Like peanut butter and chocolate, the two players with the least ice time are together at last. - Al Bello
There's just something about afternoon games.
They're so rarely entertaining. Play is clumsy and slow, players sluggish, and the fans equally lethargic. It all combines for a very boring experience. Was today's game any different? Despite a somewhat fun last ten minutes, no. Not really.
In a battle between two teams who are terrible at scoring first, the New York Islanders came away with the only goal of the first period as Brad Boyes took advantage of an Eric Gryba defensive misplay. The Senators tied it up midway through the second when Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic deflected a seemingly harmless Chris Neil pass right onto the stick of Mika Zibanejad who fired it in the net. That's essentially all that happened in the first two periods.
Fast forward to late in the third period where Michael Grabner is left all alone with the puck in a shooting lane. Eric Gryba dropped down to block the shot with his stick and... didn't make it in time. Grabner whipped the puck into the net and the Islanders go up 2-1 with 3:29 to go in regulation.
And then Kyle Okposo took down Erik Condra (don't worry, he's not injured), giving the Senators a power play. To everyone's surprise, Patrick Wiercioch scored and suddenly it's a tie game. We go to overtime, which produces plenty of shots but no goals. Shootout? Shootout.
Islanders score twice, and the Senators... well there's no word for zero that rhymes with twice. So make one up in your head. Zice? We'll work on this.
New York wins 3-2 in the shootout. Moving on...
B-Sens Hero: Patrick Wiercioch
First NHL goal for Erik Karlsson Lite. Any rookie mistakes early on are usually erased when you tie a game with 1:09 left in the third period.
B-Sens Hero: Mika Zibanejad
Despite mysteriously getting the least ice time on the team, Zibanejad followed through with my advice yet again and shot the puck from in close instead of from ex-planet Pluto. Result? Tying goal. It broke a whole three-game pointless streak, and we can now instead talk about his four points in seven games.
B-Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
Solid and steady, the Lehner trademark. Gave the team a chance to win. Typical 2013 Senators goaltending performance. Poor shootout performance, but he helped the Senators get themselves a point. Tough to beat the duo of Frans Nielsen and John Tavares in a shootout, too.
B-Sens Zero: Eric Gryba
Some good plays, but two terrible plays that led to both Islanders goals. First he played Matt Moulson too close along the boards, opening up a perfect opportunity for Brad Boyes to take the pass and score. Then in the third period, he dropped down too slowly and allowed Michael Grabner to whip a shot past Robin Lehner.
B-Sens Zero: Sergei Gonchar
Do something on the power play or go home. You're as effective as Chris Neil out there. And yes, I know he had a power play assist today, but that doesn't mean he was good on it, or that he has been good on it for a long while.
B-Sens Dishonourable Mention: Zack Smith
Zack "Z. Smith" Smith definitely put in the effort today, but he really needs to stop taking third period penalties. That's three penalties in the last two third periods. Once again, Z. Smith was an offensive dud. This was his 43rd-consecutive game without a goal. His last goal - regular season or playoffs - was March 8, 2012.
Closing Thought: There are an awful lot of AHL players on the Senators these days, leading to plenty of jokes (including in this recap) about them being more their AHL affiliate Binghamton than an NHL team. That means plenty of minor league-type mistakes when playing against NHL competition. What we're seeing right now - and this is affecting results as well as entertainment - is the "time" part of "give them time." Remember Erik Karlsson three years ago? More defensive mistakes than you or I could count. That's what is happening with Eric Gryba right now. Karlsson got better, and so will Gryba. So will Zibanejad, Silfverberg, and Wiercioch. We're already seeing that evolution. But it does take patience and it's often not pretty.
Reader Comment of the Game: metalfoot on Denis Potvin praising the Senators' defence, "Maybe he's using 'defensively' metonymously for 'goatlending'?" We should all lend goats to one another.