Tonight’s match-up against the Colorado Avalanche was one of the most anticipated of the entire season for one reason, and one reason only: the return of Patrick Wiercioch.
Jokes aside, there was an abundance of reasons for Sens fans to be excited for tonight’s game: Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg were set to make their Sens debut and with the trade deadline behind us, the push for the play-offs was well and truly underway.
Colorado has been easily the worst team in the NHL in this season — in fact, by virtually any measure they’ve been historically bad. For most of the night, they looked the part: Ottawa dominated the shot clock to the tune of 42-23 overall and had the Avalanche pinned in their end for long stretches of the game. In the first frame alone, the Sens drew three penalties through their relentless pressure and pursuit of the puck. After a couple of good chances for Mike Hoffman yielded no goals, it was Burrows who gave the home team the lead just less than nine minutes into the game:
The shot wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the cross ice pass from Mike Hoffman to set up the goal more than made up for the finish. Hoffman’s sometimes been accused of being on the wrong side of the risk-reward balance, but it’s plays like these that make him one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. More of that, please.
The second period actually didn’t start especially well for Ottawa, as Colorado mounted some sustained pressure and only a couple of sharp saves from Craig Anderson kept the Sens ahead. That wouldn’t last, however: the Sens dominated the last two thirds of the frame, and amazingly enough Burrows got his second of the game with just over four minutes remaining. It was Hoffman again setting Burrows up for his opportunity, but this time Burrows finished in style with a toe-drag into a top shelf snipe. There’s been (fairly) a lot of hand-wringing about the price Dorion paid to acquire Burrows, but if he’s going to play even half this well then all will soon be forgotten.
In the third, Colorado made the outcome a lot more uncomfortable than it should have been with a Rene Bourque tally but could never quite find the equalizer. Erik Karlsson was superb at both ends of the rink, blocking several Avalanche shots, breaking up dangerous plays and generally controlling play in the offensive end. Burrows was named the game’s first star, which is fair enough considering he scored both goals, but it says here Karlsson was the best player on the ice for either team. Another vintage performance from the captain.
At the end of the day, this was the perfect first opponent for the new look Senators. Colorado have been pushovers all year and tonight’s game, final score notwithstanding, was no different. It never felt like Ottawa was seriously in danger of not winning in regulation. In that sense, it’s mission accomplished. But as we all know, you only get so many games against Colorado (one more to be precise). The real test lies ahead yet.
Sens Hero: Alex Burrows
Burrows became the first Ottawa Senator to ever score two goals in his debut for the team, so you might say he’s off to a good start
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
The captain was incredible, and despite being held pointless he effectively carried a huge burden at both ends of the ice tonight.
Sens Killer: Calvin Pickard
The only thing standing between Ottawa and a five goal night was Calvin Pickard who made 40 of a possible 42 saves on the evening.