Last night’s game against Boston was brutal in just about every way, with lots of rough stuff, frustrating turnovers, a total offensive blowout for the Bruins and zero goals for Ottawa. Ottawa went down 6-0 with Patrice Bergeron getting his first ever hat trick (although there was a false alarm which resulted in two hat showers on the night) and despite Elliott’s attempts to keep the game within reach, nobody on the Ottawa bench stepped up.
To be fair, there weren’t a lot of candidates for this task. Jason Spezza and Alexei Kovalev are both out with injuries, but Kovalev had been mentally absent for awhile now, so that was no big surprise. A few players were called up from Binghampton to help beef up the roster, but they haven’t been able to do much and they can’t be blamed for that. They are AHL players, after all, and most of them aren’t ready to crack the majors just yet.
Their choices have been something of a mystery, though. Jim O’Brien was called up, but not some of the more familiar pre-season faces such as Bobby Butler, Corey Locke and Jared Cowen. Surely these guys would have been better candidates, having already played a bit with this team? Perhaps there are other factors at play right now that restrict movement of these players at this time, but either way, an effort should be made to get some of these guys called up.
Unfortunately, Ottawa’s two best players on the night were the unfortunate Brian Elliott and Matt Carkner. It seems like nonsense to claim that the best player in a 6-0 loss was the goaltender, but in all honesty, he was. Brian Elliott was solid in this game and it was the Ottawa defense that failed him, utterly collapsing in the zone, with everyone losing their man. The Bruins owned the neutral zone and took advantage of every cross ice pass, making turnovers happen for them and putting great pressure on Ottawa. While they’re not a powerhouse team, their simple game strategy of playing tight in the zone and gaining puck possession off their opponents mistakes made it possible for them to blow the Senators out of the water and utterly embarass them.
Carkner’s two fights were the most interesting part of the night if you’re a Senators fan. While Bergeron’s hat trick was entertaining, along with the false alarm hat trick, the Bruins didn’t play an elegant game. Their simple strategy was the result of capitalizing off sloppy plays and quickly turning the puck over and in. The Bruins didn’t win this game; Ottawa lost it. They never corrected their mistakes, upped their defense or created any viable chances for themselves, other than two post shots in the game that wouldn’t have salvaged it.
Only Carkner stood up to make a statement and he had the upper hand in both his fights, despite the linesman butting in at the wrong moment in the third. He’s an enforcer and if he hadn’t stepped up, nobody would have even noticed that Ottawa was still there.
In all honesty, it wouldn’t matter if you traded down all the Ottawa Senators and called up all the Binghampton Senators to replace them. Their chances at winning would probably be about the same. Marking their sixth straight loss has seemingly crushed the confidence of this team and its fanbase and it doesn’t look like they’re going to pull together anytime soon. Which is a shame, because Elliott’s efforts in goal should have been rewarded with at least one goal from his team and he did manage to elevate his level of play in this match up, despite some prior shakey starts.
Injuries aside, Ottawa has to stop making excuses or pointing the finger if they want to scrape together what’s left of this season. They need to start developing actual game plans that fit their opponent’s style. Collapsing on the net when you’re playing the leading team in the NHL for short handed goals is simply not smart- a tight man on man defense would have been the right choice. The cross-seam pass kept getting cut off by the Bruins who play a tight neutral zone game- more forwards should have been skating the puck into the zone while fanning out to create more space on the ice. And the only way to beat Thomas is with traffic in front- they should have been storming the crease.
In the Art of War, they say to know your enemy. But right now, Ottawa’s worst enemy is itself.
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.