The Ottawa Senators put in a good, energetic game against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight which resulted in a 3-1 win. It was well-deserved, as Ottawa’s young players ran circles around the Thrashers, putting good pressure on them and pinching them hard in the zone. They showed lots of speed, lots of fight, and came out of the gate swinging. It’s just the style of game that a red-blooded Canadian hockey fan likes to see and definitely indicative of what was missing this season. This new Senators team is younger (the average age of the former Sens being 31.5, ‘old’ in hockey terms), but they’re also faster, more confident, hungry and they support one another.
Greening got his first ever NHL goal, Butler contributed with a great odd angle shot from the ankles with 3 defenders in front of him and Foligno made a great tip off a shot from Derek Smith, who himself picked up his first NHL point with an assist. It was a night for young guns to shine.
It’s even made the older players better. Kuba is making less mistakes on the ice, Spezza has really stepped up his game and Gonchar is also showing more resolve than he has in ages. Foligno’s scrappy efforts are being rewarded as well, with more bodies charging to the net and more chances being created on every shift. It seems like this team is communicating better on every level and Clouston is doing his part too, letting them know that they shouldn’t be intimidated by anyone.
But the biggest impact player for this team is Craig Anderson. It’s incredible when you watch the game and realize just how present he is. This man doesn’t settle down on the ice at all or keep to himself. He throws his arms int he air, he appeals to refs, he slams his stick down on the ice and he seems to be yelling during the game. It makes you realize just how quiet Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire have been for the team, just hanging out in their bubble. Neither one of them is a good communicator and strangely enough, it looks like this is a difference-maker.
Of course, it helps that Anderson keeps just about everything out of the net. Even the one goal by Byfuglien was assisted by Lee and Wheeler falling down on Anderson, a call that probably should have been goaltender interference. He was quick to protest, refusing to take it ‘lying down’ (pardon the pun), but the ref did come around to explain that the puck was in before he went down. Ever the professional, Anderson shrugged it off and kept the team in the game despite a late flurry of activity in the last minute and a half in the game. He stymied the Thrashers during the whole game, in particular, Little, who has been a Sens killer in the past. 42 saves later, Andy put it in the bag and made it look good.
There’s reason to start feeling optimistic in Ottawa. With less pressure on the team, it gives them all a chance to get to know each other and their game style and develop. It gives the younger guys the world’s largest stage for a tryout next year, and it’s evident even after only 6 games that Anderson has little to prove. If he’s not with the team next year, it will be because he walked, not because we didn’t want to sign him. If this keeps up, his will be the winning jersey in the Sens store next season.
The only thing missing from this picture is the face of Ottawa- Daniel Alfredsson. While he hopes that he will be back sometime this season, his latest injury has been keeping him down. Spezza has been doing a good job of mentoring the young players, but Alfie can’t be replaced. If he’s sitting at home watching the games in the meantime, I’m sure that he’s happy with what he sees.
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.