The Ottawa Senators stole a playoff spot from Buffalo tonight with a 4-1 win on home ice. It was a night for stories, with sibling rivalry, a fresh start, a shaky star goaltender looking for redemption and the return of veterans to the blue line. All that is enough excitement for one game, but this game surprisingly had very little going on until the third period.
Marcus Foligno got his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres against his older brother Nick Foligno suiting up for the Sens. With family in attendance, neither Foligno got on the scoreboard, but it surely was a milestone. Kyle Turris managed to get his first point with the Senators, which was an assist on the Condra goal in the third. He didn’t have a bad night overall with responsible play away from the puck, but very few opportunities to get shots on goal, something which will improve as he gets used to working with his linemates.
Ryan Miller still doesn’t look like himself and the recent controversial comments made by the Sabres owner hasn’t helped the situation at all. The offhand comments on the goaltending situation in Buffalo undermines the leadership role of Miller on this team and that would be a major mistake. His rebound control has been atrocious since Lucic’s hit, and while he may claim to be concussion-free, his confidence is wavering. This loss probably hasn’t helped.
Anderson let in a soft goal in the second period, but the return of Kuba and Gonchar to the lineup seems to have paid dividends. The forwards have also chipped in for some good plays in front of Anderson as well, but he didn’t see anything like the amount of shots that Miller did. This was largely a lacklustre neutral zone “catch me-catch you” type of game. Little chip passes back and forth, casual puck handling, missed passes and absent-mindedness dominated this game.
The Senators stole this game from Buffalo because they played smarter than the Sabres. Buffalo made many mistakes in the neutral zone which allowed Ottawa to pick up the puck and get more chances. Paul Gaustad didn’t do the team any favours either by dialing up the tone with a hard hit to Winchester in the first period that knocked him out of the game and roughing up Regin in the third.
Erik Condra had a great night with 2 goals, including an empty netter which was mostly the result of the absent-mindedness of the Sabres who didn’t have a player far back to protect their zone. Karlsson picked up a power play goal and Zack Smith also tipped one in off a never-give-up play. Zack Smith’s intensity, Karlsson’s high risk dynamic play, Condra’s steady game and the continued leadership of veterans Alfie and Spezza make this team exciting to watch.
It will be exciting for Sens fans to wait and see what kind of line magic the young Turris can bring once he’s adapted to the new team. He said that he wanted an opportunity to play and prove himself. If that was his Christmas wish, he got it.
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.