The Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 tonight, and it was a much more exciting game than the last matchup between these two teams. Not just because the Sens won (although that never hurts), but I'm sure it was also because the Habs were trying to catch up all night. Contrary to last night, when Montreal clammed up after scoring the first goal, Ottawa had a late marker on a Alex Kovalev tip-in to take the lead, and the teams traded chances back-and-forth in the ensuing 42 minutes and change.
And although the Senators fell back a bit in the third period and allowed Montreal to make it a close game, the Senators were still tighter defensively than in the last two games. If tonight was a measuring stick game, then I think we can conclude they match up well.
Sens Hero: Alex Kovalev
What a game for Kovalev tonight; he looked like he wanted to make Habs fans boo him even more than they already were. First goal was a tip-in as he drove to the net (seriously) and the second was a rocket on the powerplay from the right side-board. But Kovalev wasn't just good offensively; he was also very solid on the forecheck, and if he hadn't already earned a Hero nod, his play in the dying seconds would have cemented one for him.
Sens Hero: Brian Elliott
Another terrific game for Elliott tonight, despite a stoppable goal by Brian Gionta. Elliott made some very good to incredible saves, especially in the first period, going stop-for-stop with Carey Price until the Senators stepped up their game in the second period to take the Habs out of it.
Sens Hero: Chris Kelly
Kelly actually looked like an all-star tonight, especially in the first 40 minutes. He had some sweet little dangles, set up some plays, and if not for Jarkko Ruutu missing the net by a mile, Kelly would have had an assist. He was on the ice for both Habs goals, which doesn't look good, but he still had a good game tonight.
Sens Killer: Carey Price
Boy, you've got to think Habs fans are wondering what they were thinking booing Price after the first pre-season game this season now that they've seen what he can do when the games count. He's pretty much the sole reason this game wasn't far out of hand before the first period was up, and Montreal can thank him for keeping it close until they were able to mount a near-comeback late.
Offensive dynamo: Zack Smith
With his second of the season tonight (caused by a good, old-fashioned drive to the net) Z. Smith has more goals than Peter Regin, Nick Foligno, Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Neil, Chris Campoli, Chris Phillips, Matt Carkner, David Hale, and Jesse Winchester. And he still doesn't give a crap. Although I'm convinced him hopping up and down to and from Binghamton are salary-cap related, it looks like he's motivated to avoid making it a permanent destination if he can.
Let's get physical: Chris Phillips and Matt Carkner
Good to see Big Game Chris getting back on his game, and even adding the open-ice hit to his repertoire. He stepped up in the first to knock down Brian Gionta in a Volchenkovian open-ice hit; sure, it's Gionta, but it was good to see. Also good to see Carkner assert his presence around the net and keep hackers and slashers away from Elliott when the puck is in the area. Those guys need to have that dimension to their game if Ottawa's going to keep teams from running the goalie every chance they get.
(Mis)Cast in stone: Daniel Alfredsson
Tough to see Alfie saddled with a couple of players virtually devoid of offensive creativity like Nick Foligno and Mike Fisher. Not to take anything away from those two guys, and not to suggest Alfredsson doesn't mind being able to give up the corner-work to them, but all of the play-making has to come from the captain on this line. But he'd probably prefer to get lined up alongside someone who might take some of the opposition's checkers away from him to get himself some room, even though you'll never hear him complain. But the longer it stays this way, the closer those currently behind him in team scoring get. Then again, how do you break up Jason Spezza, Alex Kovalev, and Peter Regin right now?
Living dangerously: The powerplay
While the Senators' powerplay has certainly been more exciting recently, the risks taken may prove to be too great if Brian Elliott begins to falter in these situations. In the game against the Islanders, it was back-to-back short-handed breakaways; tonight, there was a short-handed two-on-one, and other good short-handed chances for the Habs. It's great to see Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson go deep on the play, but it has to be done wisely, lest it bite this team in the butt.
Ridiculous: "The Ph.D. Line"
Can we hear this nickname for Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern, and Mathieu D'Arche one more time, please? Oh yeah, and explain where the nickname comes from, too. I didn't hear it the first thousand times.
Danny Andrei Markov
Anyone else catch Kevin Weekes slip up and call Andrei Markov "Danny", after the slightly older, completely unrelated, and much less impressive Danny Markov? Made me laugh. Not likely a mistake that happens often.