As an American living in Atlanta, Georgia, I don't have the same kind of love for the Winnipeg Jets that most of my fellow Sens fans do. Don't worry, though, I'm not here to talk about the Jets. I'm hear to talk about the Ottawa Senators.
Any of you remember the Senators of late last year? You know, the ones who would compete for the entire game, try to make the most of their scoring opportunities and count on some quality Craig Anderson saves in between? Yeah, those guys showed up tonight... and it was awesome.
In truth, I don't know how I should feel about tonight's game. You're not going to see any Sens Zeroes in this recap, and there were plenty of choices for heroes, and honestly, this is the kind of team I was expecting to see at the start of the year. I don't necessarily know that I expected to beat a team like Detroit 4-1 on the strength of Craig Anderson's saves, but I think the multi-goal shellackings the Senators have been taking have caught most fans--and probably the team as well--off guard.
Then again, Winnipeg entered this game with just one win, and with so what does beating a team that has only scored 11 goals on the year really prove? That the Senators can execute when the pressure is off and can't execute at all if there's even a little pressure? Is that even better?
Is that even the case? I don't know. I suspect not. The season, and the Senators, are far too young to make that kind of judgement yet. All I know is that tonight, the effort was there for the full game--and I think the results speak for themselves.
1-0 Jets - Someone wasn't paying attention to the film, as the entire team decided that leaving Dustin Byfuglien uncovered at the blue line wasn't that big a deal--he can't shoot the puck hard or anything, so no worries. Alex Burmistrov digs the puck out of a minor scrum and sends it backwards to Byfuglien, who is so wide open that he could swing his stick in any direction and not hit Peter Regin in the face. Byfuglien makes the Karlsson-like decision to launch the puck back through the crowd from whence it came; it deflects upward and into the net. No chance for Anderson.
1-1 - On a power play for a stupid penalty drawn by Zack Smith for a change, Jason Spezza decides to show Erik Karlsson and David Rundblad the other option on a power play: shooting. He whips one at the net, and Ondrej Pavelec can't quite corral it. Both Colin Greening and Milan Michalek are there to take whacks at the rebound. Michalek gets credit for the goal, but don't worry, Greening got an assist for feeding Spezza to start the play.
2-1 Senators - Michalek dumps the puck in behind Pavelec and lets Greening skate to retrieve it because head coach Paul MacLean may say they're going to skate 200 feet, but it's pretty far from where he is and there's no guarantee he can skate that far and not fall down. Greening manages to secure the puck and center it. Bored with this "passing" thing, Spezza decides to try this "shooting" thing, which he does with great success. Wired high over Pavelec's glove to give Ottawa the lead.
3-1 Senators - Deciding it's time for the crowd to chant "Alfie," Daniel Alfredsson knocks a clearing attempt out of the air, kicks it to his forehand and then scores a goal. No big deal, just another Alfie play. The crowd chants, "Alfie!"
4-1 Senators - Jealous of Karlsson's assists total, and staring at an empty net down the ice, Spezza decides to resume passing in the hopes of not getting embarrassed by a defenseman. He passes to Z. Smith, but this is a mistake because no one could give less of a crap about Spezza's personal goals. Luckily, Spezza is able to retrieve the puck, and in an attempt to prove that he, too, can not give a crap, passes it right back to Z. Smith. Unfortunately, in the few seconds since he last possessed the puck, Z. Smith has not started giving a crap about Spezza's desire for assists, so he passes the puck to Michalek. Figuring that if he does some sweet move of his own, the crowd might start chanting his name, Milan puts on some razzle dazzle for the empty net goal. The crowd does not chant.
(read on for heroes, Shot Chart! and highlights...)
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
35 saves on 36 shots gives him a save percentage of .972, and the goal he gave up couldn't have been saved unless he was Plastic Man. This is the Anderson who earned the contract he got: good saves, timely saves, and a head-butt save that had him laughing. It was good to see.
Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
With two goals and one assist in the game, Michalek was a creative force for the Senators all night. His three points vault him into a three-way tie for the points lead on the team with eight, and have him leading the pack with five goals. There's never been reason to doubt Michalek's skill; the only question is if he can stay healthy. If he can, he will very likely remain the team's best forward for the entire year, as he was tonight.
Sens Hero: Jason Spezza
Plus-two on a three-point night. Now part of that three-way tie for points lead with eight, Spezza has three goals and five assists on the year. He has centered Ottawa's most potent line throughout the year, and that was especially true tonight. Consider that Spezza has had a hand in all but one of Colin Greening's points this year and you start to appreciate what he means to the team.
Honorable mention: Chris Phillips
Also plus-two on the night. Supposedly one of three people who did most of the talking in Tuesday's closed door meeting, Phillips apparently took David Rundblad's words to heart and led by example in this game. It was great to see him fully engaged and throwing his body around. He, along with Jared Cowen, led the team in hits with five.
Honorable mention: Jared Cowen
As mentioned, Cowen had five hits on the night. He has the look of a player who is realizing how to use his size and strength at the NHL level. He no longer has such an extreme advantage that guys just bounce off him, but that doesn't mean he can't simply muscle guys off of the puck. He did a lot of that tonight.
Bad luck: Peter Regin
The poor kid hurt his shoulder. The same one he hurt and needed surgery on this offseason. The same one he hurt in preseason. Regin went straight to the locker room and that's never good, but hopefully the injury is not serious. Regin can't seem to catch a break to show MacLean what he can really do.
Highlights (lots of good stuff, definitely watch these):