Friday, October 4, 2013

Season Opener: Karlsson Delivers Win In Final Minutes

It was exhausting watching all those saves.

Numbing almost, save for the beer. But if it wasn't for Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson making ridiculous stop after stop, we might have had a real yawner on opening night in Buffalo.

The Senators came out in the first period like a team convinced Miller was going to be shaky, and pounded 23 shots on net. You have to wonder if the early message from the coaching staff was “shoot the f***ing puck”, knowing that the first twenty minutes were going to be sloppy with nerves and lots of offside calls (which there were). But whenever Ottawa managed to break into the zone cleanly, they raided Miller, starting with Patrick Wiercioch who rang a high one off the post behind the chronically unhappy Sabres goalie. Both Jason Spezza and J.G. Pageau chose to shoot the puck during a couple of 2-on-1’s as well. Probably a smart strategy when the hands are a little tight in the first game of the season. Miller was game.

Then the second period hit and both teams were skating in molasses, a dreary spell that didn't lift until the last half of the third.

It used to be Daniel Alfredsson who would step up in those moments, especially against Buffalo, but on Friday it was Erik Karlsson, taking a cross-ice feed from new guy Clarke MacArthur and finally getting a puck past Miller.

You had to love Karlsson's celebration of the goal. He just pointed at MacArthur as he drifted away from the net with an expression that was all business. It almost looked like he knew he'd have the chance to end the game like that, while MacArthur seemed a little dazed by it all as he skated to the bench. They didn't have defensemen like that in Toronto and Buffalo when MacArthur was playing his first 400 pension-guaranteeing games.

Bobby Ryan's debut in the red and black was uneven, taking a couple of penalties when he lost his man. He seemed a little behind the game at times, too far head at other moments, but he did manage 5 shots and seemed like a strong presence down low. Everyone's favourite TSN 1200 radio host has been butchering Ryan on-air for a month now and this game won't change his tirade much, but Ryan looked dangerous with the puck on his stick. You can't please 'em all, Bobby.

If you're a Senators fan, and you're probably a mouth-frother if you're reading this on a Friday night or Saturday morning, there's a lot to take positives from, even if the nightmare of a low-scoring team is eating away at your sub-conscious. Ryan Miller was incredible on Friday, and Spezza would have had two goals and four points if it were any other night or any other goalie.

The Senators go into Toronto on Saturday for Hockey Night In Canada, a stage they never seem to shine on, so an unglamorous road win in Buffalo is something most Ottawa fans can be happy with.


1. Craig Anderson
2. Erik Karlsson
3. Jason Spezza


Play-by-play man Dean Brown’s line of the night after both teams traded chances late in the 2nd period: “Ooohh. Magic at one end and witchy spells at the other.” You don’t hear the term “witchy spells” too often in hockey broadcasts. You hear it a lot in Black Metal I guess....Lots of new looks on the Senators Sportsnet broadcast. Dean Brown is going with the goatee in the early going and host Ian Mendes has been replaced by the young Shawn McKenzie, who did a good job as the rookie. However, Denis Potvin is still Denis Potvin, everyone’s favourite uncle ..... Not surprising that it was good ol' Cory Conacher who delivered the first bump on Ryan Miller in the crease. He got about six hockey gloves in the face for his efforts........ Eric Gryba’s early season playoff beard is a fierce look. All he needs is a few missing teeth in the front so he can give guys like Lars Eller an Ottawa Valley smile that will haunt their dreams.... You can tell Gryba didn’t play much in the pre-season. A little shaky with the puck in his own end, but he’ll get better once he settles in after a few games. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Corvo step in against Toronto on Saturday in Gryba’s place....Those white Senators road jerseys have to go – soon. Whatever that design is, it’s not a hockey design. They’re pajamas....

... Still hard to fathom that Stephane Da Costa is playing in Ottawa instead of Mika Zibanejad. Hey, Zbad only has himself to blame, but you look at Da Costa out there and he still doesn’t look like an NHL player. I can’t believe this little “lesson” will last long. The Sens need Zibanejad’s size and skill in the middle.... Very happy to have been asked to join the Ottawa Citizen’s Prediction Panel again this season, but it has only reminded me why I don’t play Pro Line anymore. Try it yourself for a year and be happy if you hit .500.

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