Ottawa Senators fans might have been a little unsure when they heard Craig Anderson was coming to Ottawa. It was just one game, but no one's tentative after his incredible performance in Ottawa's shutout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
The Senators, really, had no business being in the game. There was a very close call early in the first, when it appeared Erik Condra scored his first goal of the year by sneaking the puck short-side past James Reimer. Referee Bill McCreary wasn't in a good spot to make the call, and the review was inconclusive, so it was ruled no goal; tough to see on the replay, but my biased eyesight leads me to believe it could very well have gone in. Still, Ottawa wase out-shot by a significant margin in each period (by eight shots in the first, seven in the second, and six in the third), and drastically out-chanced through the game. Both Anderson and Reimer had great games, and the night was pretty evenly matched physically. It wasn't until the shootout that the Senators were able to get the advantage, when Jason Spezza
flipped a backhand sniped a snapshot over Reimer to power Ottawa to their second win of 2011.
Sens hero: Craig Anderson
In order to avoid hyperbole, I'll simply call Anderson's effort in the game the best goaltending performance of the season. He stopped 47 shots in regulation and overtime--none better than his two straight saves on Phil Kessel late in overtime--and then bested all three shooters in the shootout. And he had the good luck of facing the Maple Leafs in his debut, enamouring him even more to Sens fans. Ottawa fans and players have been looking for a goaltender to steal a game for them all season; Anderson did it in his first.
Something CBC had pointed out as the teams headed in to overtime was Anderson skating up and down the Senators bench during the short break, talking to his new teammates, getting them ready to go for the extra frame. That kind of vocal, visible leadership is something Senators fans haven't seen much of this season, especially not from their netminders; Anderson didn't just lead by example, but also seemed to be taking some initiative with his new team. Kind of what you like to see from a veteran keeper like him.
Sens hero: Milan Michalek
This guy was a beast tonight. He had seven of Ottawa's 22 shots on goal (so... almost one in three), plus another four that went wide or were blocked. As good as Spezza (who had three shots of his own) looked on the night, Michalek was the team's best offensive player.
Sens hero: Penalty killing
Questionable refereeing gave the Leafs five powerplays on the night. I would have expected this to be more of an issue for the Senators, considering the team was missing key penalty killers Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu, Daniel Alfredsson, Jesse Winchester, and Sergei Gonchar. But somehow, mostly thanks to Anderson but also with some great hustle by Milan Michalek, Ryan Shannon, and Zack Smith, the Senators got through all of them without falling behind.
Sens zero: Powerplay
Although the PK kept on ticking without some regulars, the PP was definitely weaker without Alfredsson, Fisher, Gonchar, and Chris Campoli. Players seemed to regularly defer to any of Karlsson, Spezza, or Alex Kovalev, and when any of those three tried to deke through the entire opposition and inevitably failed, the whole thing would start over again. Ottawa had three powerplays, and two shots on all of them combined.
Derp da derp: Dion Phaneuf
Sure, Phaneuf had a couple of solid hits on Chris Neil and Nick Foligno later in the game, but his near miss on Spezza was hilarious. After tracking an oncoming Spezza, Phaneuf stepped up, and... completely missed, tripping in the process and crashing head-first into the boards. He wasn't injured (I probably wouldn't be laughing if he was actually injured), but it was derp-worthy.
Fight of the year: Francis Lessard vs. Jay Rosehill
This was one hell of a bout. Dozens of punches thrown in rapid succession, with neither combatant slowing down despite getting pummeled by the opponent. Certainly added an aspect to the Battle of Ontario (or Battle of Onterrible, as it's become known).