As expected when the Leafs are in town, tonight's umpteenth pre-season tilt turned into a fairly decent gong show at times with various Leaf players taking runs at Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson and fragile netminder Pascal Leclaire.
The main positive the Senators can take out of this game was that they were far from intimidated. They responded with fights and goals and even Alex Kovalev dropped the gloves with Francois Beauchemin and actually held his own (or held on for dear life).
It shows the undeniable spirit of Kovalev who is wrongly labelled as passionless. There's a reason why his teammates love him. He's strange, wildly unpredictable, and allegedly "the most interesting man in the world". Beauchemin gave him a chance to walk away and even the linesman jumped in before Kovalev pushed him away and forced the fight to happen. He took a few good shots when his sweater got yanked above his head but he probably rose in esteem among Senators fans who were watching.
Yet, if I was Cory Clouston, I would have been cringing every time the Leafs started the forecheck. There was a lot of important players on the ice tonight for the Senators and the tone was set early when Mike Komisarek crushed Alfie in the corner. Sure, Milan Michalek did the right thing by jumping onto Komisarek, but it didn't do anything to calm matters.
The Leafs are a young group with nothing to lose, a bunch of hungry players trying to make an impression on GM Brian Burke by running guys through the boards. The NHL pre-season is a nice appetizer to the real thing but nobody wants to see important players injured in meaningless games.
It's money that drives teams like the Senators to cram in as many pre-season games as possible (Ottawa playing eight, just one shy of the maximum nine) but for most veteran NHL players, they don't need more than three to get ready nowadays.
Clouston has been very good about not overplaying the veterans but with another back-to-back this weekend and with some more roster cuts on the way, some of the big names are going to have to play both nights, a situation that shouldn't be necessary in the pre-season.
Eight games to decide who gets the last spot on the fourth line and who gets to be the sixth and seventh defenseman. Seems like overkill.
But if you think the NHLPA is complaining, remember that these games feed into the overall NHL revenues which lessens the amount the players lose in escrow payments to the league at the end of the season.
So it comes down to the fans and their ability to sit through a mini-marathon of meaningless games that somehow get much less meaningful by about the fourth one.
Tuesday night's match against the Sabres tested this scribe's patience to the point that he began to watch this video over and over again in a kind of delirium. Wake me up on opening night.
Gimme Pizza (Slow Version)