kept their playoff hopes alive (two points back of the wildcard-wielding Leafs), but it also knocked them above .500 for the first time since early November with a record of 19-18-7.
The game was fairly even, with the shots at 34-29 for the Sens, but after the Habs snuffed out a 3-1 lead and tied the game 3-3 in the third period, the RABHA were able to settle the game back down and make the OT push (like the Pesky Sens of olden days).
With a solid performance from a Neil-less checking line and a two-point game from Erik Condra (that’s right – Condra – and no, that’s not a typo), the Sens came out firing early and nearly had a 4-1 lead going into the second period, as Clarke MacArthur hit the post on a beautiful feed from Bobby Ryan.
Although there were a few defensive collapses (and an almost invisible Karlsson-Cowen shift), Craig ‘The Alien’ Anderson finally came down from his moon rock planet and had the infrared-puck-vision of a bat to make some game-changing saves.
Oh yeah – and there was also a bat at the game. Like – an actual bat. It was flying around, and stuff:
In the end, though, despite a visit from Bruce Wayne’s deepest fears, Clarke ‘Grizz’ MacArthur would make amends for his missed moment, as he netted a 4-on-3 power-play wrister on a Mark-Stone-screened Carey Price to win the game at 00:58 of the overtime period.
Speaking of Stone…
SPEZZ’ AND THE FAMILY STONE:
I’m not sure if any of you Sens die-hards (or ‘die-herds’ depending on your Valley accent) remember, but two years ago, Mark Stone made a fairly solid entry to the NHL when he played his first game in the 2012 playoffs against the New York Rangers.
Early in that game, he made a lightning-fast, D-splitting, tape-to-tape pass to Spezza for an early goal against the Rangers, notching his first NHL assist (and in a playoff game, to boot).
Unfortunately, since that glorious early entry, Stone has battled through some shoulder injuries and a few skating struggles in the AHL, despite his amazing hands.
But here we are, almost two full years later, and in his first two returning call-up games, Stone has had two breakaways and his first NHL goal against the Montreal Canadiens (and I think he felt alright about scoring on Carey Price):
With all of the youth success stories of this season’s team (Cody Ceci, Mark Stone) and the rise of young talent with early playoff experience (Turris, Conacher, Zibanejad), it will be interesting to see how it all gels together with the return of the captain – Jason Spezza.
Spezza has been cleared to play against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, and although he has been out for their eight-point streak, he is eager to get back into the lineup and to not wreck any of the team’s chemistry.
“For the short term, wherever I play, I want to make sure that I help the group out,” Spezza said after his team’s Monday morning practice.
An often polarizing figure to the Sens fans and media, the 6 foot 3 centre is one of the premiere offensive players in the NHL and cannot help but mathematically increase his team’s chances of hitting their mid-season stride.
Looking for their fifth win in a row, the Sens start a long and grueling west-coast trip in Colorado against the Avs at 9:30 EST on Wednesday.