What a horrible start to the season.
Well, except the goalie thing... and you thought that would be Ottawa's biggest problem. It looked like goaltending was the only thing that wasn't a problem in the Ottawa Senators 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, because everything else looked horrible. There was no coordination, no sustained forecheck (not even during the rare instance where the puck was in Toronto's zone), no puck support in the defensive zone, weak and inaccurate passing, and soft physical play. It was painful to watch, but the Leafs outplayed the Sens in every facet of the game.
There are excuses we can reach for. Second game in as many nights, after a frenetic pre-season where few of the regulars played together. Four off-season surgeries. But there's nothing that can really excuse the effort against the Leafs. It was awful. And it wasn't because the Leafs were good; they were good enough, but Ottawa was so disorganized that any team would have beaten them.
Despite Pascal Leclaire's best efforts. He was the one and only Sens hero tonight. He looked like the one and only player who was interested in playing his game. Even guys whose games would otherwise have seemed pretty good--Sergei Gonchar, Chris Campoli, and Zack Smith spring to mind--were rendered Sens zeros because of the lack of support their teammates gave them.
I suppose the line of Chris Neil with Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu deserves credit as well--they were their usual reliable selves. And even the line of Peter Regin with Z. Smith and Jesse Winchester was effective, at times. But the defensive-zone struggles limited the effectiveness any forwards could have on the night.
It's remarkable how fragile our defence corps actually is right now. And it's remarkable how excited I am for the return of Filip Kuba. Chris Phillips and Gonchar would have looked better with any semblance of an NHL-capable partner. But Gonchar might have a hard time continuing to play 25-30 minutes a night, at his age. Campoli was actually fairly good at times.
On the other hand, Erik Karlsson looks very far removed from the player who finished the season last year; he's not nearly as deliberate when moving the puck, his passes aren't as crisp, and he isn't playing smart defence as he was last year. He might be missing partner Andy Sutton--he probably really, really is--but he'll have to get back to his game soon.
Matt Carkner has taken a step back from the pre-season, let alone his play last season, and it's probably because he's being put in more situations against higher-calibre players. And he got smoked by Colton Orr again. We may be asking too much of him, but there aren't many alternatives.
Which brings me to Brian Lee. I don't know what to say. He was actually even on the night. And he wasn't tabbed with any giveaways, but was credited with two hits. Maybe he was actually better than I think. But I think he was terrible. And I think he needs to be sent to the AHL, in favour of just about anyone--preferably David Hale, but I'd be fine with Andre Benoit or... okay, anyone. I hope I'm not being unfair to Lee, but he still doesn't look ready for the NHL.
It's still so early in the season, but one thing in particular concerns me: Daniel Alfredsson slowing down. He looked impressively fast in the pre-season, but he hasn't looked quick in the regular season so far. (I know, all two games of it. Still.) This is obviously bad, because resting our entire offence on Jason Spezza or Alex Kovalev won't likely work. But it's more concerning because as Alfie slows down, he becomes more vulnerable to big hits. And Alfredsson's not the kind of player to protect himself; we've seen it a few times in the last few seasons where he's been hit really hard, but even the smaller hits, as they add up, will take their toll.
In the game thread, there was a common refrain: It can't get much worse. Let's hope not.