If Craig Anderson wasn’t his teammate and timing was more on his side, Clarke MacArthur would be a finalist for the Masterton Trophy come late June.
This season was anything but dull for the Ottawa Senators. With the Anderson family courageously battling through a horrifying illness, a brand new coaching staff in place, numerous injuries throughout the year and a late-season slump that nearly cost the team home-ice advantage (let alone a playoff spot), MacArthur’s resurgence into the lineup was simply another incredible storyline.
First he came back. Then he scored. And then he scored again.
After all was seemingly lost and another offseason of rehabilitation was looming for the 32-year-old, the Senators announced out of the blue, only hours before puck drop on April 4, that MacArthur would return to the lineup that night.
He had failed a baseline test in January just when everyone was finally beginning to believe he was on his way to suiting up once again, but yet another try a week before the team hosted the Detroit Red Wings for the fourth last game of the regular season and he was cleared by multiple doctors.
That night was special. The playoffs have been momentous.
Behind all the joy and relief of watching MacArthur play without distress during his first game back, and the emotion of a passionate post-game lap for the three stars, tucked away in the corner of everyone’s mind was the uncertainty of his ability to have a positive impact on a team bound for the postseason.
It didn’t take very long for that doubt to turn into trust.
Though MacArthur looked energized and determined in his first couple playoff games, it was in the second period in Game 2 that everyone was convinced he was going to be a difference maker, just like old times.
The Lloydminster, Alberta native hammered home a one-timer on the power play that set the Canada Tire Centre on fire. The building hadn’t been that loud since Colin Greening’s playoff overtime winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
Can you imagine what it would’ve sounded like in suburban Kanata if his second goal was scored at home?
MacArthur topped off a memorable first round with the biggest goal of his career during overtime in Game 6, sending the Senators to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals with a carbon copy of the goal that made 20,000 fans leap out of their seats a week before.
You can see it on the players’ faces. You can hear it whenever they speak to the media. They want to win this for Clarke more than they want to win it for themselves.
“It’s not like you’re [Sidney] Crosby coming back to a team,” MacArthur admitted during yesterday’s media availability. “You just want to work hard and do your job. The way people have been talking, it’s been nice.”
Crosby or not, he’s played the role of a top six forward since his return and it’s benefitted the team’s forward corps greatly.
MacArthur is showing good pace, confidence with the puck, a scoring touch and best of all, he feels great every shift. Oddly enough, MacArthur is getting more physical attention from the opposition than most of his teammates. His 12 hits against is among the leaders on the front line, but the good news is he’s taking the bumps with ease.
Bruins defenseman Kevin Miller gave him a hard time all series long. No worries.
“I had a couple battles with [Miller]; he’s a tough guy,” MacArthur noted. “On that one, I remember that play, when you get hit on the way down and then you get hit again, it was a good sign that I was just pissed off. In other occasions you’ve kind of been like ‘are we in Boston? Or Ottawa? Where are we here?’ [I was] just in the battle, so that was a positive thing.
“I felt good. Obviously, I was tired, but as far as anything physical, knock on wood, I haven’t had any problems so far.”
And definitely no problems on the power play. MacArthur’s success from his perch low in the slot has given the Senators another valuable option on the man advantage.
But will he and Bobby Ryan have to switch things up now that teams might be catching on?
“I don’t want [Ryan] keying on me too hard here; I want to get a couple more,” MacArthur laughed. “After he set me up for the first one, we started going up high and we got a few goals that way, so I think you just adjust.”
In the mean time, while the team is waiting for the New York Rangers to make their way into town, MacArthur has been able to connect with other concussion sufferers through his success.
“A lot of people with concussion issues [have reached out to me]. It’s funny how through Instagram or whatever I’ve had so many messages from people that are kind of having the day-to-day fight with headaches and different things. It’s been really cool to message people back and give them my insight on what’s helped me and what hasn’t.”