It may be April Fool’s Day, but it was a serious game for the Ottawa Senators, as they clinched their playoff spot with a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders. The day started off in auspicious ways; in Ottawa, there was snow falling after an unusually warm spring and two of Ottawa’s key veterans, Captain Daniel Alfredsson and red hot Jason Spezza, were both out for the game. Alfredsson was out with the flu, while Spezza rushed home to his newborn girl. This meant that the pressure was on Kyle Turris to become the top centerman for the team in a crucial game and he delivered with 2 goals and 2 assists.
The fact that Ottawa made it into the playoffs in a rebuild year where all the critics had them pegged dead last may seem like an April Fool’s Day joke from the hockey gods. It may also seem like a joke that they could do it without their best players in Alfie and Spezza. But the last laugh of the day will have to go to Kyle Turris, whose trade to Ottawa from Phoenix caused an internet firestorm with critics and armchair hockey experts alike proclaiming the trade to be a bust for Ottawa and accusing Turris of being an underachiever. Turris has shown today that he is the real deal by rising to the occasion for a high stakes game without the benefit of Alfie or Spezza to lead him. Impressive.
Party poopers and bitter Leafs fans will say that Ottawa won its game because it played a weak Islanders team. Fact is, the New York Islanders will be celebrating 19 years of missing the playoffs and their low ranking in the league is not an accident. But the Islanders have been playing well lately, and it’s that time of the year when many playoff bound teams are being taken out by non-contenders who are under no pressure. So there was good reason to be worried for Ottawa fans, knowing that this was a must-win game with very few of them left.
Even with the handicap of missing Alfredsson and Spezza, Ottawa performed well against a very weak Islanders team. The Islanders showed why they’re golfing next week by playing a game riddled with more holes than Swiss cheese. Their coverage in their own zone is confused, frantic and often out of place. While credit is due to good play from Turris and Michalek, Michalek’s goal in the second period was largely due to errors by the Isles in front of the net, including a takedown of their own goaltender. Foligno’s goal also looked like the result of miscommunication in front, all the more confounding because there were plenty of blueshirts to go around.
Anderson did his part in the game after the lone goal from Streit and Tavares in the first. It was the first and only goal that Ottawa would give up, while Anderson made 29 saves to hold for a conclusive win. Anderson’s save on Grabner on a breakaway was indicative of the form that Ottawa’s goaltender has had lately, poised, confident and dominant in the net. He still wants to do a lot, maybe more than he should, but that’s just part of his will to win.
It was not a fun day for the New York Islanders, but there was one funny moment in the day. In the first period, a linesman fell into the Islanders bench, obviously disappointed at having missed his chance to make the roster. The players obliged him by pushing him back onto the ice, an excellent reminder to always keep your head in the game.
Ottawa has three more games to go including two at home this week on Tuesday and Thursday night. Carolina, Boston and New Jersey Devils will close out the regular season for the Sens, with Thursday’s bout against Boston having strong playoff implications. It’s highly likely that Ottawa and Boston will face off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a weeks’ time. If the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game was any indication of how the post season will look, Thursday’s game will be full of trash talking and messages being sent. Expect fireworks.
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.