This is why it's pre-season: Maple Leafs 4, Senators 1

This is the nature of the exhibition hockey: Unpredictability. One night, the Ottawa Senators will beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0; just 24 hours lady, the Leafs beat the Sens by a 4-1 score. Ottawa carried the play one night, and Toronto carried it the next. It was an odd reversal of roles, but I suppose that's what what we should all expect in the pre-season.

Penalties didn't help the Senators, and they never will help a team that takes 10 minor penalties in a single game. But blaming the referees probably isn't the answer: Ottawa took penalties because they weren't playing well enough, and the time spent short-handed made it even harder to play well. Especially given the marked improvement in Toronto's powerplay in just one day (they had three PP goals on Wednesday).

Sens hero: Nick Foligno
Another solid game for Foligno, and another case made for him jumping into the Senators' top six forwards. Foligno's goal may have been a gimme (he was left wide open in front of the net, and James Reimer overcommitted horribly on the play, but it showed good sense and a goal-scorer's patience for Foligno to wait for his opening. He also developed a good rivalry with Mike Komisarek, which is great because a) it shows Foligno is willing to step into a role as a shift-disturbing scorer, and b) if Komisarek is concerned about Foligno in regular-season games, that means he's not paying as much attention to the more natural goal-scorers on the ice.

Sens hero: Jared Cowen
It was Cowen's best game, without a doubt, rookie camp included. He played almost 20 minutes, finished +1 on the night, and wasn't only solid defensively--his puck control and passing were visibly improved, as well. It might not be enough to incite the Senators to make room for him on the blue line, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

Sens zero: Brian Lee
Taking a step in the wrong direction was Lee. In his past struggles, Lee has been criticized for being soft on the puck and on his opponent, and not thinking or acting quickly enough. But on Wednesday night, he didn't even do the most basic things right, like proper positioning. Lee was on the ice for the first two goals against, and looked lost on the ice, and wasn't able to keep track of his man on either play. It wasn't pretty.

But the good thing for Lee is that there is no possible way he doesn't understand what he needs to do. A player doesn't ascend to the place Lee is without knowing and being able to play good, positional hockey. So all Lee has to do--which may not actually be that simple--is clear his mind, avoid trying to over-complicate his game,and start playing the most basic defence he can possibly play. It won't be flashy, but at least it will be solid enough.

Sens zero: Brian Elliott
Let's be careful not to overstate the importance of a meaningless exhibition game that also happened to be the first hockey Elliott played in months upon months. But he didn't look good. And no, he didn't have much help, but after watching Robin Lehner put up a shutout Tuesday, it was hard to watch Elliott struggle and allow a couple of weak goals on Wednesday. But he'll get plenty of opportunities to rebound from it.

Shift disturber: Francis Lessard
His play would probably have been too reckless for a regular-season game, but Lessard made the game a lot more exciting than it would otherwise have been. And, with a big hit on Mikhail Grabovski, a "fight" with Danny Richmond, and a willingness to drop the gloves with both Komisarek and Colton Orr, Lessard made his point: He'll be a damn good player to have in the lineup for any games against the Maple Leafs or similarly-built teams.

Injury concerns: Ryan Shannon
After taking an ugly elbow from Jay Rosehill, Shannon left the ice with a bloody nose and a woozy disposition. Which should concern any fans of him, because Shannon's had concussions in each of the last two seasons, and seems more vulnerable to them now than your average player. He's never really been the same player as he was before that first concussion, but hopefully he didn't come down with one on Wednesday night.

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