Even though the Ottawa Senators lost 1-0 to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, it was probably the perfect result for Senators fans right now: A highly competitive and very exciting game that still didn't hurt Ottawa's lottery pick chances. Tanking the season is one thing, but people still want to watch exciting hockey; that's what viewers got with the Senators-Bruins matchup.
Ottawa brought it from the get-go, really pressing the Bruins just as Boston looked a little taken aback by the energy their opponents brought. Tuukka Rask stopped everything he faced, though, and would for the rest of the night. Not until a scramble in the third period would either team score, after soft defensive coverage from Erik Karlsson and then Jason Spezza allowed Nathan Horton to poke the puck past Craig Anderson. That was all Rask needed to get his team the win.
Sens Killer: Tuukka Rask
No question about this one, Rask was the biggest difference in the game tonight. Ottawa outshot the Bruins 33-21, but Rask stopped all 33 shots he faced, and gave Ottawa hardly a sniff despite some very, very good scoring chances. With both Rask and Tim Thomas rolling, the Bruins are in pretty good shape heading in to the playoffs.
Sens Hero: Colin Greening
He said he thought it was a joke when he saw he'd be playing on the top line with Jason Spezza tonight, but he proved with his play it certainly wasn't a mistake. Had a couple of shots and five hits, and helped create space and chances for his line with Spezza and Bobby Butler. His ceiling is probably a third-line guy, but Greening showed he might be fine to play spot duty higher in the lineup, if need be.
Sens Hero: Sergei Gonchar
You know who looked like a reliable, confident, smooth veteran presence tonight? Sergei Gonchar. No, he didn't make any offence happen on either of Ottawa's powerplay, but it wasn't due to lack of effort. Gonchar looked like the player Ottawa signed him to be, and if he keeps playing like this, he could become a difference-maker (in the positive sense) in short order.
Statement Games: Chris Phillips and Chris Neil
The most criticized members of Ottawa's leadership core heading into the rebuild, Phillips and Neil made statements tonight. Phillips played 18:28 TOI (probably a pretty good number for him to get moving forward), and had a couple of hits and three blocked shots; basically, defensive defence. Neil, on the other hand, had nine hits on the night; even if that was some friendly stat-counting, you can't deny that Neil had a solid game.
Unreal: Craig Anderson
Maybe he only faced 21 shots on the night, but Anderson made some very, very impressive saves against the Bruins. And despite the loss, Andy has allowed only six goals in his five games as a Senator. That's the kind of clutch goaltending that, if maintained, would get even a rebuilding team into the playoffs long before they were expected to compete.