Toronto’s league leading rough boys (33 majors) were at it again. This is the team Brian Burke wanted with its “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence…” Entering tonight’s game – Colton Orr led the team with 10 majors, Frazer McLaren with 8 and Mark Fraser with 7. Chris Neil seems downright tame with only 4 majors this year. By the end of the game Toronto’s 3 fighters could add another fighting major to their resumes. Matt Kassian got to dance twice, winning his first and losing his second. While Ottawa had the edge in special teams coming into the game, they were left scratching their heads by the end of it. When hockey was being played, Ottawa gained momentum and out-chanced Toronto but Toronto would have none of it. Ottawa’s offense saw their opportunities thwarted by deflections away from trouble, bobbled passes and hitting the wrong side of goal posts or crossbars. Mistakes by Ottawa were generally capitalized on. It was a frustrating night for Senator players and fans.
Most of the first period was ruined by a parade of players to the penalty box; Ottawa couldn’t role four lines and special teams ate up quality minutes. Daniel Alfredsson’s penalty at 2.03 allowed the two hottest Leafs to team up for their first goal, a power play marker. Joffrey Lupul had 5 goals in 5 games since returning from a wrist injury and Nazem Kadri was producing at a point per game pace. Lupul took a hard pass from Kadri and deflected it through Ben Bishop’s five-hole. Ottawa’s first shot on goal didn’t occur until Mike Hoffman tested James Reimer at the 13.03 mark. Shortly after, Mika Zibanejad passed from blue line to blue line and sent in Guillaume Latendresse for their best chance to tie the game. Their next would be a short-handed shot from Jim O’Brien that beat Reimer but deflected off the crossbar. Colin Greening was back on the ice after his fight with Fraser and looked to have scored a goal when he jammed home a rebound that was sitting in the blue paint. Unfortunately, the official had lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead just before Greening scored.
Ottawa gained momentum throughout the second period and were able to establish their puck possession game and take the play to the Leafs. The second period was mostly uninterrupted hockey; every shift saw Ottawa gaining ground. They were winning battles and powering up, getting ready to do what they do best – come from behind and win. Coming into the game Ottawa had scored 33 and allowed only 17 goals in the second period. This is where Ottawa has generally flourished. It looked like it could have worked until Chris Neil accidentally tripped John-Michael Liles away from the play. Before the penalty could be called, Toronto got their extra attacker on and maintained control of the puck. A deflection, in front of Bishop, landed on Kadri’s stick. He already had position on Chris Phillips and shot it into the open net making it 2-0. Lupul had an assist on the play. Toronto took a penalty late in the period and Ottawa continued to press. Patrick Wiercioch made a perfect stretch pass to send Latendresse in alone on Reimer. Reimer stayed with him and made a fantastic stop. The last couple minutes of the second period saw Ottawa continue to generate quality chances on the power play without beating the Toronto goalie.
The third period didn’t start off well. Toronto ended up with two goals on their first three shots. An uncharacteristic turnover by Jakob Silfverberg, deep in Ottawa’s zone, led to the third goal of the game. Lupul, left alone in the slot, was able to deke Bishop into committing before he slid the puck over to Kadri. Kadri was driving to the net and banged it in to make it 3-0. Shortly after, Kyle Turris and Alfredsson failed to clear the zone and turned over the puck at the blue line. Andre Benoit mishandled the puck and put it onto Lupul’s stick. Lupul passed to Kadri, high in the slot, and his wrist shot beat Bishop cleanly – making it 4-0. The final shot totals were 31 for Ottawa and 23 for Toronto.
- The game didn’t feel like a typical Senators game from the onset. Were they tired? The team’s bound to have some mental fatigue with so many games in such a short time. Most nights there are numerous Ottawa players to choose from for Player of the Game. Tonight, it’s a tougher question than normal as many players were not as effective as they normally are. Senators defenseman weren’t generating the offence we’ve come to count on game in, game out. Our forwards didn’t operate with their usual precision and weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities they had.
- I thought that shutting down Kadri and Kessel wouldn’t be hard as Paul MacLean had the matchups he wanted and the Senators ability to score by committee would be more than enough to win the game. I was wrong on both counts. I forgot that it wasn’t that long ago that Ottawa’s offense was struggling to score goals. There was bound to be trouble in paradise eventually.
- Kassian is supposed to serve as a deterrent to fighting. He’s there to police other enforcers/goons so that his teammates can play hockey instead of worrying about fighting. So why was he fighting? No one on Toronto was taking liberties with Ottawa’s players. Mission accomplished – he was an EFFECTIVE DETERRENT, Toronto goons weren’t mugging our skill players. There was no need for payback, at least not now when so much of the Senator’s playoff hopes are dependent on the next string of games. Instead of playing hockey, the Senators dropped to Toronto’s level of play and decided to engage the enemy on their terms. What was the result? What was accomplished? If anything, it proved that fighting works better for Toronto. Does that sound like a deterrent?
SENSHOT PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tough call tonight but the player who performed at his usual high level of performance despite the outcome of the game – was Erik Condra. He was a penalty killing menace and created chances while being short-handed. I was surprised that no one seemed to notice Condra when he got his head bashed by Cody Franson’s elbow/forearm after Condra took the puck to the corner at the end of a penalty kill shift. Apparently, he has a hard head.
The Ottawa Senators will face the thorn in their side – Boston Bruins. The following stretch of 7 games will be the Senator’s longest road trip of the season. It’ll be bookended by the Bruins as well. All the matchups are against Eastern Conference teams and will have play-off significance.