Let the good times roll! The Ottawa Senators are first in the division by PTS%, Erik Karlsson is reminding everyone that the Norris Trophy should eventually be renamed after him, and the play-offs are just around the corner. It’s hard not to be excited about this team right now.
Speaking of feel-good stories:
The Chris DiDomenico Story
Chris DiDomenico’s NHL debut didn’t get off to the glorious start I’m sure he’d imagined when he took two penalties in the first period, but that shouldn’t overshadow how remarkable it truly is that he’s in the NHL at all. Admittedly, when the Sens signed DiDomenico my first reaction was one of puzzlement. I had a vague memory of him being on the 2009 World Juniors team with John Tavares, P.K. Subban and co. that won the gold medal in Ottawa in dramatic fashion. In case you’ve forgotten:
Try not to let Pierre McGuire’s horrendous interjection ruin the moment for you. That’s right: DiDomenico was there for one of the most memorable moments in hockey history. Other than that, however, before a couple of weeks ago he didn’t look like he’d ever get a shot at the NHL. After a devastating leg injury suffered in junior, he struggled badly in the AHL and never really came close to making an appearance with an NHL club. I’m just hazarding a guess here, but when he was playing two seasons in Italy I can’t imagine even DiDomenico would have told you his future was in the NHL. After Erik Karlsson scored his game winner last night, he was mobbed by his teammates but he paused for an extra second when he saw DiDomenico and made sure he gave him an extra bit of acknowledgement. It was a little thing, but another cool thing in a neat story. Don’t give up on your dreams, kids.
Karlsson Clawing his Way Back Into the Norris Conversation
It’s not news around these parts that Erik Karlsson is a generational talent, but even after two Norris trophy wins there are still large segments of the wider NHL audience and analysts that poke holes in the captain’s game. I won’t rehash how much he’s changed his style of play this year, but it was refreshing to hear Ray Ferraro and Chris Cuthbert discuss Karlsson’s Norris candidacy on the TSN broadcast of the Arizona game. We can draw as many statistical comparisons as we like, but the reality is that NHL awards voting is still largely a media narrative driven affair; Drew Doughty’s win last season is the perfect example of this phenomenon. Right now, the narrative is certainly that Burns (who has had an exceptional season, to be fair) will cruise to the prize. The only way that changes is if the national media wills it to be so; here’s to hoping Ferraro and Cuthbert are starting a trend.
Claesson-Karlsson Offensive Zone Draws
Speaking of offensively-inclined Swedish defensemen, Fredrik Claesson has been lighting the world on fire lately. His assist against Arizona last night gave the big fellow 8 points in his last 10 games. Considering Claesson doesn’t get any power play time, and plays the fewest minutes of any Senators defenseman period, this is an even more impressive feat than it first appears. Guy Boucher’s certainly taken notice of Claesson’s recent production, as he’s been deploying him with Erik Karlsson on several offensive zone draws per game. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s goal against Arizona came on such an occasion. Claesson has a heavy slapshot that he can get off in a hurry, but he also has an underrated ability to get the puck through traffic and on goal. When you’re playing with Karlsson, you’re bound to have a bit more space for yourself; Claesson’s proven to be a pleasant surprise offensively.
Sens up their Social Media Game
It’s a subtle thing, but the Sens official Twitter account has been a lot of fun this season. Credit for this goes to Craig Medaglia, @craigmedaglia, who’s been churning out A+ content all year long. This tweet from last night was particularly great (make sure to watch until the end):
The NHL very often takes itself, and its product way too seriously; off-beat fun social media accounts like this help lighten the mood. Keep it up, Craig. We see you.
Impending Log Jam
As fans, one of our favourite pastimes is juggling lineups and imagining ourselves as professional bench bosses. For most of this season, unfortunately, the Sens have been so thin that there hasn’t been much question of who should play and who shouldn’t. But now that Burrows and Stalberg are in the picture, and the aforementioned Claesson is playing well, there’s a real question as to who deserves to play. Here’s my crack at an ideal line-up when everyone is healthy:
Dzingel — Brassard — Stone
Hoffman — Turris — Ryan
Smith — Pageau — Burrows
Stalberg — Wingels — Pyatt
Methot — Karlsson
Phaneuf — Wideman
Claesson — Ceci
For this example, I’ve assumed that Colin White won’t be joining the Sens this season, but if you’re really convinced that he’ll be on the NHL squad feel free to slot him in where you’d like. What does your ideal line-up look like? Let’s hear about it in the comments below.