Ottawa fans hoping to watch their team eliminate hated rival Toronto from playoff contention got a pretty rude dose of reality tonight. While we have recently seen the team catch highly-seeded playoff teams off guard -- and as such, generate wins -- with their work ethic, that trick doesn't quite work as well against a team battling every game for just the slimmest of chances at making the second season. Unfortunately for fans' hopes, when the team can't count on outworking their opponent, they just don't have the skilled players available to fall back on.
That's a recipe for a loss, which is exactly how the night turned out. Goaltender Craig Anderson was solid, but not spectacular, in this outing. Unfortunately, as we know, Anderson's play needs to be spectacular for the Senators to have a legitimate chance at winning these days. Couple that with the fact that three of our defensemen had a combined 31 games of experience in a Sens jersey (21 for David Hale, 6 for Patrick Wiercioch, and 4 for Andre Benoit - Thanks to poster Nightbreak for pointing this out) and it was just more one factor in the loss. Of course, it would have helped if our veteran defensemen had played better.
Sens Zero: Filip Kuba
Followed up one of his better games with one of the most forgettable games by a Senator defenseman this year. Kubonic Plague indeed -- it was like he was making it his personal goal to lose the game for his team. It was like he was a sixth skater for for the Leafs. It was like he did the worst thing you could ever imagine. He was terrible. This really says it better than I can.
Guys I liked: Jason Spezza, Brian Lee, Ryan Shannon, Bobby Butler
The usual suspects here. Spezza came to play. Shannon came to play. Lee... came to play. Maybe I'm drinking Drano, but I thought Lee was the team's best defenseman tonight, even though he played the fewest minutes of any blueliner.I also really liked Butler's fight tonight. He doesn't have head coach Cory Clouston's confidence right now, but he had the best work ethic on the night, and that's including Shannon's usual tirelessness.
Guys I didn't like: David Hale, Erik Condra
Both looked lost to me at times tonight, Hale especially. Toronto put some heavy pressure on our players tonight, and I felt these two faltered under it visibly.
Sens Killer: Phil Kessel
As usual. What makes it more frustrating is CBC's shameless slobbering over any Maple Leaf player who displays even some talent. Also, I wish Ottawa had a 30-goal scorer. Or a 20-goal scorer.
Andre Benoit had seven shots
It's true. Of our young defensemen, I felt that Weircioch played the best, though he still made some obvious rookie mistakes.
Da Costa watch
Tough to read too much into anyone's first game. There's going to be jitters and chemistry and ups and downs. That said, he was obviously nervous early, but got stronger as the game went on. He saved a goal and hit a post. From what I saw, the reports of his on-ice vision are easy to believe. I would not be surprised if he recorded his first NHL point before the season ends.
Z. Smith takes dumb penalties
I was loving the game Z was having tonight. He was dominating the faceoff circle (9 for 14 on the night) leading a strong penalty kill, and hitting, blocking and shooting like a madman. Then he boarded Matt Lashoff with a little more than eight minutes to go. Although Ottawa killed off the five-minute major, it left them with almost no time to mount a comeback attempt. The hit was not one of the more egregious ones I've seen all year, but it was reckless and stupid nonetheless. Z. Smith has a responsibility to make a cleaner hit on that play. If Kuba hadn't ruined it already, Z. Smith probably killed any chance Ottawa had to win.