A lot of people in Ottawa are on Clouston Watch, waiting to see when the axe will fall on him and his job. There are a lot of naysayers in Ottawa, but one group hasn’t given up on him and that’s his team. The Senators rallied for a pretty convincing 6-4 win over the New York Islanders last night that had many people shaking their heads and wondering: who are these guys anyway? After a 6-0 pounding by the Boston Bruins, the Senators were resolved not to be embarassed again and played a spirited, fast-paced game. They were impressive, but who were they?
I think that I finally know what it feels like to be a Leafs fan. After seeing some disappointing games, I feel apprehensive about each game, not sure if I really want to be watching, dreading the worst. And when the team wins, I get this huge grin on my face and start telling everyone I see, to the point where people in the office must think that I’m somewhat deranged. But the team itself seems to have two faces and are doing a pretty good Jekyll/Hyde routine and the worst part is, you’re never sure which one’s going to show up on the ice.
So what was different here? Well, the New York Islanders are clearly not the Boston Bruins. Once referred to as the doormats of the NHL, they didn’t do much to disprove this theory on the night. They were sloppy, their defense was poor and disorganized and they were making simple mistakes. Their goaltending situation is the most laughable in the league as well, with the infamous DiPietro signing that still haunts the club and its salary cap to this day, and then the uncertain tandem of Poulin and Lawson, both of whom tried their luck against Ottawa last night.
Which isn’t to say that Ottawa didn’t come out to play, even if their adversary was severely wounded and shakey at best. Ottawa played a good cycle game with a lot of movement, quick sharp passes and showed good persistence, not giving up on plays and getting a few garbage goals. Ottawa’s Captain set out to prove that he has no signs of age and punched in a goal within a few seconds of puck drop, effectively silencing his critics. The grinders on the team saw their efforts rewarded, as Winchester, Michalek, Foligno, Kelly and Smith all found the back of the net.
The Senators did well by scoring by committee with 6 goals by 6 players on the night. Robin Lehner came in for his first NHL start that ended favourably with a win, but was still a bit shakey. Fresh off a bitter tirade in the World Juniors off a bad icing call, Lehner talks a bigger game than he brings, as his glove side was weak. He was clearly fighting the puck and he was fortunate to have Phillips to bail him out. Still, it was good to see a back up for Elliott, who has taken over position 1 and 2 in Ottawa since Leclaire’s latest injury. Lehner is clearly the goaltender of the future for Ottawa, but he needs to clam up and work harder at his game.
Corey Locke also had a good game with Ottawa, picking up his first NHL point with an assist on Foligno’s goal. When it comes to callups, this was a good one. The temptation to call up any flavour of the month from Binghampton is probably pretty strong in Ottawa, but picking up consistent players with a good work ethic should be the main focus and Locke fits the bill nicely.
One couldn’t watch the game without taking in a bit of off-ice drama. Murray has talked to the press about possible retirement plans after this season, a possible move for Phillips and no updates on Clouston Watch. There’s a lot going on in the background as well for this team and hopefully, it will motivate them. Everyone’s counting the Senators out at the moment, and for a team that’s looking for an identity, underdog will do just fine. At least for the rest of this season.
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.