While nothing can really fill the void left in the absence of Sens games (a hobby we indulge in for reasons beyond anyone’s comprehension), consider this week’s Five Thoughts as a form of compensation for the postponement of what should have been last night’s inaugural match-up between Ottawa and Seattle (early 20th-century notwithstanding). There was no guarantee the Senators would have faced our beloved former son, Joey Daccord, whom Seattle claimed in the expansion draft and who’s currently assigned to AHL Charlotte. We can hope that between now and the rescheduled games, though, that Joey gets called up so that we get the opportunity to watch him again, if only as an opponent.
In the meantime, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to the last five NHL expansion teams’ first games against Ottawa (most of which occurred in an era when watching Ottawa was still fun!), because we could probably use some nostalgia to clear up some of the negative vibes we’re all dealing with right now. I hope this piece provides some new information for younger/newer Sens fans while refreshing the memories of older fans like myself who had just plain forgotten all the details from 20+ years ago.
1998: Nashville Predators
With the Senators just coming into their own as a respectable NHL team and with the darkest days of Ottawa’s own post-expansion growing pains behind them, in the draft Nashville selected enforcer Denny Lambert who had come off two seasons and almost 500 penalty minutes as a Senator. The Predators made their first visit to Ottawa in both teams’ third game of the 1998-99 season with the Sens prevailing 3-1 (to start the season 3-0). Lambert did dress against his former team and naturally drew a roughing penalty to ensure his nightly visit to the box. For Ottawa, Wade Redden (1G 2A) and Magnus Arvedson (1G 1A) led the way and Ron Tugnutt got the easy W conceding one goal on 22 shots.
The Senators made their first trip to Nashville on December first and again won by a score of 3-1. Lambert dressed again in this one but failed to make his customary infraction. Alfie stood out in this one with a goal and an assist, while Andreas Johansson had two apples, and Redden scored again. Tugnutt again got the win, allowing one goal, with the shots somewhat closer (35-28 in favour of Ottawa).
1999: Atlanta Thrashers
Prior to the expansion draft, the Sens shipped Tugnutt’s back-up, Damian Rhodes, to Atlanta for future considerations, and the Thrashers selected another enforcer (expansion drafts were different back then), Phil Crowe from the Senators before promptly flipping him to Nashville the following day. The lone eastern conference team in this bunch, Atlanta played against Ottawa four times in their inaugural season. Let’s see how that went for them! The Sens paid their first visit to the Thrashers on Halloween 1999. Having won seven of their first eleven, Ottawa barely escaped with two points as Atlanta had the lion’s share of the shots (35-23) and Patrick Lalime gave up four goals against. Luckily for Ottawa, Rhodes stunk up the joint, allowing six goals. Arvedson and Shawn McEachern each had a goal and two assists while Radek Bonk, Andreas Dackell, Marian Hossa, and Redden all had two-point games.
The Sens again kept things too close for comfort (shots 27-25 Ottawa) in their second trip to Atlanta with Tugnutt allowing three goals on six shots and Lalime needing to come in with a perfect relief outing to get the 6-3 victory for Ottawa (with Scott Langkow in nets for the Thrashers). Arvedson had another three-point game, as did Vinny Prospal while McEachern, Redden, Bonk, and Joe Juneau each had two points. When the Thrashers made their first trip to Ottawa, the Sens again faced Langkow, and Lalime had a much lighter workload (shots 38-20). Alfie, McEachern, and Rob Zamuner scored for Ottawa in a 3-2 win. The Sens completed the four-game sweep of the season series with a convincing 7-1 win at home. Rhodes allowed six goals on 16 shots before getting the hook, while Tom Barrasso had a nearly perfect night (shots 35-24 Ottawa). Prospal had four assists, Dackell and McEachern each had a goal and two assists, and Alfie had two assists for good measure.
2000: Columbus Blue Jackets & Minnesota Wild
Having both enjoyed single season stints in Ottawa, Kevin Dineen went to Columbus in the expansion draft while Juneau, selected by Minnesota, would end up in Pheonix via trade on draft day. Dineen, along with Tugnutt (who had signed in Columbus as a free agent) made their first trip to Ottawa as Blue Jackets November 4th, 2000, and what should have been an easy win for Ottawa (shots 27-18) ended in a 2-2 tie thanks to the heroics of Tugnutt and a clunker from Jani Hurme. Geoff “Jake’s Dad” Sanderson had a goal for the Jackets. McEachern and Zamuner scored for Ottawa.
Shortly thereafter, the Senators made their first trip to Minnesota since January 1st, 1993 (then against the North Stars), and while Lalime had a strong game, Jamie McLennan stole this one for the Wild leading to another 2-2 tie for the Sens (despite outshooting Minnesota 33-26). Future Senators Filip Kuba and Marian Gaborik had assists for the Wild, and Shawn McEachern scored again (I’m fairly certain Shawn would be in the hall of fame, had he only played against expansion teams). Ottawa made their first trip to Ohio on December 21st and wouldn’t you know it, we got ourselves another tie (this time 3-3 (the dead puck era, pardon my French, was the shit)). McEachern scored again. Sanderson scored again. Hossa and Alexei Yashin had two-point nights. Dineen got an assist. Hurme played much better as the Jackets outshot Ottawa 34-26 and Tugnutt again got the better of his former team. This contest also got spicy, with the refs distributing 50 PIMs.
2017: Vegas Golden Knights
Well, I hope you enjoyed the golden era Sens going undefeated there as much as I did because now we have to live in the present tense and it sucks. Vegas selected Marc Methot in the expansion draft during a summer when we thought the good times would absolutely last forever, and, if memory serves me correctly, nothing bad has happened since. Vegas flipped Methot to Dallas for a second-round pick (a pick which Ottawa coincidentally later acquired under terms I’m legally obligated not to recall). For what it’s worth, the Vegas games didn’t go nearly as badly for the 2017-18 Sens as I had initially recalled.
Ottawa hosted the Knights for the first time November 4th, 2017 and the visiting team overwhelmed Craig Anderson with five goals on 35 shots and the Sens could only muster four goals on 28 shots against something called a Maxime Lagace (Kirkland Signature ass back-up goalie and we lost?!). I don’t care who scored for either team. Here is the box. For what it’s worth, the Sens got revenge with a 5-4 regulation win of their own in their first visit to the Knights on March 2nd, 2018 with Anderson getting the victory over Marc-Andre Fleury and Ottawa handily winning the shot battle 38-29. Again, the box.
Well you can tell me that watching hockey beats reading about it but when we’re talking about watching the Senators from 2008-present or reading with the Senators from 1992-2007, I might just take the latter. Okay, so maybe nostalgia is a prison and we need to live in the now. And I genuinely look forward to watching a Sens game against Seattle and I hope we see Daccord between the pipes. For those of you who were too young (or only got into Sens hockey during the years of misery (why?!)) you may have a hard time believing that this team used to do the stomping. And for you other gatekeepers out there, you have some extra material for your next trivia night.