Senators hold off Capitals for 6-5 win

Wow. That was quite a ride. The Ottawa Senators were at no point losing to never more than a goal down to the Washington Capitals, but that didn't make it any more relaxing to watch. (Okay, maybe a little bit.) The Senators carried the play in the first, largely thanks to some dominating hustle from Jason Spezza, outshooting Washington 12-6 in the process. The third was a role reversal, with some Alexander Semin-powered heroics bringing the Caps back into the game, but ultimately Ottawa's shutdown defenders and the defensive-specialist line of Mike Fisher with Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly helped Ottawa hold on for a 6-5  victory.

Sens heroes: Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov
Spezza played like a man possessed tonight. Well, really, it's nothing unusual given his play over the last nine games, but he was on once again. The fact that he's carrying a line with Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo on his back, and has made them into a legitimate scoring threat is a testament to his skill. He scored a (sick) goal and had two assists tonight, made especially impresive given that he only played 14:56 TOI tonight. He was, in a word, heroic.

Similarly heroic was Volchenkov. Not to take anything away from his partner Chris Phillips, but Volchenkov was pretty much the reason Alex Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet. He blocked eleven shots on the night, six of which were off the stick of Ovechkin--Ovie only ended up with a single shot on net tonight. As dominant as Spezza was at one end of the ice, Volchenkov was more dominant at the other end.

(Read more... )

Sens zeros: Filip Kuba, Alex Picard
What can the Senators do about Kuba? People may argue that his three assists should preclude him from being tabbed as a zero, but despite his three assists, he still managed to end up -2 on the night. Because the Senators' shutdown falls so far off after Phillips and Volchenkov, it left Kuba and Picard to be victimized by Alexander Semin, who decided tonight was a night where he'd bring it. Kuba was on the ice for ten of the eleven goals tonight, and was culpable on each of the goals against. If not for the forwards supporting Kuba defensively, Semin may very well have capitalized on more of his nine shots on goal.

Picard was Kuba's partner. Neither of them properly supported one another, and both of them were worse off because of it. On the plus side, Picard is way cheaper than Kuba, and wasn't expected to be a leader on the blue line anyway.

Sens killer: Alexander Semin
Guy was unreal tonight. Three goals, one assist, nine shots on goal (and six more blocked) in 18:14 TOI. Who knows how much our top shutdown pair could have contained him, but the bottom line is that they weren't, and Semin ate our other four defencemen right up.

Scoring by committee: Nine Senators put up points
The trick to the Senators game this season has been four solid lines, and tonight the Senators' offence was powered by nine different guys. Spezza had his three points, Michalek also had a goal and two assists, Kuba had three assists, Alex Kovalev had a goal and an assist, Phillips, Chris Neil, and Daniel Alfredsson each had a goal, and both of Picard and Jesse Winchester had one assist.

Counterintuitively solid: Brian Elliott
While Elliott wasn't a Sens hero tonight, he was far from a Sens zero. Which is kind of unbelievable, given that he had 19 saves on 24 shots for what is, for all intents and purposes, a pathetic save percentage of .792 and.... well... a 5.00 GAA. But given the quality of the shots he faced, Elliott wasn't at all at fault for the losses. Each of Semin's goals were wicked shots through screens, and some others were difficult point-shots. He was solid, despite what the numbers say.

Powerwhat?: Ottawa goes 2-for-2 with the man advantage
I don't want to overstate anything, but I think the Senators' powerplay problems are solved forever. While the Capitals, with the most effective powerplay in the league, went 0-for-2 with a man advantage, the Senators, going into the game as the fourth-last powerplay team, were a perfect 2-for-2. Special teams magic.

Don't look now, but: Sens are in first in the Northeast
With the Senators' win tonight combined with a Buffalo Sabres overtime loss, Ottawa jumped into first in the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the New Jersey Devils for second (and 15 behind Washington for the conference lead). Granted, both Buffalo and New Jersey have two games in hand, but the Senators are on an absolute tear right now.

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