Top Ten: 2014-15 Ottawa Senators
A look at my top ten things from this past Sens season.
Next week we will begin the year in review in earnest here at Silver Seven. Today I thought it would be appropriate that in place of just five thoughts, I bring you ten of my favourite things from the past season. I purposely kept "things" as the category, so that I could put really anything in here. I'd been sitting on this post for a while, waiting to release it when the Senators were eliminated from playoff contention as a way of salvaging a lost season. I'm much happier publishing this two weeks after I first expected to.
10. Colin Greening's "goal"
I'm a little biased on this one, because I was at the game. Because Greening got awarded a goal with two seconds left, I got a free Big Mac out of this game. This ended up being his only point on the year, and he didn't even put the puck in the net. It was pretty much a microcosm of his very frustrating season. It is most likely the last time we'll see him on the scoresheet for the Senators. If you'd told me three years ago that Young Star Colin Greening would only play 26 games and fail to record a single non-awarded point, I would've been surprised. I think we can all agree that Greening was simply a victim of his contract. He can be a good fourth-line guy in the NHL, but not at $2.65-million. For all these reasons, Soylent's "goal" (should I call it Nikita Zadorov's goal?) makes the cut as my tenth-favourite thing from this season.
9. Mike Hoffman's two-point night against the Blue Jackets
Do you remember way back at the beginning of the year when Hoffman was scratched? Hoffman played the first two games, then was a healthy scratch for two games, and then was back in for this game. He got things going early, getting hauled down for a penalty shot. On that shot, he attempted the Peter Forsberg, a bold move by a rookie who was having trouble making it into the lineup.
He then opened the scoring with a sweet deke move to set up David Legwand all alone in front of the net.
He also closed the scoring, showing off his great speed and quick hands for the first of many times this season.
Without that game, Hoffman would probably still have been oft-scratched. Instead, he went on to score 27 goals, the most among rookies NHL-wide. This was one of the biggest redemption ames for a Sens player on the year.
8. TSN team
When Rogers took over Hockey Night in Canada, it was unclear what this meant for Sens fans. It seemed unlikely that Sportsnet would also retain the regional rights. Sure enough, TSN gobbled up the rights to Ottawa's local games. No one could have known how well that would go. To be fair, no one will ever be Dean Brown to me. Thankfully, TSN retained him for their radio broadcasts. And on TV, we got Jamie McLennan, Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, and Ray Ferraro. The intermission panels consisted of James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, and Darren Dreger - a step up from Nick Kypreos for sure. These were people who willingly admitted Erik Karlsson was good, who could give intelligent conversation about goaltending ability, who came across as insightful, who didn't use everything as an excuse to reference the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I don't think we realized just how much we were spoiled until the playoffs hit. Suddenly, every broadcast featured Glenn Healy. In a fickle market with an inferiority complex ready to call bias on any national broadcaster at the drop of a hat, TSN did well to appeal to Sens fans.
7. Erik Condra vs St Louis
I said earlier that Hoffman had one of the biggest redemption games of the season. Without a doubt, the biggest redemption game for a Sens player came for Condra on November 25th. It was Condra's seventh game of the year, despite it being the Sens' 21st. He was easily the most noticeable Senator on the night, scoring the infamous Erik Condra hat-trick:
Is that an "Erik Condra hat trick"? Get 3 but only 1 counts.— Steve Lloyd (@TSNSteveLloyd) November 26, 2014
In the first, Condra scored a shorthanded goal, squeaking the puck through Brian Elliott's pads, then tucking in the garbage, but an early whistle (remember those?) denied him the goal. I couldn't find video, but this photo shows why the play shouldn't have been blown dead.
In the second, Chris Butler shoved Condra on top of Elliott, injuring Elliott on the play. On the ensuing scrum, it looks like Chris Neil shovelled the puck in. However, for whatever reason, the refs decided to overturn that goal too because Condra should've activated his hoverskates or something so he didn't land on Elliott.
Finally, in the third, Condra got a goal that counted.
Alex Chiasson would tie it in the final minute, a fantastic period of OT failed to solve anything, and Bobby Ryan finally won it in the shootout. Still, this was Condra's game. From here on out, he wasn't scratched again, and became a crucial part of Ottawa's playoffs run.
6. Shutting out the Ducks and Kings
The Andrew Hammond run was a huge part of this season, and I think this was when the run started in earnest. Hammond won his first two career NHL starts against the Canadiens and Panthers, which was nice. However, most Sens fans weren't seriously thinking playoffs at that point. After all, the dreaded California trip was coming up. This was what sunk Ottawa's previous season all the way back in October 2013. They never seemed to recover from that trip. Anyway, all Hammond did this time was shutout the Ducks and Kings on consecutive nights. Steve Mason was the only goalie ever to shutout both teams on the same trip, and even then he had a day off in between. Overnight (or rather, over two nights), the Legend of the Hamburglar was born. By the time the Sens were back in Ottawa, after defeating the Jets and Sharks, and losing to the Wild in a shootout, full-blown Hamburglar fever was in effect.
5. Karlsson's captaincy and Ryan's extension
October 2nd was a big day for the Sens, even though the season hadn't started yet. First of all, the Sens named Karlsson as the team's next captain. I live in Calgary, and so by the time I woke up, the announcement had already happened. The notification on my phone said "Ottawa Senators name defenseman..." before the cutoff. So I drew a deep breath, said, "It's probably Chris Phillips" so I wouldn't be disappointed, and checked the news. To my delight, it was Karlsson. Right after that, the team announced the signing of Bobby Ryan to a 7-year, $50.75-million extension. Many debated whether or not this was good value for a player coming off injury who would be 28 before the extension kicked in. However, it was important for a few reasons. It meant that there was no sideshow of whether the Sens should trade or re-sign Ryan for the season. It meant that a top-tier talent was satisfied with Ottawa's long-term outlook. A guy who could've had a huge payday in free agency opted to remain in Ottawa. Like I wrote on the day of these announcements, it was a sign that Ottawa was embracing the future. The role of the old guard was finally diminished. In a way, it set the stage for the scratching of vets like Phillips, Neil, Legwand, and even Zack Smith as the season wore on.
4. Alfie retirement
Late November, rumours started swirling that Bryan Murray and Daniel Alfredsson had gone for a drive ahead of a Red Wings-Sens game in Detroit. The idea was that Alfie was planning to retire, and wanted to retire as an Ottawa Senator. Sure enough, a few days later, Alfie cryptically announced that he would return to the capital.
Coming to Ottawa with the family on Dec. 4th. Looking forward to see everybody! #HappyThanksgiving #drycake?— Daniel Alfredsson (@DAlfredsson11) November 27, 2014
(Side note: for a team with a history of great Twitter hashtags, including #lalala and #bigbootypoppin, is #drycake the most fun and ridiculous because it makes no sense?)
He signed a one-day contract with the team, participated in warm-ups, took a ceremonial face-off with his family and Karlsson, and healed all our hearts. I think I speak for many when I say this thing provided closure that I didn't realize I needed. I could wear my Alfie jersey again. He travelled with the team to Montreal for Game 5 these playoffs. If you have 12 minutes, I've embedded the whole pre-game ceremony here to watch. It's well worth the time.
3. Comeback vs Pittsburgh
With Ottawa's season on the line, things looked bleak in this game. 10 seconds in, Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins the lead. At the end of the first, it was 3-0. Slowly, Ottawa started to crawl back. Jean-Gabriel Pageau got a shorthanded goal in the second off the skate of Derrick Pouliot. Mark Stone scored early in the third. With under two minutes to play, and with Hammond pulled, Hoffman used his fantastic release to tie the game.
Hoffman had been demoted to the fourth line in recent games, so the fact that he got this chance and then buried it was huge. Then in overtime, Stone came through as he had in so many recent games, potting the game-winner.
Stone was huge so many times down the stretch, but this was one of his clutchiest. He also had some of the best post-win celebrations of any Sens player ever. Speaking of celebrations, I'll use that as an excuse to show this video of his shootout winner against the Wings.
2. Bobby Ryan goal
Ottawa was down 2-0 against the Kings. The Ryan went and did this:
In my opinion, it was the prettiest individual effort for a goal by a Sens player since Jason Spezza. It was NHL.com's fourth-best goal of the year, and my second-favourite thing about this year's Senators.
1. 21-3-3 run to end the year
It's hardly fair to include a stretch of 27 games as one thing, but it's easily the defining moment of this year's Senators. Starting February a full 14 points out of a playoff spot, only to become the first team ever to make up a 14-point deficit to make the playoffs. Andrew Hammond tying Frank Brimsek's 77-year-old record for starts to begin a career allowing two-or-fewer goals. The Hamburglar legend. TSN ordering 10,000 Hamburglar masks for a home game. People throwing burgers on the ice. Curtis Lazar eating a burger thrown on the ice. Mark Stone's celebrations (see #2 above). A huge run that propelled Karlsson and Stone and Hammond to Norris and Calder and Masterton nominations respectively. So many things in the past two months were unbelievable. And yet, they happened. It ended up being a great year. It doesn't cover the last few games of the season, but this March 23 pre-game video by the Sens' media team relives so many of the best moments.
So that does it for my countdown, and amazingly, there so many other moments I thought of that I couldn't include. Erik Karlsson's three-point night against the Habs, including this beautiful near-shorthanded goal:
This great move by Kyle Turris which I got to see live:
Bobby Ryan getting a hat-trick in that game in which Greening scored. Winning two playoff games against the Habs after going down 3-0. I could probably keep going. Anyway, what I'm saying is that this list is subjective and non-exhaustive. If you have another favourite moment, please share it in the comments.
It's been a great season, and you've been a spectacular audience. I hope to see you all periodically over the summer, and then back in earnest come fall. Go Sens Go! And though I rarely say it, I am extremely thankful that you've taken the time to read any of my work this year. Thanks for reading!