There you have it, in 63 minutes, we all see first hand how our season is likely to go. There were moments of brilliance, like Spezza flying end to end before flipping it back to A-Train for one of three tying goals we had. There were moments of humiliation, like Picard tipping it into his own net or the Kelly turnover behind the net (those are two of many, many turnovers and I'm sorry for picking on those two alone). Reasons to cheer and reasons to scream. Yep, that's what we're in for all year long. We are not a first place team but we are certainly far from a last place team. Much like we did in this game, we're going to have to fight for our lives until the bitter end, though we hope for a slightly better result than we saw tonight.
It is hard to really touch on all the highs and all the lows because there were just so many twists and turns tonight. Let's try and rattle off a few and you guys and girls can all add your own in the comments.
Things we can hang our hats on
1. Even though Jason Spezza had a few dumb passes in this one, he still flew on the ice. That was easily the fastest he has looked all season and he continues to backcheck harder and harder. I couldn't care less if he doesn't score a single goal all year if he plays like he did tonight (he'd also be on pace for 200+ assists...). Again, not excusing the dipsy doodles in the neutral zone, but he hardly looked like a guy with a nagging back problem. See that, Stevie Y?
2. Pascal. Can we honestly say enough about this guy? I have never before had great things to say about a goalie that just let in six goals, but this one easily could have been 10-0 after 40 minutes. Pascal is such a calming influence out there that it allows the defencemen to use their natural instincts to play to their fundamental ability instead of trying to overcompensate for a weak goalie that they don't trust. You can absolutely tell out there that those skaters know what they have in their nets. He's been very sharp and if he keeps this up, he'll be a huge reason for us making the playoffs.
3. Chris Campoli played his best game of his season. This goes beyond his goal on a 5-on-3 because those things should be automatic. He was second only to A-Train in icetime, putting in over 24 minutes and really looked like he had settled down when he was away from Karlsson. That isn't an intentional knock on the kid, and I know it is still early, but it does need to be pointed out that good players have looked bad when playing with Karlsson so far. I still believe he could do for some AHL time because expectations are unrealistically high (he's not a top ten pick, he's tiny, he needs to be in an environment with less consequence where he can get his mojo back). Full disclosure here, I'm a Campoli fan and think he rounds out our top four (I know that isn't a popular belief). Tonight, he proved that he can handle those minutes and that responsiblity.
Things that make you want to pull your hair out
There were a bunch. The first period was utterly disgusting. Top to bottom, the skaters looked like hell. The only notable performance out there was Snoopy, who for 40 minutes managed to keep this ONLY a three-goal deficit.
1. Turnovers. For the love of Pascal, can a brother get a breakout pass? In the first period, our best chance at getting the puck out of the zone was when the freaking linesman was fishing it out of our net for a centre ice faceoff! Unacceptable performance from professional hockey players. Picard, Phillips, Carkner, Karlsson, Campoli, Alfredsson, Fisher, Kovalev, Kovalev again, Kelly, those are guys that I can think of off the top of my head that turned it over in the first period alone in our end. Snoopy kept us in this.
2. Alex Kovalev, L'enigma. Alright, I'm not going to be the type of fan that does the 'I told you so' each time Kovalev and Carkner have bad games because I truly love these guys and want to see them succeed. I just thought Kovalev as awful tonight. Careless with the puck in all three zones. I get it, though, that's what he's going to be like all year. Then why did we give him $5M? I'm sorry, Sens fans, but for that amount of money, you have to be held to a much higher standard than a guy like a Carkner or a Shannon or anybody else making in the thousands. He's our third highest paid player and he played like hell tonight. It is fair as a fan to call him out for it.
3. Sorry to say it, but Alfie was off his game tonight. I know he finished with two assists (both second assists), but the puck wasn't staying on his blade tonight. Love the guy, but again, as a fan we're allowed to point out the highs and lows and this was an off night for the saviour.
4. Alex Picard stunk tonight, and he ruined Matt Carkner's night. He scored the first two himself on Leclaire and turned over the puck for the third. Picard finished a minus-3 while Carkner was a minus-4 and took the overtime penalty that led to the winner. I'm not going to get too down on this pairing because it is just one game, but now you'll excuse me when I don't soil myself if they have one good game, okay? They're regular players, both that have not played a full NHL season. They'll have great nights (and they have so far this year), and they'll have awful nights. Don't be shocked when I don't rush to the Sens Store for a Picard jersey if he has a multi-point night. Remember - I'm a Sens fan, too, and want nothing more than for all these guys to be superstars!
5. Picard and Cheechoo were notably benched late in the game. We expect that guys like Ruutu and Kelly are going to see less ice in a crazy third period when we need goals, but Cheechoo was pulled off the top line after 20 minutes and I don't remember seeing Picard hardly touching the ice in the third period. I do like how Clouston will send a message, though I don't want him to do it based on salary. If Kovalev is playing like shat, sit him down. This isn't the guidance counselor's office and we aren't handing out stickers. If you stink, you sit. Picard should know to get his stick out of the way of that shot and if he thought it was a pass, then he needs to clear it to the corner, not bury it in our own net.
6. One more - the penalties! Phillips missing the window on a clearing attempt right after we've tied it up is brutal. Then taking a too many men penalty is inexcusable! 4 guys out there at one time, folks, this isn't your first rodeo. We miraculously escape by getting a shortie of our own (Phillips comes back and TOTALLY redeems himself), then Carkner does the old 'kneel down behind the guy and flip him over' play. I have no problem with getting aggressive in the offensive zone, but it was a poor decision and we either would have lost on the 2-on-1 that he created for the Preds, or like we did on the ensuing powerplay from him taking the man down. Bad penalties at bad times and we made their powerplay look legit.
For practice - discipline and breakouts.
On a final note, so we can end this sandwich on a high, you've gotta love how they fought back so hard with five goals in the third period. It shouldn't have gotten so out of hand, but they tied it up three separate times in the third and earned a tough point that will go a long way in April when the dust settles. Commendable effort from the boys in the third period, especially that sickening wrister from Foligno. I love that kid! Also, we're now 0-2 without Chum Donovan.