Well, that was fun. Sure, it was an exhibition game, and sure, neither team posted much of their expected regular-season lineup, but it was an impressively resounding statement win for the Ottawa Senators, taking a 5-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Biggest statement was made by goaltender Robin Lehner, who stopped all 24 shots he faced, and may have forced Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott to perk up a bit as they watched the game at home.
And although the Leafs didn't have much of their regular-season lineup, they did have a bunch of their best players, including some huge free agent acquisitions: Dion Phaneuf looked downright abysmal, Tomas Kaberle did nothing (despite the eight penalties Ottawa took, including a whack of 5-on-3s), Colby Armstrong looked like a third-liner at best, and Kris Versteeg did not look at all like an offensive leader. The Leafs' best defenceman on the night? Probably Matt Lashoff, the Leafs' ninth-highest paid defender who's going to be hard-pressed to make the NHL lineup.
On the Ottawa side, though, there were some terrific efforts--led, for the most part, by the players poised to make Ottawa's NHL lineup. And that shows in the listing of Sens heroes (read them all after the jump).
Sens hero: Robin Lehner
Lehner was terrific. He had an easy first period with only five shots against, but he was outstanding in the second period, preserving the Sens' lead with some terrific glove-saves, among others. Most Senators fans have tried to be careful not to overhype the Swedish 'tender, but after a performance like tonight's--no matter who led the Leafs' offence--makes it hard not to get excited. Unless your names are Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott, and you're looking for a contract extension.
Sens hero: Matt Carkner
It was a little odd, but the guy who'd entered the Senators' previous two training camps as a forward played the part of top defender in tonight's game. Carkner played 21:48 in all, including 6:13 while short-handed, and finished +2 with an assist and two shots--and he tried to take a whole lot more shots, but most were blocked or went wide. The Senators are going to need Carkner to step up on the blue line this season, and it looks like he's done what he can to get ready.
Sens hero: Nick Foligno
I've got to say, I'm very surprised--and impressed--with what I saw from Foligno tonight. There was a reason he led Senators forwards in ice time, and it's because he was absolutely buzzing. He only had one goal, but it was a beauty, skating right past Phaneuf and flicking a shot almost straight up over the glove of Jonas Gustavsson. Word is that Foligno will try to make his case for a top-six roster spot, and if tonight was any indication, he looks like he's got a good shot.
Sens hero: David Hale
Although Hale took two unfortunate penalties, he still played 21:22, including 6:01 short-handed. It's going to be difficult for Hale to stick to the NHL this season, but he and Carkner were a pretty menacing pairing tonight. He even had an assist, which can't be expected of him very often.
Sens hero: Jesse Winchester
Behind Foligno, probably the Senators' best forward--which is a good thing, because Winchester is definitely playing for a roster spot this season. He looked like he would get one tonight. Winchester doesn't have the puckhandling skills of Ryan Shannon, but he's so much more physically stable that Cory Clouston will have to choose him ten times out of ten over Shannon, no matter how much he likes the latter.
Sens hero: Chris Neil
Didn't play much until late in the third period, but he actually led the Senators offensively with a goal and two assists. Can't really complain about that, can we? Although we can say that Neil wasn't his usual physical force, that's acceptable when he gets the offensive numbers he did tonight.
Sens hero: Zack Smith
Z. Smith doesn't care what you think. That is all.
Sens hero: Chris Kelly
Kelly is already in mid-season form: You'll hardly ever notice him on the ice, but he'll have plenty of ice time, and he'll never be a liability when he's out there. Although everyone noticed his sweet short-side goal on Jussi Rynnas, he was still his normal reliable self.
That has to be it for Sens heroes; the number I've selected is already ridiculous, any more would just be absurd. People are likely wondering about the prospects, though: None of Bobby Butler, Mike Hoffman, nor Roman Wick had very much ice time, but that might have been a good thing considering the runs the Leafs were taking at Senators forwards. Wick showed the most offensive dynamism, with an assist on the game-winning goal and some good puck-handling, but none of them were particularly noticeable. One defence, Jared Cowen played lots and finished +2, but he doesn't quite look ready to play against NHL opponents; despite his size, Cowen was pushed around in front of the net, and had a few unfortunate defensive-zone giveaways. And Brian Lee, well... just look at his stats line: No points, even +/-, no shots, but one fight (he threw a phantom punch and fell on the follow-through). Lee was solid enough at times, including notably a strong-arm shiver to Nazem Kadri, but wasn't great.
Invisible man: Ryan Keller
Did anyone know he was playing tonight? I didn't.
Updated Sens hero: Corey Locke
Had to throw Locke in here, because he was the best forward on a two-way contract in the game tonight. He did not look at all out of place tonight, and will probably be among the first call-ups if and when the Senators have injury problems.
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