Ottawa's latest winning streak lasted much shorter than their previous one thanks to the Detroit Red Wings. Despite playing solidly in the opening minutes, the Senators could not generate any kind of sustained attack and their play degraded as the game went on. This was mostly due to the effort of the Red Wings, who simply jumped all over their opponents, allowing no time or space to develop a play. Passing lanes were filled and the Senators were forced to repeatedly attempt to stickhandle their way past the blueline -- a strategy that is best reserved for video games.
This was also Matt Cullen's debut in a Senators jersey, and it was pretty unremarkable. Cullen was invisible for the most part, but so were all of his teammates. He got some negative attention early, taking a slashing penalty that led to Detroit's first goal, but other than that, he wasn't much of a factor. One game is not a good body of work to judge him, so no hasty conclusions are needed. Ottawa plays a very structured system; it will take him some time to acclimate to his new role and teammates.
Call-ups Brian Lee and Derek Smith did as well as could be expected. Actually, that isn't fair to either one. Neither defenseman made any glaring mistakes, but neither made any great plays either. Though the Red Wings are not exactly the powerhouse of years past, they are still a highly skilled, disciplined team. Playing mistake-free hockey against them is a tall order for veterans, and the two kids managed that much at the least. Still, this was probably the game where Erik Karlsson was missed the most. With no space for the forwards, the team needed an offensive threat from their blue line to either generate scoring chances or create space, and there was no one on the team capable of accomplishing that goal in this game.
What's that? Filip Kuba, you say?
Sens Zero: Filip Kuba
When two AHL call-ups have a better night than you, you're not having a good game. When you take two terrible penalties (Interference, Holding) that scream "My man just blew right by me!" you get a zero. Kuba drew an assist on Ottawa's lone goal, but it was truly secondary. I'm not a fan of finding whipping boys on this team, but Kuba's play has been consistently below average this season. It was below average again tonight, and he was signed to provide better play -- much better play -- than he provided against Detroit.
Sens Killer: Pavel Datsyuk
Yikes. How is it that a team that shuts down players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and yes, Dany Heatley lets a talent like Datsyuk run free? Make no mistake, this guy was all over the ice tonight and he was doing whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted. Dangling the puck, winning battles, finding open space, you name it. Ottawa had no answer for his skills tonight as he routinely shook off defenders.
Bonus Sens Killer: Special teams
Detroit was two for four. Ottawa was zero for two. Detroit routinely set up early and moved the puck all over the place. Ottawa struggled just to gain the zone, much less maintain puck possession in it. If you need it broken down in more detail than that, you'll need to find another website or maybe take out a "Hockey For Dummies" book from your local library.
Sens Hero: Peter Regin
Not so much for scoring the goal (it was nice to see Regin doing some dirty work in front of the net) but more for the difference in his play versus the past few games. Working with Alex Kovalev suits Regin, for whatever reason. He was one of the few Senators who had intensity every shift tonight. He fought for what little space he could get, and made the most of it when he got it.
Bad News: Ottawa is now 0-1 since the Picard trade. Could this cookie-cutter defensman have been the key to all of Ottawa's success and everyone in the world didn't realize it? Stay tuned to find out.
Good News: Ice time shows that coach Cory Clouston continued to roll four lines -- it was just not with great (or any) success tonight. If this is truly a four line team -- and I believe it is -- and the coaching staff continues to plan like it is, there are going to be fresh legs going into the playoffs. The benefits of that cannot be understated.
Bad News: Ottawa's possession of first place in the Northeast Division was fleeting; the Sabres' 3-1 victory over San Jose moves them back into the lead. Buffalo still has two games in hand on Ottawa.
The Shot Chart Tells the Story Tonight:
Game Highlights (there weren't many):
Luckily for the Sens, there's a game tomorrow to get the bad taste of this loss out of their mouths quickly. The team travels to New York to take on the Islanders. After that, it's a two week waiting period for the Olympics, or as I like to think of them, the Abductor Sweepstakes. Join us tomorrow for the final game of February!