Who said there aren't enough goals in the NHL? Sure, it was just the pre-season, but a game with 13 goals combined is always going to be exciting. It started off pretty much shot-for-shot, with Ottawa taking 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 leads before the Rangers took 4-3 and 5-4 leads. Then Ottawa tied it, took the lead, and scored a couple of empty-netters--giving Zack Smith and then Chris Kelly each a hat trick, to boot.
This wasn't a demonstration of goaltending skill, so I hope you weren't watching for that (in fact, I hope you're not a Sens fan if that's what you're looking for). Pascal Leclaire finished with a .833 SP, while Martin Biron (who actually looked alright at the outset of the game) finished with a .769 SP. Abhorrent. But hey, we won the shootout of the game, so all's good.
Sens hero: Zack Smith
You know what? Z. Smith doesn't give a crap. And tonight, he looked terrific. His line with Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester was outstanding: Youth, intensity, drive, grit, and enough finish to score four goals (with Z. Smith getting three of them). It was probably Z. Smith's best game, and an emphatic final opportunity to prove he's going to be the twelfth forward.
Sens zero: Pascal Leclaire
Gah... awful. But let's be real: Leclaire needs (and deserves) some opportunity in the regular season to get into a groove. But tonight didn't make that argument any easier. I'll give the guy a break on the ugly giveaway to Ruslan Fedotenko that resulted in Todd White's short-handed goal (it was miscommunication with Sergei Gonchar, and that's exactly the kind of misunderstanding that the pre-season is supposed to iron out), and Ottawa's defensive structure was, for the most part, as stable as a house of cards, but he wasn't good. Certainly not good enough.
Sens hero: Chris Kelly
I'm not sure what epiphany struck Kelly before the playoffs last season, but it's great to see that his scoring prowess has carried forward into this year's hockey. Tonight, Kelly had three goals; that we know, and it's a pretty obvious indicator of a game well played. But he was also his usual strong defensive force, killing penalties with the best, and just looked terrific.
Sens hero: One-man Journey cover band
There were maybe 12,000 people actually in attendance at the game against the Rangers; the place was dead. On the jumbotron comes a fairly normal-looking man, full head of hair, full close-shaved beard, red #61 Sens jersey (Sylvain Turgeon? Oleg Saprykin? [Ed note: Turns out it was a Cory Stillman jersey. Seriously!]), and a black vest overtop. Some music starts up; it's Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". The camera stays on the guy, and... is he singing? He is! He's lipsynching to "Don't Stop Believing", and it doesn't even look like he knows he's on the jumbotron. And then... just as we hear about the city boy, he looks right at the camera--his intensity picks up, and the guy starts going absolutely nuts. The passion and emotion was absolutely hilarious, and it went on for a good minute or so. And when the play started, dude just sat back down and started watching the game again--and was given the loudest ovation of the night.
Sens hero: Peter Regin
It's almost like Regin woke up tonight, and all it look were a couple of speedy young linemates in Z. Smith and Winchester. He "only" finished with two assists, but his play was noticeably improved from some past games, and he looked ready for the regular season--just in time, it would seem. And it wasn't just making plays, but also playing all-round good hockey; for instance, take the icing call Regin beat out by just out-skating and then out-muscling the Rangers defenceman to touch up the puck, taking a pretty big hit in the process. It was an impressive effort, as was his whole game tonight.
Sens hero: Nick Foligno
Didn't score a goal tonight, but Foligno definitely continued his great pre-season play tonight. It started when he just pummeled Dale Weise in an early-game fight, and continued through the game. He probably cemented his spot on the second line with Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev--but considering the instant chemistry Regin had with Winchester and Z. Smith, I don't think he's too disappointed. I'm pretty excited to see what kind of season we'll get from Foligno, because it's started out far beyond expectations.
Sens hero: Sergei Gonchar
I don't know if many will agree--and I know one particular hater from the post-game show won't--but I thought Gonchar was outstanding tonight. We know he was offensively strong, and the one assist he came out of the game shortchanges the contributions he gave to the scoring. But defensively, I thought Gonchar was rock-solid, too. He actually played 2:22 in short-handed time, and was surprisingly physical and able to intercept the puck. But his 'hockey smarts' level is near Alfredssonian, and what he might lack in speed he more than makes up for in smart positioning, good anticipation, and poise. Another thing that was very clear even just by the subtle body language I saw from the third level that this guy has stepped in and assumed a positive leadership role on the team--and that's nothing but a good thing.
Sens zero: Erik Karlsson
Taking the other side as Kelly, Karlsson hasn't come close to continuing his strong play from the playoffs into the start of this season. Through the game, he was soft on the puck, poorly positioned, and looked generally lost in large part. He still had some good offensive plays, but overall he was not good.
Sens killer: Brian Boyle
Apparently Boyle only played 16:10, but it looked like he never left the ice. He was a big guy and hard to miss when on the ice, but he really dominated most of the time. He was dominant.
Smarten up: Michael Del Zotto
Very unimpressed with Del Zotto when, with Z. Smith on a breakaway towards the empty net, the Rangers defender was just hacking away at his ankles trying to trip him up. It was ridiculous... maybe one could be understandable, as a last-ditch effort to stop Smith (although it would have been an automatic goal if he had), but Del Zotto gave three or four really solid hacks to the ankle. It was brutal.