The Ottawa Senators bounce back after a disappointing afternoon loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins by shutting out their Battle of Ontario rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs- and it feels so good. In front of a sold out audience divided by the white and blue and red and black, the Sens Army finally got what it always wanted out of game night against Leafs Nation- silence.
Elliott picked up his 8th career shut out last night and the team rallied around him for points, something that they haven’t been able or willing to do for Pascal Leclaire. Many of Ottawa’s wins have been linked to Elliott in net and this may not be a question of stats, but of team mentality. If there was any doubt that Elliott was number one for Ottawa, they should be wiped clean. Teams rally for their number one and Ottawa looks more like a team when Elliott’s on the ice which shows clearly where their confidence lies. No amount of goaltender heroics can change that.
Admittedly, it will be argued that Toronto is not a hard team to beat. They’re certainly no Pittsburgh and Leclaire had a much tougher task fending off Pittsburgh’s loaded offense and red hot Captain. Ottawa’s offense has also struggled at the best of times this season, which was a big part of the reason why last night’s match up was so exciting. One, it’s always nice to see a big rival come to town, especially when that rival’s getting kicked in the teeth. Two, every struggling team needs a chance to assert itself, even if they’re not exactly what you would call evenly matched. Either way, this win was a positive and decisive one and the team needed it.
The goals were beautiful, off some slick moves and good puck handling. Fisher’s little drag and drop goal was impressive and if he was truly playing injured, I think the fans would ask him to play injured every night. But Fisher said he felt good and it showed, as his 2 highlight reel worthy goals lifted the team to their win, with some deft handling from Kovalev.
The only sore point on the night is the long-standing idea that Ottawa is a one-line team. Although this line changes, it seems that this holds true for the team,with Fisher, Michalek and Kovalev racking up all the points on the night. Secondary scoring needs to happen for this team to avoid becoming a one trick pony on the season, alternating between streaks and slumps.
Toronto’s game was slow and lacklustre for the most part. A few good chances were had in front of the net with some great saves from Elliott, who was also the busier of the two goaltenders on the night with 29 saves to Gustavsson’s 25. Nazim Khadri, who has been a source of controversy in Toronto with some believing that he should have made the team from the very start while others believe he still needs time in the minors, probably played the most solid game of all the Leafs on the ice- and then proved his critics right when he broke his stick in anger. This will not bode well for him when he makes his case that he’s mature and ready for the NHL.
The team around him didn’t do much better, though. They didn’t seem able to get their legs going in the game and they were turning over the puck and just handing it to the Ottawa Senators. This game could have been an even bigger blowout than it was and Ottawa’s defense was not truly tested. They were defending tired with little consequence. Their only big challenge on the night was Kuba’s accidental shot to Karlsson’s face. Thankfully, it hit the visor and Karlsson’s feelings did not look hurt.
Easy prey? Yes. Decisive win? Yes. A good feeling for Ottawa? Yes, yes and yes.
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.