THE BEST OF THE WEST
I wish I could tell you that after a brutal road-start to the season, the Ottawa Senators got even against the best teams in the NHL on their home ice…but even I couldn’t spin a yarn that long and gangly.
The 4-5-3 Ottawa Senators dropped two games in a row on their home pond – the first to Anaheim and the second to San Jose.
The Anaheim game wasn’t terrible, as Ottawa battled back from an early 2-0 deficit to lose 2-1, but last night’s game against the Sharks was a different kind of animal.
Last night, Ottawa was credited with 11 turnovers (and I’m sure the statskeepers missed a few) and they got in trouble early and often.
After a puck bounced past the sticks of three Senators, in their own zone, the scoring was opened by Tomas ‘the tank engine’ Hertl at 1:16 of the first period.
There was many a butt shuffling in the seats of the quiet Canadian Tire Centre, I can assure you.
Just over five minutes later, Andrew Desjardins somehow put a fairly weak backhander past a stunned Craig Anderson, and the Sharks were up 2-0 at the seven minute mark in the first period.
Although a little light of hope was shed, as Karlsson blasted a point shot into the upstairs peanut-butter cabinet at 11:07 to make it 2-1, the Sharks quickly answered back (and short-handed, at that) as Tommy Wingels came in untouched, and tapped in a golden-egg rebound that Anderson never even saw (but that everyone else in the CTC clearly did).
Marc ‘Crystal’ Methot potted his first goal of the season from another point blast, but 3-2 is as close as the Sens would come.
I’d like to say that the Kanata Kids played well – but once again, they fell behind early and spent the remainder of the game playing catch up and trying to (no pun intended) swim with the Sharks.
Coach Paul-rus seemed to be trying to change the looks that the Sens were giving, and even put Karlsson as the lone D man on a power play with four forwards (Turris, Ryan, Spezza and Michalek) but that was the same power play where the Sharks scored shorthanded about 8 seconds after the faceoff.
One of the simplest rules of hockey, in any league, division or tier, is this; you cannot give the puck away in your own end.
The Sens have been doing this time and time again, and until the D zone is cleaned up and air-tight, all the offensive power in the world won’t matter.
And to be completely honest – I don’t think it’s all the D’s fault. In years past, the old Craig ‘the Alien’ Anderson would have made the saves on both of those early goals. I’m not sure what’s going on with Anderson so far, but if he doesn’t tighten up the screws a bit, I’d say that we’ll be seeing more Lehner between the pipes.
There are two schools of thought about the Sens play as of late (and no – I haven’t forgotten about their 6-1 victory over Detroit, but that was then and this is now):
1. We are a small market team and we aren’t going to beat the big guns of the West. I’ll be happy if we make the playoffs. We’ll be alright.
2. We are not a total rebuild team – we are contender right now – but we are playing nowhere close to our full potential.
I’ll go with #2 – hands down.
I believe that the Sens have the tools and the talent to be a team that can make a deep playoff run THIS year. Not next year. Not in five years. But right now.
If you think about it, there is probably no other team in the NHL with the playoff-experienced youth that the Sens have. Remember when a young Kyle Turris tied the series on a beautiful OT, Lundqvist-crumpling winner against the Rangers in 2012? Remember when Conacher sent the first round, 2013 game 4 to OT against the Habs? Remember when Colin Greening potted one in double OT to help win their only game against the mighty Penguins?
My point is that the Sens have a lot of youth – but they are youth who have played in the big show. They know how to play when it counts and I have no doubt that they will find their way again – but it needs to happen soon.
Losing Alfie was probably one of the best things that could have happened to us. Alfie was great and brought tons of leadership, on and off the ice – but he wasn’t big on firepower (which is exactly what the Sens have needed). These new Sens are an offensively gifted team – but they need the D and the goalie to back them up. Doors need to be shut on opponents who storm into the neutral zone and find ‘gift’ pucks.
The sub-500 Sens head into Chicago to play the cup-defending Blackhawks on Tuesday.