The Senators hosted the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in their preseason home opener Wednesday night. As is customary in many preseason games, the respective rosters were barely recognizable from the clubs that finished out the season in thier respective cities.
I was fortunate enough to be a witness in person, and was upgraded (thanks to Steve Harding – 613-721-5605 or [email protected] for your Sens Tickets) to the very front row for the action.
Since it was a pre-season game, I will not go into great depth about the general play, but will focus on overall impressions for this one.
This was a game where coach Paul MacLean did a lot of line shuffling in order to determine who might have chemistry and also to see how players react in differnet situations. I went into this game with two main purposes: First, to see who is the best equipped to fill the 2nd line centre role, and second, to watch the battle for spots on the blue line.
In the first case, it is assumed that one of Peter Regin, Stephane DaCosta or Mika Zibanejad will get the first crack at being the second to Jason Spezza. In the latter, the battle for the 5-6-7 spots will likely come down to Jared Cowen, Brian Lee, David Rundblad and Matt Carkner.
Regin lined up on what amounted to Ottawa’s first line on the night, but at least for the start, he was on the wing with Nick Foligno in the middle, which surprised me a bit. However, Regin was soon in the centre spot where he looks more comfortable and he had a very good game. Da Costa also played well, creating chances and narrowly missing a couple of opportunities. Zibanejad showed flashes of brilliance, but on the whole seemed to struggle with positioning at times and his play with the puck could see improvement. Just when I was thinking that he was cashing in a ticket back to Sweden for more seasoning, he then one-timed the Brain Lee pass in overtime to give the Senators a 2-1 victory. All three have given MacLean and Bryan Murray some thinking to do, but in the end I would have to give the nod to Regin in the middle, based on what I have seen so far.
On the blue line, both Lee and Cowen impressed me. Cowen is a beast and is likely putting Carkner’s position on the team in jeopardy. Rundblad, like his countryman Zibanejad, has some work to do in terms of handling and distributing the puck, but also showed times where he does belong in the league. Lee had a goal and an assist on the night, and played a solid all-around game. It’s going to be a tough decision for the brass of the club to decide which 6 (or 7 or even 8) defenesmen they carry to start the season. Rundblad could get the Erik Karlsson treatment and head to Bingo for a while for some adjustment to the North American game, until needed on Ottawa. That will be the point where he could be in the bigs for good.
Craig Anderson played well in his 30 minutes, except for the goal, wher he kicked a rebound into the slot and couldn’t recover in time to stop the Lane MacDermid one timer. Alex Auld was very solid, stopping all 14 shots he faced.
Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67’s will not make the club this year, but he played extremely well and once he gets more strength will defintely be a player and a contributor for the Senators. His patience and poise are already NHL calibre, but at 18 and with a slightly smaller frame it will take a bit of time for his NHL strength to come around. He impressed nonetheless.
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