Sens Zero: Craig Anderson
Two goals on four shots in just four minutes and eighteen seconds. Both goals were eminently stoppable, and the first came on Los Angeles' first shot... 21 seconds into the game. Goalies are supposed to give their team a chance to win, as Anderson did against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. He did the complete opposite in this game--he singlehandedly put his team behind the 8-ball before they even had a chance to get into a rhythm.
Things, unfortunately, did not get better as Robin Lehner allowed a goal on the second shot he faced, as the Senators found themselves down 3-0 to a team allowing less than 2 goals a game. It was a shot Lehner should have had as well--after a solid save on a tip, Anze Kopitar simply whacked the rebound through the five-hole.
The good news, if there was any, was that the Senators had been in this position before: Down 3-0 to the Kings on October 9th, the team would get goals from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan, and Milan Michalek before losing 4-3 in overtime. All three players were available in today's game.
Unfortunately, the story was not going to end the same way. For a while, it looked like it would. Joe Corvo would score just after the midpoint of the second period to pull the Senators within two, and Erik Karlsson would find the back of the net early in the third period to get the Senators to 3-2, but a painful Jarret Stoll goal at the 13:18 mark put the game out of reach, and Kopitar's second of the game, on the power play with Corvo off for holding, put the nail in the coffin. Ottawa would get a late power play, but that only existed so I could continue to point out that area as a Sens Killer.
Interestingly enough, both of the goal-scorers in tonight's game were culpable on the goal that put the game at 4-2. Corvo and Karlsson got paired up, presumably because head coach Paul MacLean was looking for some offense, but both mysteriously chose to watch as Kings defenseman Drew Doughty began a rush from his own blueline. He simply then continued taking the space the Senators gave him--all the way up to the net. His shot was stopped by Lehner, but Corvo then proceeded to continue to watch the play instead of covering the trailing man. This gave Stoll an easy wrister into an open net. Yikes.
Corvo's goal was a thing of beauty, coming off of a ridiculous kick pass from Cory Conacher. Conacher got a feed from Jason Spezza, who had some space to skate, but was unable to get a shot off and instead kicked the puck. Corvo moved into the empty space and blasted a shot past Kings goalie Martin Jones. Conacher can tell everyone who will listen that he intended to kick the puck to Corvo; I'll never believe it. In my opinion, it was a lucky bounce.
It was one the Senators desperately needed, though, because they played much better for the rest of the game. In fact, shots were 39 for Ottawa to 26 for Los Angeles when all was said and done. In fact, Karlsson's goal, a wrist shot on a loose puck that trickled back towards the blue line, was the result of three consecutive aborted shot attempts. First Patrick Wiercioch tried to shoot, then decided to pass to Kyle Turris, who tried to shoot, decided against it, then circle the net and passed to Bobby Ryan, who was unable to get a shot off cleanly, but the deflection trickled right back to where Karlsson was able to get it. Two subtle decisions helped Karlsson score after that: Ryan went to the front of the net, and Karlsson waited a moment before shooting. This allowed the puck to float through traffic and made the save really tough on Jones.
From that point on, the Senators were largely the better team, but were unable to beat Jones again. Eventually, they'd make the mistake that put the game away for their opponents, but outside of a brutally ugly first period, you got the feeling that not only could Ottawa have hung with this Los Angeles team, but beaten them today. Of course, that would have required the team giving themselves an even playing field to work with, and they have done that very rarely this season.
Honorable mention: Robin Lehner
19 saves on 22 shots is pretty not-great, but the question in my mind is always, "Did he give his teammates a chance to win?" Lehner's first goal allowed was rough, but after that, it felt for a while like he wasn't going to let in another one. Bad goal aside, Lehner gave his teammates a chance to get back in this game and win it. They almost did it for him, but ultimately let him down.
Sens Killer: Anze Koptiar
Nothing worse than when Kopitar has a good game because then we have to hear all the nonsense about Brian Lee. But also, he's really good at hockey, and if I were a coach, I might identify him as someone for my defensemen to try and, you know, keep an eye on once in a while.
TOI Mysteries: Much will be made out of player usage because Ottawa lost, so it's time to second-guess everything, but hits in this game were 39-33 for Los Angeles. In the previous meeting, hits were 32-25 for Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a hitting team. If it becomes obvious to you that the only option on the table for creating space (just check the shot chart) is to win it with muscle, doesn't it make sense to give your strongest guys more ice time? Neither Senators goal was the result of fancy puck movement, nor the result of slick skill creating open ice--both were lucky bounces created from guys in close. That's the kind of game it was.
Goal purists won't want to hear it, but there's more than one way to win a hockey game. There weren't going to be any beautiful Bobby Ryan snipes created by awesome Erik Karlsson passes in this game. Sometimes, you have to play the hand that you're dealt and the cards MacLean was holding today dictated playing a grinding game. No doubt some will fault him for that, because what he tried was different than what they would have done. But it sure is easy to criticize something once it doesn't work, isn't it?
Sens Killer: Power Play
Once again, the Ottawa Senators' power play scored no goals. They went 0-for-3 (0-for-4 officially, but as the final power play came with just 41 seconds left in the game it is excused due to irrelevance) which now makes them 0-for-infinity by my unofficial count. And, look, I'm no coach (I don't second-guess enough to be one) but I can't help feeling like in a 3-2 game, you might want to find one more goal from someplace. And, I don't know, but I sure feel like if there were some... opportunity... where you had, say, a manpower advantage, that would sure be the kind of situation that could really make a difference in the game. It would be a real shame to let that go to waste. But what do I know? I'm just a lowly blogger.
Bonus Shot Chart!
What? Bonus Shot Chart?! You bet, fair reader! If you're like me, you probably didn't like that section above about time on ice. If you're like me, you probably want MOTHERFUCKING TEAM-LEADING GOAL-SCORER BOBBY RYAN out on the ice a lot when the team needs a MOTHERFUCKING GOAL!
But, uh, if you're like me, you probably also don't like shots from way out far, because they rarely go in. And you can probably see that among Ottawa's 39 shots, there's two major zones. So, who was getting all of those shots from in close in this game?
That's so weird. Is that, like, a pattern? I don't know. I'm not good at this stuff. And, look, if you click on the gamecast link from ESPN, you'll also see that guys like Turris, Spezza, Conacher and Ryan also had shots in that little cluster--just not as many. So it's not like the grinders were the only ones getting in close. And would I rather have Ryan shooting the puck from that close than Neil? 100% of the time. I don't care if Ryan is playing with two broken hands. I'd still choose him if I had a choice. But maybe, just maybe, the bottom six earned their ice time tonight by getting the kind of shots that Stoll was able to score on for the Kings. Maybe the goals in this game were going to have to come from fortuitous bounces. Maybe you want to give a shot to the guys who are getting in close to whack at a loose puck in a game like that? Like I said, I don't know. I'm just putting it out there.
Highlights (skip ahead if you value your sanity)