Holy crow, a live Sens game on TV and I saw it! Bless you, NHL Network.
My thoughts on the game tonight
- Erik Karlsson. Sure he made a few mistakes, but the great offensive instincts far outweigh the occasional booboo. If he's paired with a responsible player like Kuba, he'll be able to get away with it while he learns. He made a few passes that we just haven't seen in Ottawa. Ever. It was so great to see defencemen jumping into the play like he and Campoli were doing all night. As Pynch and I discussed during the game, this team is going to be very fun to watch this year and Karlsson is going to be a huge part of that. In my opinion, albeit with a very limited trial period, he looks like he can fit into the top four.
- Pascal Leclaire. Great saves all night and he does it with swagger. I've said before in defending Emery that the key characteristic for a goalie in Ottawa is cockiness. Leclaire teeters between confidence and cockiness and I love what I'm seeing. Clouston has said that he's great off the ice, quirky and laid back. Pundits around the league are saying he's a question mark because of his injuries, but a healthy Pascal Leclaire is going to be so much fun to watch.
- Alex Kovalev. I love his poise with the puck. It is a bit weird because everyone is playing an up-tempo style and he kinda cruises around in a slower gear, but it isn't a lack of speed. He's reading the ice and making smart plays with regard to puck movement. Alfie had always been our most poised puck carrier, so it is nice that our top two lines will have a guy that can move the puck through the neutral zone without panic. I know that the relationship with AK27 is going to have its ups and downs, but I thought he was a treat to watch with the puck tonight.
- Jonathan Cheechoo. I know he was on the third line and didn't see the powerplay, but Pierre said, he hasn't earned it. I am really pulling for this guy to succeed, partially because it validates the trade for us and partially because he's counted on for scoring depth. Sadly, though, he seemed to be a step behind Foligno and Shannon (who are pretty fast). While we aren't privy to how he's done in practice, I wonder what it will take to get Cheechoo some time on the second PP unit. As I said, I'd love to see the guy light the lamp 20+ times, but tonight wasn't a step in that direction.
- Milan Michalek. Okay, I'm absolutely giving him a pass because he was all over the ice and showed tremendous speed. I just thought there were a few occasions where he could have finished off a goal from nice Spezza passes. This is as much on Spezza because we're counting on him to make his linemates better, but I'd love to see Michalek fly AND finish. Tonight, he just flew. It will take a while to get the timing and the chemistry, so I will agree that it is pretty unfair to rag on him too much tonight.
- Schubert and Kelly. I don't want to pile on these two guys, but they looked like they regressed from last year. Chris Kelly, at one point in the third period, had the puck behind Leclaire and just kinda froze before turning it over. What is that all about? He also was skating into a scoring chance late in the third but instead of bringing the puck toward the net, he peeled off toward the boards and we didn't get in any shots. Not the kind of 'smart' player that is keeping him on the roster. And Schubert - why is he still here? The unfortunate part is that his spot in the lineup tonight forced Zach Smith into the press box. So now Smith will still get sent down, but not because Schubie stole the spot. Bring back in Ruutu and let Donovan be the 13th forward.
The other thing that pissed me off was our own Ottawa fans booing the team at the end of the game. Why? Because they lost a preseason game in which they completely outplayed the Bruins? It just makes us look stupid. I'm not saying that you can't express disappointment in a lacklustre effort when you've paid good money, but don't boo them after a hard-knock loss. We're supposed to be the smartest fans in Canada, people.