I'm not going to get into the whole Jason-Spezza-for-Hart-Trophy debate right now, but if Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Devils proved anything, it's that the Ottawa Senators need their top centreman to get much of anything going offensively.
The Senators put pucks to the net, but nothing that truly pushed Devils netminder Johan Hedberg to make any spectacular saves. Kyle Turris jumped into the top line, and looked severely out of place, while Daniel Alfredsson looked tired, Erik Karlsson looked frustrated (maybe three broken sticks had something to do with that), and Milan Michalek looked energetic and dynamic--but lonely. Nick Foligno looked impressive between the blue lines, as usual, but didn't really register as much of a threat in the offensive zone despite four shots on net.
The lone goal of the evening came on the powerplay, so you can be guaranteed it wasn't Ottawa who scored it; instead, it was Ilya Kovalchuk converting on a cross-ice one-timer pass that got by Ben Bishop. The Senators powerplay, meanwhile, went 0-for-3, and Erik Condra squandered an early-game penalty shot.
Ottawa didn't have many scoring chances, but they had scoring chances chances; namely, the opportunity to create offence was there. The team simply didn't have the playmaker needed to make those chances genuinely potent. This team misses Spezza, and they need him back to full health for the stretch run if they're going to make hay.
Sens Killer: Johan Hedberg
The Senators had a goodly number of shots on the opposition, but Hedberg always seemed to be in the right spot to make the save. He wasn't flashy or anything; he was just there, playing a simple game and stopping whatever came near him. Hedberg didn't exactly steal the game for the Devils, but he was integral to the win.
Sens Hero: Sir Benjamin Bishop III
Although Bishop allowed one more past him than Hedberg, he was likely as good as his Devils counterpart on the night. He faced a few good scoring chances, and gave the Senators a very chance to win this game. Unfortunately, the shooters couldn't score, and when Bishop tried to take things into his own hands by handling the puck himself, the ref gave him a penalty.
Failed Audition: Kyle Turris
With Jason Spezza ill, Turris stepped into the role of top centreman on the Sens. The drop-off was no less than you'd expect. Even at the best of times to team would have a hard time replacing Spezza, but Turris' game has fallen off significantly since his early days with the Sens. He had a couple of shots on net, but nothing truly impressive, and looked consistently outmatched on the ice. There's obviously still a lot of maturation needed for Turris before he can become a truly reliable number two centre in this league.
Dishonourable Mention: The referees
"If that's boarding, I've never played an NHL game in my life." - Denis Potvin
Ol' Denis was right: The third-period boarding penalty assessed to Zack Smith was feculent. But really, I can't give the refs too much grief; with Ottawa on a 5-on-3 and the game on the line, the Sens couldn't do anything at all. The powerplay is now scoreless in six games, and the Sens have wasted 5-on-3 opportunities in three straight.
Dishonourable Mention: Matt Gilroy
I still don't know where this guy fits. He played over 18 minutes tonight, and wasn't a liability, but he consistently looks out of place. Perhaps it's simply still an adjustment period while he gets used to a new coach, a new system, and new teammates, but I haven't seen much from Gilroy since the Sens acquired him. He sure didn't contribute much on Tuesday night.