From the first two games, I have learned two things so far. The Senators are a young team that makes a lot of mistakes, but they also have a lot of skill and don't quit on a game. Is two games enough to determine what kind of team this is? Of course not. But I have been very impressed with the last two third periods. As far as going to a game and seeing the Senators, this is probably the best I've felt in a losing cause. By the way, if you ever get the chance to go to a game in Toronto, and you are okay with a little trash talk, I highly recommend it. A Senators/Leafs game in Toronto always has a great atmosphere and the locals are really into it.
Note: This post is very long, fair warning.
The first two periods of this game went eerily similar to the Detroit game. The Senators were dominating early, and the Leafs didn't get a shot until the 10:27 mark of the first period, at which point the shots were 6-0 Ottawa. There was an incredible rush by Stéphane Da Costa that even had the Leafs fans around me ooohing and aaahing. That all changed when Jared Cowen took a double minor for high sticking Colby Armstrong. Mikhail Grabovski scored a lovely goal when he was left wide open in the slot with Chris Phillips caught watching. With just a minute left in the period, Joffrey Lupul lost Erik Karlsson and fed it to Phil Kessel, who promptly wired it past Craig Anderson to make it 2-0. There was also a random fight between Zenon Konopka and Mike Brown in the period.
The second period was all Toronto and started with a huge hit on Da Costa by Dion Phaneuf. My initial reaction was "SHANABAN!", with Da Costa's helmet going flying not helping matters. However, looking back at the replay, the hit seemed clean. What ensued afterwards is one of the reasons I really dislike Chris Neil. I don't know what it looked like on TV, but to me it looked like Chris Neil jumped a pretty unwilling Luke Schenn into a fight and put the Senators down a man for four minutes again. Having said that, I really don't understand what the roughing penalty was for. The instigator was totally warranted, but I really can't figure out the roughing. Almost seemed like two minutes for being Chris Neil. The Leafs scored on that power play and made it 4-0 late in that period when Sergei Gonchar did his best to make me very angry. I really have no idea what he was doing there. First he had the puck go right between his legs, then he just let Kessel cruise right by him and receive a pass before putting it by Anderson. It was awful. His partner Jared Cowen wasn't looking too good either, there was one play where he went for a big hit on Grabovski by the boards, completely missed him, leading to a great scoring chance.
Click after the jump for a crazy third period.At the start of the period, I was feeling all, 'Why the frak am I here?' but the Senators soon finally gave me some reason to cheer. The aforementioned Gonchar worked a nice give-and-go with Colin Greening who cut to the net and put the Senators on the board. Then Colton Orr scored and I cried a little bit on the inside.
The Senators took three straight penalties in a 1:58 span to put them down two men for a long 1:47. At this point I mentioned to my Leafs fan friend, "It is going to be 7-1 by the end of these penalties isn't it?" Surprisingly, they actually did a great job of killing that penalty, without Craig Anderson really being tested too much. At the end of the 5 on 3, Daniel Alfredsson jumped out of the box just as Chris Phillips flipped the puck out of the zone. Alfredsson made no mistake to make it a 5-2 game and adding a nice "!@#$ YOU!" fist pump, and causing me to start yelling "ALFIE! ALFIE!". It was still 5-2 with less than five minutes left in the game, when the Senators received a 5-on-3 of their own and Erik Karlsson took over. Karlsson made a beautiful cross ice pass to Michalek at the right side of the net, who passed it to Spezza at the left side and he banged it in to make a 5-3 game. Just eight seconds later and still on the power play, Daniel Alfredsson made an incredible tip on an Erik Karlsson shot. Just like that a game that was looking like a rout was now a 5-4 game with still over four mintues left.
Now that's when things got a bit ugly in the crowd. With the Leafs on the brink of a shocking collapse, a few guys (and girls) decided to release their rage by throwing their pizza trays and beer glasses at me and pointing out that I "clap like a monkey". To their credit, most of the Leafs fans around me stood up for me and starting chanting "douchebag! douchebag!" at the other Leafs fans. After the game, a lot of people apologised to me, so that was nice.
Anyway back to the game, Phil Kessel completed his hat trick and seemingly ended Ottawa's come back attempt blowing by Sergei Gonchar (who else?) and Jared Cowen just let Kessel skate by. Seriously, Kessel went one way and Cowen went the other way. I guess Cowen was trying to not let him get to the net, but it wasn't a good night for Cowen the Barbarian.
The Senators still didn't give up and Erik Karlsson just was incredible on the fifth goal. He faked a slap shot, passed it across the ice to a wide open Da Costa who had half an empty net for his first career goal and a nice celebration to go with it.
The Senators couldn't get the game tied up and ended up losing 6-5, but I couldn't have been happier with the third period. It was a herculean effort to make a game of it. The Senators have been scored 8-0 in the first two periods so far, but outscored their opponents 8-3 in the third period. I may have predicted the Senators make the playoffs, which would seem laughable looking at the first couple of periods, but the third periods show the high end skill that this team possesses. Can they string it together over full games? I'd like to think so, but failing that, at least the games will be entertaining.
Senators Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
Alfie was battling a head cold, but he really was great in the third. He looked pretty good throughout the night, and showed a lot of composure on his breakaway goal to control the bouncing puck. His tip on the 5-4 goal was also a thing of beauty. This team didn't give up on the night and that kind of attitude comes straight from the captain. Also, his pump fist was awesome.
Senators Hero: Jason Spezza
The Senators didn't score in the first two periods, but Spezza was one of the few players that impressed me the whole game. He led the team with five shots, had a goal and an assist and his line looked very dangerous once again. He did have one shocking turnover near the end of the first period though, but overall he was solid.
Honourable Mention: Erik Karlsson
Karlsson wasn't dangerous most of the night, but boy did he turn it on at the end of the game. His pass for Da Costa's goal was a thing of beauty, as was his pass on Spezza's goal. Karlsson ended with three points on the night.
Interestingly enough, Paul MacLean's even strength pairing of choice on the night was Karlsson and Filip Kuba. Karlsson led all Senators with 26:08 of total ice time.
Senators Killer: Phil Kessel
Since the start of the 2008-2009 season, Kessel has now scored 16 goals in 17 games against Ottawa. That's almost a goal every freaking game. What can you say about the guy? He just torches the Sens. Every one of his goals were well taken and he was hands down the best player on the ice.
Senators Killer: Incompetent defending
I really think David Rundblad has got to play the home opener now. Whatever his defensive short comings, how much worse could it be than the current crop? Sergei Gonchar was particularly awful tonight, but Chris Phillips, Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen all made glaring mistakes. For the second straight night, I was reasonably okay with Filip Kuba and Brian Lee. Since Gonchar and Phillips aren't going to be benched, the only way Rundblad gets in is in favour of Cowen or Lee.
Senators Killer: Penalties
The Senators were shorthanded seven times and made to pay twice. They took two separate double minors, in addition to a lengthy 5-on-3. This really has to change.
Senators Zero: Sergei Gonchar
Gonchar was just awful out there and looked lost a few times. He did make a nice play on Greening's goal but he had me shaking my head. He can't continue this. While he played 23:29 on the night, only 12:07 was on even strength.
Dishonourable mention: Jared Cowen
It could be a case of his partner struggling, but I wasn't impressed with Cowen at all tonight. The one glaring mistake I remember is him going for the big hit and completely missing, but he didn't seem too involved tonight for me. He had no hits on the night and took a double minor as well. His ice time of of 16:41 was the second lowest after Brian Lee.
Power play clicking
While the Senators power play wasn't dangerous every time, there was a stretch earlier in the game where they kept possession in the Toronto zone for almost the entire two minutes. I generally liked the movement, but they weren't rewarded until later in the game, when they scored power play goals just eight seconds apart. The Senators now have four power play goals already in their first two games.
Da Costa/Zibanejad watch
Da Costa is winning this so far after the first two games. Not only did he score his first career NHL goal, he was buzzing earlier in the game, including the previously mentioned rush that had the Leafs fans impressed. He did get hit pretty hard, but seemed fine after. Zibanejad I didn't notice too much, though he did get a great chance on a 2-on-1 with Chris Neil.