Earth to the Ottawa Senators: The season has resumed. Please show up and resume play.
No excuses this time. The Senators were thoroughly outworked by a Canes team that has now won seven straight. Manny Legace, who apparently had never beaten the Sens before, absolutely owned them all night. Unfortunately, Ottawa made his job far, far too easy.
Matt Cullen had the lone Senators goal, and played with good jump. He looked more comfortable than he has, and Sens fans should not worry about him fitting in -- he's going to be fine on this team. The same goes for Andy Sutton. Ottawa's newest defenseman did not look out of place playing alongside Erik Karlsson. Sutton was far from perfect. He had a blatant turnover in his own zone -- he passed it to an opposing player, shades of Chris Kelly -- and accounted for two goals. On the third goal of the game, hesitancy on who to play allowed jerk Chad LaRose to sneak behind him and bury a rebound. Sutton could simply not catch LaRose in time after realizing he had lost his man. In addition, with an empty net and two goal deficit, Sutton made the odd decision to go for a hit instead of playing the puck, allowing Brandon Sutter to tally his 16th goal of the season. Still, Sutton was aggressive and sound. His gaffes should not be held against him in his first game, especially since they were the result of effort instead of standing and watching.
So, the new guys were good. How was the rest of the team?
Sens Zeroes: Anton Volchenkov, Brian Lee
Volchenkov has a very interesting plan for getting his next contract with the team, as he has played far below average for the past two games. Getting turned around, chasing the puck around... this is not the Android we've grown to know and love. He has not shown any of his dominating presence since returning from the Olympics. I don't care much for speculation but he seems to be having a hard time readjusting since the Winter Games. The Sens better hope he finds his form again soon.
Lee, quite simply, isn't ready for the NHL. He looked completely lost in this game, and that is incredibly disappointing to see. Perhaps he is just trying to do too much, but something isn't clicking. Lee could not move the puck, keep up with his responsibilities, or separate players from the puck. He was useless. I am a fan of Lee, but no one could be pleased with what they saw tonight. I am starting to doubt if he will ever become a true NHL player. That may sound harsh, but he was not good. Sadly, he wasn't the worst player on the ice.
Sens Killers: Pascal Leclaire, the power play
Whatever the opposite of running with the ball is, Leclaire managed it tonight. Two goals allowed on five shots. Pulled before the game was even seven minutes old. Leclaire gave his team absolutely no chance to win this game, and the Senators really needed big stops from their goaltenders when their effort level was taken into account. Head coach Cory Clouston gave him the chance to be the man tonight, and he absolutely bungled it. The funny thing is that he didn't look terrible -- he was following the puck well, but his game was just... off, like the deja vu scene from The Matrix. To me, it looked like he had no confidence and was trying to overcorrect with positioning, which led to stoppable pucks going right through him. It's going to be a long time before he sees another start.
Of course, his team gave him no support. Though he was already in a baseball cap by the time of the first penalty, Ottawa managed to do nothing on offense except for small, impotent spurts. As usual, this ineptitude was most evident on the power play. Ottawa horrifically flubbed two very timely opportunities with shoddy passing and a total unwillingness to battle for the puck. They are not going to win many games at their current effort level.
Sens Heroes: None
Honorable mentions go to Peter Regin and Shean Donovan, two of the few who actually tried tonight. Donovan, especially, brought great energy (big surprise) on every shift. Regin, meanwhile, continued to show good chemistry with Alex Kovalev, but the two could not generate enough space to create quality scoring chances. Kovalev was an undeserved minus three on the night.
That's how you pass: Chris Kelly managed to pass onto a teammate's stick for a change, setting up Daniel Alfredsson on a shorthanded breakaway. Alfie went to his standard shot -- snapper, high glove side -- but Legace stopped him. Alfie got another shot on the rebound, and that too was stopped by Legace. The saves seemed to deflate the team even further, as they were unable to turn the momentum of a good penalty kill into any kind of energy.
Here's a shot chart for the masochists:
It's important to remember that as bad as this team looked, they are still in first place. No team wins every game and there are ups and downs to every season. The Olympic break didn't come at a good time for such a hot team, but they aren't going to keep losing forever.
Next game is Saturday against Toronto. Show up!