There was a certain sense of apprehension going into tonight’s matchup against the Dallas Stars, the first in a three game road trip against some of the worst teams in the league. While the last part of that sentence would be reassuring to fans of any of the other 29 NHL teams, we Sens fans know all too well how badly our team tends to play against weak opponents.
However, those who doubted the Sens did not take into account the fact that the Dallas Stars are essentially the pre-System Ottawa Senators (complete with Jason Spezza!), and if this year has taught us anything, it’s that teams that use The System are always better than teams that don’t. The System is all-powerful, and opponents are helpless against it.
(It also helps to face goalies that look like they would have trouble stopping a beach ball, but let’s just pretend we earned that win because we’re on a four game streak now.)
Tonight was an excellent demonstration of Dallas Stars hockey: a messy back-and-forth that made the other team’s offense look really good and their defense look really, really bad. It’s kinda nice to be on the other side of that for once. Is this how it felt to play the Sens a few years ago? Except, you know, minus the goaltending? This game almost felt like the completion of a prophecy, the final step in Ottawa’s rebirth as a Good Team, as they returned with more structure and depth to slay their former self and prove once and for all that they have changed for the better.
The game kicked off with a series of excellent chances from the Dallas Stars, as Craig Anderson was forced to stand on his head during a particularly painful sequence reminiscent of the good old defensive breakdowns we used to see on a nightly basis here in Ottawa. I don’t miss those days.
The Sens did get a number of odd-man rushes and quite a few good chances, though, with new acquisition Viktor Stalberg looking particularly dangerous in the offensive zone. Stalberg eventually drew a penalty, which led to a gorgeous powerplay goal from defenseman Chris Wideman.
Only a few minutes later, Fredrik Claesson doubled the Sens’ lead with his first NHL goal, a milestone that’s been a long time coming for a player who should have cemented his place in the lineup a long time ago. You have to wonder at this point if there’s anything the man can do to secure a regular spot on the blueline.
It was also pretty nice to see one of our guys score his first NHL goal, considering how many are scored on us every season.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored early in the second period to put Ottawa up by three goals, which prompted Dallas to pull Kari Lehtonen in favour of Antti Niemi. It didn’t take long for Tyler Seguin to respond for the Stars, tapping in a nice pass from former Senator Jason Spezza to shorten the lead to two goals.
The game continued with both teams looking entirely undeserving of even a single point, until Viktor Stalberg scored a truly awful powerplay goal late in the second to put the Sens up 4-1.
The third period was dominated by the Stars on the shot clock, with Dallas registering 17 shots to Ottawa’s 2, yet the goaltending made the difference as each team managed one own-goal. The first was given to Jason Spezza and bounced off Mark Borowiecki, while the second was attributed to Cody Ceci.
I don’t know how it’s possible to look so bad and yet win so decisively.
Sens Hero: Viktor Stalberg
The deadline acquisition was all over the ice tonight, with a goal and an assist. He also got a number of stellar scoring chances, and drew the penalty that led to the first Senators goal.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy stood tall throughout the game, and tied Patrick Lalime for most wins in a Sens uniform. It’s good to have him back.
Honourable Mention: Fredrik Claesson
Freddy gets the nod for scoring his first NHL goal, and generally being his usual steady self. What will it take for him to stay in the lineup?
Honourable Mention: Depth
The Sens were missing Kyle Turris tonight, and though his absence was certainly felt, the bottom six sure stepped up. We also had three young defensemen score, which showed depth all across the lineup. It certainly is a nice change to not have to worry about minor injuries at this point in the season.