Thursday, October 24, 2013

Spezza Steps Over Alfredsson In Biggest Test Of His Captaincy So Far

Watching last night’s game in Detroit, you got the feeling Jason Spezza was a little sick of talking about Daniel Alfredsson. After two goals and one much needed trouncing of a division rival, we’re now talking about the new captain, not the departed one.

From the day he was given the captain’s “C”, Spezza probably hasn’t gone 48 hours without answering a question about Alfredsson and how he plans to fill those shoes. Then there was the Olympic summer camp snub, which would have been painful for a proud guy like Spezza who only fell off the radar because of injuries that destroyed his previous season. It would be enough to make a man want to go out and prove something to everybody on the biggest stage of the campaign so far.

And that’s what this game was. Media were swarming Joe Louis Arena for the Alfredsson angle while the game was nationally broadcast on TSN with as much hype as your average Toronto Maple Leafs game. That’s a lot of hype, by the way.

Imagine the mood if Alfredsson had scored a couple of goals against his old team and Ottawa limped away with their second consecutive loss. Luckily for Senators fans, Spezza made sure that didn’t happen.

You can argue that Spezza scored the two most important goals of the game. Eric Gryba’s opener set the tone but a 1-0 lead in Detroit is nothing to dance about. When Spezza scored 5 minutes later to make it 2-0, that’s when people started to believe Ottawa had a chance of winning this thing. Sure, the true believers would still pick Ottawa against the 1984 Oilers but just look at yesterday’s Citizen Prediction Panel. Only one of eight, Steve Lloyd, picked Ottawa to squeak out a win. Wayne Scanlan, who only seems to miss when he’s feeling merciful, picked Detroit. I picked Detroit. Mothers of Senators players probably picked Detroit.

When Bobby Ryan made it 3-0, the faithful were moonwalking on Elgin Street but Todd Bertuzzi’s late goal before the end of the first, on a power-play no less, could have easily swung the momentum back in Detroit’s favour, and with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Alfredsson, a two-goal deficit isn’t the end of the world.

That’s when Spezza put it away with his biggest goal of the year so far. He went straight down the middle at Datsyuk in the Detroit zone and buried his own rebound off the lively Joe Louis Arena boards. That was pretty goddamn impressive if you ask me.

A lot of guys would have hooked left or right and tried to feed someone coming in with more speed, especially facing two red sweaters, one of whom happened to be a 3-time Selke award winner. Maybe they expected Spezza to do just that but he went right at them, shot the puck, and kept going to the net. Simply put, Spezza was the hungriest player on the ice at that moment and Datsyuk could only swing at him as he blew by.

At 4-1, the captain had taken the spirit out of the building and probably a lot out of Alfredsson as well, who only days ago commented that he caught a replay of a Senators game, saw the “C” on Spezza and thought it was himself for a brief moment. The cameras continually focused on Alfie as he sat on the bench, with everyone sitting at home dying to know exactly what he was thinking as the whole scene played out. Was he regretting everything? Was he stoic, knowing that there’s a long way to go and many chances for revenge?

I was thinking about Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who had settled his vendetta with Dany Heatley only the day before, and was probably watching the Detroit game from Barbados or Toronto, relishing the moment. I joked on Twitter that he was likely drunk with power at the moment, but like games in October, that too will fade with time.

But for Jason Spezza and the Senators, this is one game, one memorable performance, that can lead to bigger and better things, and just maybe bury some old skeletons that had been haunting them for too long.

And that captain’s “C” on Spezza looks a little sharper today than it did yesterday. What a game.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jason Spezza
2. Bobby Ryan
3. Kyle Turris

Honorable Mentions: Eric Gryba, Craig Anderson, Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad

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