Ottawa - Oct. 12, 2011 - The Ottawa Senators defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in a shootout last night which can only be described as a huge win this season. It’s hard to call a game huge so early in the season, but with a young squad and fragile ego in play, last night’s win will give the Senators confidence a huge boost ahead of tomorrow night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
It was an electric night, as the Senators hosted their 20th home opener in modern history. The Senators brass brought back 14 players from the Senators first team for this anniversary. The players were greeted with a standing ovation from the fans.
The Senators fought back from 3-1 down and eventually won in a shootout with both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson scoring for the Senators to bring a packed house to its feet and give the Senators their first victory of the season.
Falling behind early
For the third straight game the Senators fell behind early. In all three games the Senators played well in the first period for stretches, staying with Detroit for 7-8 minutes. However, defensive lapses in their own zone have cost the Senators early in games. The majority of these mistakes are taking place within 10 feet of the blue line where the puck is turned over.
Credit needs to be given to the Senators for not giving up in any of the games and for fighting back last night to win. A few of the veterans have played well in the first three games. Jason Spezza (despite his late 3rd period give a way), Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson have been solid. New comer Stephane Da Costa has played well, although he needs to learn to keep his head up when coming across the blue line.
Without a doubt the Senators best player overall has been Chris Neil. His play last night was nothing short of brilliant. Not only did Chris Neil score a goal and set up another one, but he handed out solid body checks all night long and his work effort was second to none on the ice. Short on talent, Neil has lots of heart and he’s the hardest working Senator. Any team in the NHL could use a Chris Neil and if the Senators had another 2-3 of them then we’d make opponents pay to win games.
The fans treated Neil to a couple of ovations last night and the recognition he gets from the home crowd is second only to Daniel Alfreddson.
Tough road losses in Toronto and Detroit
In both of the road losses the Senators showed a lot of fight and never gave up despite being down 5-0 to Detroit and 5-1 to Toronto. With a young team, you expect mistakes to be made and our patience as fans will be tested this year. However, the frustrating thing is that the majority of these mistakes seem to be coming from the veterans and that’s unacceptable. Aside from the mistakes it also sets a bad tone for the younger players who are expected to learn from the veterans.
The Senators coaching staff has paired up a veteran defensemen with a younger one so that the younger players can learn from the veterans. The veterans need to set a better example otherwise the young players will pick up bad habits.
The play of Sergei Gonchar has been bad so far. By my count, Gonchar has been directly responsible for at least three of the goals the Senators have given up. He’s been caught flat footed twice and once beaten he’s shown little to now effort to re-join the play.
The worst was a 2nd period goal given up in Toronto. Gonchar tried to stop the puck along the boards in the neutral zone by bending down and using his hands to stop the puck. I’m not sure at what level players are taught to do this. Players are taught to use their sticks, skate or legs to stop a puck on the boards, but not to bend over and attempt to stop it using both gloves.
Last night the Senators sat Brian Lee and inserted David Runblad into the line-up. Brian Lee was one of the Senators better defensemen in the first two games so it makes no sense to me to sit him out and keep Gonchar in the line-up. We’ll have to keep an eye on this because I can only imagine that coach Paul MacLean’s patience is wearing thin with Gonchar.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments last week in relation to my article. Here is the best response which I thought I’d answer this time:
“Great win last night. The boys played hard”. - Kevin Dean
Thanks for the comments. Remember if you’d like to make a comment and possibly end up in this article e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org