Cheering for a bad team isn’t easy. Most of the time, it’s actually pretty difficult. Twenty minutes into the Sens’ 2021 season opener, it really did look like this was going to be a rough night. Being a bad team is embarrassing enough, but losing to the Leafs? Come on. Even we have standards.
But here’s the one really, really nice thing about cheering for a team that is abjectly terrible: whenever someone loses to you, it is extremely funny. Like, losing to the 2017 Ottawa Senators? Understandable. You still have some dignity left. But losing to the 2021 Ottawa Senators? Pack your bags, Toronto. I’m pretty sure this is grounds for relegation.
Let’s just say it was a good night.
The Ottawa Senators entered this first game of their 2021 NHL season to more excitement and fanfare than I have seen from this fanbase in years. The feeling of hearing those danger flutes and watching our boys take the ice for the first time in 310 days is one I simply cannot put into words. We weren’t expecting to see a good team, or even an NHL-calibre team if we’re being honest, but it was opening night, and we were playing the Leafs! A Stützle four goal game was in the cards.
We didn’t get a Stützle four goal game, by the way, or even a Stützle one goal game, but that’s okay. There’s still time. Not everyone is fortunate enough to play their first NHL game against the Ottawa Senators.
And you know what Stützle did that Auston Matthews didn’t? He won his first NHL game.
The Sens went into this game as the most well-rested of the two teams, and as we all know, rest is a weapon. All that rest certainly did something to the Sens, as they took to the ice with a jump in their step, starting the game with a lot of back and forth up and down the ice. The energy was certainly there, but I regret to inform you that the hockey skills were not.
Things started to go downhill about two minutes into the season, as the turnovers started and just didn’t stop. Ottawa’s play was messy, and Toronto was quick to capitalize on all their mistakes. Tkachuk took a pretty big fall early on, but quickly shook it off and didn’t miss any time on the ice.
Six and a half minutes in, Derek Stepan took the first penalty of the season. This is where the Sens went from “kind of messy but not abjectly terrible” to “oh wow, this is going to be a long season.” It is truly a miracle that they managed to keep the puck out of the net on this first penalty kill. Turns out this is what happens when you only have one good defenceman. Who could have predicted it?
The boys were, indeed, back.
The second penalty came right after the first, and it was even worse, if that’s possible. The Sens spent the whole penalty kill in their own zone, and unsurprisingly, the Leafs finally managed to net the first goal of the season. There was a little bit of debate on that goal, as Hyman batted it out of the air and it kind of looked like his stick was above the bar, but this is Toronto, so of course it counted. 1-0 Leafs.
The Leafs’ powerplay ended after that, but you wouldn’t know from the way the play was going. The Sens were hemmed in their own zone with no hope of ever escaping. In their defense, there are a lot of new ads on that ice, and that must make it hard to navigate. Who even knows how to leave the defensive zone these days?
A chance at escape finally presented itself in the form of a powerplay, as Dermott went to the box for slashing our German son. Only two minutes? For daring to touch our sweet boy? Unbelievable.
Anyways, there was hope that the Sens would figure out a way out of their own zone with the man advantage. We might even see a zone entry! So many opportunities present themselves when your opposition is down a player. The Sens did indeed manage a zone entry. Two of them, in fact. Neither one lasted very long, but they did try, and we did get a nice long look at that beautiful new logo at centre ice.
The first powerplay didn’t amount to much, but another one soon followed when Thornton high-sticked Chabot. YOUR Ottawa Senators gave up an excellent shorthanded chance to Zach Hyman, but soon made up for it with an absolutely beautiful goal from Thomas Chabot. Josh Norris also earned his first NHL point on the play. Just look at this goal. What a way to start the season. The score was 1-1 going into the second.
There’s no getting around this: the Ottawa Senators were very lucky not to be behind going into the second period. Expectations weren’t exactly high.
The second period started out surprisingly well, with the Sens maintaining possession for a decent amount of time, but it didn’t take long for thing to go south again, as the Leafs completely took control of the play, trapping the Sens in their own zone with a short change. Despite a few flashes of good play, Ottawa looked completely out of their depth. Unsurprisingly, Toronto took a 2-1 lead less than halfway through the frame. The Sens’ defense certainly did not look good on that one.
And that, my friends, is when everything changed.
I don’t know what happened to the Sens after that goal, but they completely turned their game around, getting a fantastic scoring chance less than a minute after the Leafs goal, and evening the score soon after as Brady Tkachuk tipped in a shot from Zaitsev. 2-2.
The momentum didn’t stop there, either. It only took two minutes for Austin Watson of all people to put the Sens ahead 3-2. The Sens probably didn’t deserve to be winning at this point, but the fact that they were winning was extremely funny.
The Sens were playing so well, you couldn’t even hear any leafs fans in the stands.
Ottawa only got better from there. With an extra man on the ice for a delayed penalty call, Tierney tapped in a shot from Brady Tkachuk, and suddenly it was 4-2 Ottawa.
Chabot took the next penalty of the game, but either the Leafs forgot how to power play or the Sens suddenly figured out how to kill penalties, because our boys just kept looking good. Ottawa got another powerplay to end the period when former Senator Jason Spezza tripped Nick Paul of all people, but unfortunately the Sens failed to convert. They went into the intermission with a healthy two goal lead.
Are the Leafs actually bad? You have to ask the question.
Ottawa opened the third period on the man advantage, and they still looked great, even if they didn’t score another goal. Chabot went to the box again early on in the frame, and the penalty kill was characteristically bad, but the Sens managed to kill the penalty and soon they were right back on offense, with the kid line showing everyone up.
Now, I just said that the kid line looked great in this game, but it was Derek Stepan of all people who put the Sens up 5-2. A lot of the new guys netted their first goals as Ottawa Senators tonight, but again, we shouldn’t be too worried about Timmy. It’s really hard to score your first NHL goal when you can’t play the Ottawa Senators, and besides, there’s always tomorrow. Literally.
John Tavares soon scored on the powerplay to make the score 5-3 and put the Leafs back within two, but it was clear at this point that comeback just wasn’t happening. The Sens were too good, and the Leafs... well, the Leafs were just too bad.
Ottawa got all the best chances from there on out, but the score held. Ottawa won their first game of 2021, and Toronto was instantly relegated to the minor leagues, because that’s what happens when you lose this badly to the 2021 Ottawa Senators.
Sens r cool, leafs r poo, and all that.
It’s safe to say this game went much better than the last time the Ottawa Senators wore the 2D logo. The start of a new era, truly. Don’t click on that link, by the way.
I hope the kids are having a great time in Mark Stone’s house right now.
Also, shoutout to the Sens fanbase for this:
Folks, based on our @SensMotB pledge tallies, #FraserSensMotB raised $4,400 tonight in honour of @brianpfraser.— Bonk's Müllet (@BonksMullet) January 16, 2021
To donate, check out my pinned tweet.
Thanks to @BringBackLee for all the help organizing. And thanks to the Sens Twitter community for being so damn good.
- All eyes were on Stützle tonight, and I know he didn’t get on the scoreboard, but he was quietly excellent in his 12 minutes of ice time. He made several smart plays, and showed off his stickhandling skills on a few occasions. Give it time.
- You know who really stood out tonight, though? Nick Paul. Apparently he’s good now?
- Drake Batherson also had a fantastic game. I’m feeling pretty good about having him on the top line right now. Keep an eye on him.
- Anisimov had several bad turnovers and generally didn’t look great.
Enjoyed that game? You won’t have to wait long for the next one! The Senators play the Leafs again tomorrow at 7pm Eastern.