The Ottawa Senators fell to the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in their season opener at home last night, in a game that was shaky at best. The Senators played without their star Centre, Jason Spezza, who was out with a groin injury and started Pascal Leclaire, who didn’t look stellar in his pre-season outings. The absence of Jason Spezza was clearly felt on the score board, with one lone goal from Ottawa coming courtesy of the Ruutu-Kelly-Neil line, arguably Ottawa’s most consistent and gritty line. But Leclaire gave a solid performance with some impressive saves that kept the Sens in the game right up until the dying seconds, giving the fans something to be happy about.
The Sens came out strong offensively in the game, but little errors undid all the good that they were trying to do. Turnovers, sloppy drop passes, and overall poor puck control meant that the the Sabres didn’t have to do much except wait. Taking advantage was Derek Roy with both goals for Buffalo on the night, picking up bad turnovers near the blue line and poke checking whenever he saw the chance. Although Ottawa won the majority of faceoffs, they lost puck possession almost as fast as they got it.
Showing great patience on the night were Leclaire in net, Gonchar on the blue line and Ruutu, who created a great chance for a charging Chris Kelly to net a beautiful goal against Miller. Showing a lot less patience and maybe even some absent-mindedness were Erik Karlsson and Chris Campoli. Karlsson’s dropped passes and bad turnovers were costly for the Senators, robbing them of the chance to make plays on Miller. Campoli can take some questionable penalties when he’s impatient on the ice and that’s when he doesn’t disappear altogether from the game.
Peter Regin also missed some fantastic chances on goal by not anticipating where he should be on the ice. Alfredsson tried to hand him a wide open shot on goal in the third period; trouble is, Regin wasn’t on the blue paint when it happened. Poor communication and puck control shows that Clouston has some work to do on juggling his lines without his star centre. Spezza would have been all over that shot.
The Buffalo Sabres are not a dominant force to be reckoned with, but like the grittier teams in the East, they don’t have to do much in order to win. They excel in low scoring games where their strong point is their ability to gain advantages off mistakes made from the opposition, and clogging the zone when the play makes its way towards Miller. As a result, Miller only has to be great when things get close; and he’s always great. The Sabres can have full confidence that he can handle the tough stuff when it comes; their game plan is simply to minimize the chances of that happening.
All in all, it wasn’t the kind of opening night any of the Ottawa fans were hoping for, but Leclaire exceeded expectations and showed good rebound control. He seemed more comfortable in net and there’s a good chance that all will be well, as long as he stays healthy and mentally strong. The defense has also stopped crease-sitting, which has no doubt helped Leclaire’s game and confidence level, and rightfully so. As for the rest of the team, though, they have a lot of work to be done and soon.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.