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Anderson leads Senators to 2-0 win over Capitals

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Turns out this is interference, even in tonight's strangely officiated game.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Turns out this is interference, even in tonight's strangely officiated game. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
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Shutting out the Capitals is no small feat, but the Senators actually had a lot of help in getting this win: Alex Ovechkin was not in the lineup, and the Capitals got jobbed on some calls -- most glaringly, a reversal of fortune on a double minor for high-sticking by David Hale. Hale was in the box -- willingly, because he knew he committed a penalty -- when the officials changed their minds, declaring that Hale was innocent. Capitals assistant coach Bob Woods indicated in an on-air interview that the officials decided the player (pretty sure it was Matt Hendricks) was cut by a skate and not a stick. It was a baffling explanation.

After that, the teams traded long stretches of possession, making for a very exciting game to watch. The Senators simply refused to accept that they didn't have the talent to hang around with the Caps, and showed absolutely no sign of weariness despite going all the way to a shootout just the night before. 

And just like last night, the Senators broke open the scoring on a nice cross-ice feed.  Bobby Butler flung the puck behind the Capitals' net, where Jason Spezza was waiting for it. Instead of trying to stuff the puck in short side, Spezza passed back towards Butler and linemate Colin Greening, who were both charging a net covered by no Capitals defensemen. The puck pinballed, and after a lengthy review, a goal was awarded to Soylent.

And just like last night, giving up the first goal seemed to wake up the Senators' opponent. It was at this point that Craig Anderson had to really start to earn his pay. The Caps generated plenty of great scoring chances, especially on their last power play, but Anderson somehow stopped more than a few pucks that should have found their way home.  This game easily could have been 3-1 or 4-1 if not for Anderson. Once again, he gave his team a chance to win, and once again, they responded. When Erik Condra fired a relatively stoppable shot over Semyon Varlamov to stake the Senators to a 2-0 lead early in the third period, the writing was on the wall. Washington pressed as hard as they could, outshooting Ottawa 12-5 in the period, but between the Sens' tight checking and Anderson's play, their opponent just couldn't do enough to generate the chances that were needed to score a goal tonight.  They needed outstanding chances, and they just didn't get them.

That's how Ottawa walked away with a 2-0 win over a team who had lost just once in their last ten games.

(read on for heroes, zeroes (Yes, there is one. No, it's not Svatos.) and some Z. Smith antics...)

Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
I'm not tired of writing this phrase yet. Anderson was Ottawa's best player in the game. At some point, you have to wonder if he can keep up this level of play, because it's just not something we're used to seeing from Ottawa's goalies. No one is outstanding every night, yet he continues to give his team chances to win games. Just when you get complacent with some great save that has become routine in his short Senators career, he swats a puck or dives to make a save and you can't deny that he's a difference maker for the team. 

Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
Speaking of difference makers, Michalek was noticeable from his first shift. His speed created numerous chances for him, and it was the reason he was able to feed a puck back to fellow hero Erik Condra. It's really hard to believe he missed time with a broken foot, because he was flying and looked like he was in game shape despite being out for so long. By my count, no forward had more scoring chances than Michalek.He had the bomb doors all the way open.

Sens Hero: Erik Condra
As mentioned, he scored the insurance goal for the team, but he gets the hero nod for a really impressive 15:19 played tonight. Condra battled, he skated, and he scored. Like Milan Michalek, he was noticeable just about every shift he was on the ice. It was no surprise that he was involved in the scoring.

Sens Zero: Power Play
Where are the circles?  The PP units were displeasing to the eye tonight. Kudos to them for at least being able to set up in the offensive zone -- an improvement by itself from where they were earlier in the season -- but they did nothing once there. Niente. It was embarrassing to compare their work with Washington's, where the puck movement was fluid and practical. At no time did I ever have a sense that the power play units on the ice were a threat to score. Part of that is due to the skill of the Capitals' penalty killers -- they came into the game ranked second in the league -- but part of it is due to something else. What that is, I don't know, and I don't believe anyone else on the coaching staff does, either. It's not a coincidence that the last two big-name free agents this team has brought in were billed as power play specialists, but maybe it's not the players who are the problem in this instance. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.

Honorable Mention: Filip Kuba
Yeah, that's right.  Kuba saved a goal tonight, and hit a post on a shorthanded chance. He had more ice time than anyone but Erik Karlsson, and was an asset for his team.

Honorable Mention: Chris Phillips
Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin? No points tonight. Yeah. For those keeping track, those names can be added to the list of offensive stars shut down recently by Big Game Chris.

Stat of the Night
If you're looking for a reason the Senators had a chance in this game and you're sick of talking about Craig Anderson, consider this: As a team, they won 32 of 51 faceoffs on the night, which is good for almost 63% as a team. The breakdown by player:

  • Jason Spezza: Won 14 of 21
  • Jesse Winchester: Won 8 of 13
  • Z. Smith: Won 6 of 8 (!)
  • Ryan Shannon: Won 4 of 8
  • Nick Foligno: Won 0 of 1 - Weak.

Z. Smith takes dumb penalties
My favorite section of the recap. This makes two nights in a row that Zack Smith didn't take what I'd consider a dumb penalty, so this may have to be renamed. Even more interesting is that in those two nights, he's accumulated 26 PIMs. 

Tonight, his 17 minutes came in the form of a fight, an instigator, and a misconduct. This action was prompted by Matt Bradley boarding Patrick Weircioch.  I didn't feel that Bradley's hit was particularly egregious (another officiating call in favor of the Sens), but Weircioch hit the boards awkwardly, and that was enough to make Z. Smith flip out like a ninja. Standing up for your teammates is never a bad penalty, and it was nice to see someone from the team do that for Weircioch. Very unsurprising that player is Z. Smith for Ottawa. As he walked down the tunnel afterwards, his night finished, you could tell that he unequivocally did not give a crap about doing what he had to do.  You can watch a replay of the whole thing here:

 

Matt Bradley vs Zack Smith Mar 25, 2011 (via hockeyfightsdotcom)


Shot Chart


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via ESPN

Highlights


Closing

"Craig For Mercy" was NHL.com's headline for this game.  Yep.