Although the 4-0 score makes it look like the Ottawa Senators were completely and cleanly outplayed by the Carolina Hurricanes, that wasn't quite the case. The Sens had their chances to score, but couldn't convert on any of them. In an early-game powerplay, both Daniel Alfredsson and Nick Foligno missed glorious chances to score, and through the game the Senators went on to ring the iron three separate times. And although 37 of Ottawa's shots did hit the net--18 in the third period alone--Cam Ward was there to stop all of them. When Carolina got chances to score, they made them count on the scoreboard.
Aside from the score, the story remains who will step up as Jason Spezza's injury casts an ominous shadow over the team's playoff hopes--hopes that took a huge hit tonight, as the Sens lost ground to the 'Canes in the race for the final playoff spots. Jesse Winchester had more shots than any other forward, and as well as he played, he's not going to fill Spezza's skates, and with only one shot on net, Peter Regin isn't in any shape to do it. No one else seemed at all interested in it, aside from perhaps Ryan Shannon (not going to happen) and Milan Michalek (got to love his hard-skating at times, but the guy can't score to save his life). Something has got to give.
Sens Killer: Home ice
The Senators are now 9-10-2 on home ice. All five times Ottawa's been shut out this season have been at Scotiabank Place. Last season, home games led the Sens to the post-season; this year, their own barn has been far less beneficial.
Sens Killer: Zach Boychuk
Dave Schreiber called Boychuk a 'whirling dervish' on the ice tonight, and--assuming that means what I think it means--he was absolutely right. He scored the first two goals for Carolina, setting the Senators behind by a deuce early in the first period and putting them back on their heels. Once the team recovered, they were down by three, and then four, and couldn't get anything past Ward.
Sens Killer: Cam Ward
Killed the Sens again tonight, as he seems to do any time the Hurricanes win. (I guess Ward's usually a big part of any game the Hurricanes win, realistically.) He made 37 saves, which is pretty impressive, but his 18-save third period was incredibly impressive.
Sens Zero: Sergei Gonchar
On the plus side, Gonchar had a team-high five shots on net tonight. On the minus side, he still looks fragile and lacking in confidence--not the kind of aura you want your highest-paid defenceman to skate around the ice with. In a telling powerplay sequence late in the game, Gonchar whiffed on a shot and missed the net by a mile; as the puck came into the defensive end, Gonchar was stripped of the puck by Patrick Dwyer and Dwyer scored the 'Canes' fourth goal of the game to all but salt it away. It wasn't pretty.
Sens Zero: Filip Kuba
Similar problems to Gonchar, but without the offensive dynamism that helps to offset them. Kuba had virtually no assertiveness, literally no physicality, and was muscled off the puck more times than I care to remember--including a couple times that led to Hurricanes goals. Not good at all, especially from the second-highest paid defenceman and another veteran on the team. With leadership like this, it's little wonder the team's stuck in a tailspin.
Fun with Numbers:
Erik Cole had a game-high eight (!) shots on net tonight. ... Aside from Eric Staal, no Hurricane was better than 50% in the faceoff circle. ... Zack Smith won both faceoffs he took, while Jesse Winchester won six of nine (little wonder why that third line was the Senators' best, as they more often than not started with possession). ... Erik Karlsson led the Senators in ice time once again tonight (25:06), but "only" has four shots on net. He was tagged with five giveaways, though.
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