A fresh-faced Mike Hoffman (#68) about to be mercilessly hacked in the shin by Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson (#36) during preseason NHL action at the Air Canada Centre September 19, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Ending up on the wrong side of a 4-2 score obviously wasn't what the Ottawa Senators were looking for in their pre-season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it gave team brass the opportunity to see plenty of the young blood in the prospect system. Some of it was positive, some of it wasn't so great.
In the former category was Jared Cowen, who led the Sens offensively (yeah, seriously) with both goals on the night. It wasn't enough, though, as Tyler Bozak notched a couple goals of his own while Colby Armstrong and Carl Gunnarson had the rest for the Leafs.
The biggest issue for the Senators tonight was the breakout, and lots of giveaways on outlet passes (especially by Patrick Wiercioch, Tim Conboy, and David Rundblad) combined with a lack of forward support down low cost the Senators big time tonight. Because of the giveaways and far too many penalties, those of us watching the game didn't get to see anything resembling a Paul MacLean-implemented system. So we'll have to wait through more than one pre-season game to
start calling for the Paulrus to be fired draw any conclusions on that front.
Sens Hero: Jared Cowen
TWO GOALS. There is no doubt in my mind that Cowen is ready to play in the NHL right now. His size definitely makes up for any lacking positioning, but he looked confident and coordinated tonight. Dropping the gloves with Dion Phaneuf was ill-advised, but Cowen was hitting guys all over the defensive end when he wasn't hitting the Leafs' net at the other end. Opponents will not like heading into the zone against this kid.
Sens Hero: Nikita Filatov
Had the look of a top-six forward tonight, that's for sure. He had two assists, and although he took a penalty, it was while backchecking, so it's not so bad. More importantly, his speed is out of this world, and his puck control and poise are also very strong. He even showed a bit of a nose for the net, which is a good sign.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Despite Cowen's two goals tonight, Karlsson was the best Senator on the ice. He slowed down after a very good first period, but his shooting, puck control, stickhandling, positioning, and even his strength all impressed tonight. Definitely a good sign for the upcoming season.
Sens Hero: Peter Regin
Terrific game for Regin, even if he didn't end up on the scoresheet. Good drive, good 'compete level,' basically a complete 180-degree change from last season. Bodes well for Regin, because he'll have stiff competition from Mika Zib... Ziba... Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa in camp.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
I didn't see much of Hoffman in the latter half of the game, but he stood out for good reasons in the first part of it. He was driving the net well pushing for chances, and just generally working his butt off. Little doubt that he's headed to Bingo this season, but it's obvious why he's at or near the top of the call-up list.
Sens Zero: Patrick Wiercioch
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Cowen is Wiercioch, who looks far from ready for prime time. He was directly culpable in the Tyler Bozak goal because he was just completely out of position, and I lost track of the number of giveaways he made. On the plus side, I'm certain he'll get loads of ice time in Binghamton this season, and it will serve him well in his development.
Sens Zero: Tim Conboy
Tough game for the one-man Conboy. He didn't get much help from his partner Wiercioch, but Conboy took a big hit early on, and made some pretty ugly giveaways. He'll still see a few pre-season games (and he's probably hoping he'll play with a different D partner), but tonight wasn't a great showing.
Sens Killer: Tyler Bozak
Had two goals, which were pretty good ones and representative of some good vision seeing openings. His line, with him in between Colby Armstrong and Nazem Kadri, had the Senators hemmed in their own zone for extended periods of time on a few occasions.
Sens Killer: Jake Gardiner
An impressive showing for Gardiner, who finished with two assists and was showed off why the Leafs are pretty excited about him.
Sens Killer: Joe Colborne
This guy is big. He didn't really do much offensively, but when he was on the ice and near the puck, the Senators weren't able to do much, either.
Water is Wet: Milan Michalek is injured
This guy just can't catch a break. (Ed.: Poor choice of words.) I'm not sure what Michalek did in his past life to deserve such bad luck, but it must have been pretty terrible. He went down with an apparent knee injury late in the game.