When Dave Dziurzynski was called up to the big club, a lot of fans weren't sure what to expect from the big 23 year old. With a large frame and two-way game, he plays a style that often veers away from the stat sheet and, consequently, away from attention.
The good news there is 'Dizzy' plays a game appreciated by his teammates and coaches. Responsibility in all three zones, physicality and smart play all lend themselves well to the system Paul MacLean & Co. preach here in Ottawa.
From here on out it's not so much a matter of Dziurzynski changing that game to fit the NHL level as it is improving the way he plays it.
"Yeah, just trying to adapt to every game and get better and get more confidence. I think they're kind of using me in a shut down role so it's playing against the top line and getting more minutes and trying to get more comfortable. "
The comfort level hasn't been a problem for many of the Sens' call-ups this season, in large part because there have been too many new faces. Depending on what corner of the locker room you're in you are finding players who were plugging away in Binghamton together just a few weeks ago.
"It definitely helps, a lot of familiar faces around the room, a lot of guys I played with and won a Calder Cup with so we're pretty close with everyone and it makes it a lot easier, just coming in to adapt when you're nervous coming in. Seeing everyone, it helps a lot."
The friendly faces have been about the only easy part of the adjustment.
In a matter of hours, Dziurzynski went from AHL forward at-large to shutdown winger on an NHL team. One of his first assignments was lining up against Toronto's Phil Kessel, the League's sixth leading point getter last season.
Welcome to The Show, kid.
"You grew up watching him on TV so it's a little bit... overwhelming at first but I'm just trying to settle down early in the game, keep it really simple and play my best and help Smitty (Zack Smith) and Neiler (Chris Neil) out. "
To that line's credit, Kessel has zero points in two games against Ottawa.
Dziurzynski has now played in six NHL games and found a way to score two goals for his efforts. All told it's not a half bad start for a player who has been relied upon to shut down opposing goal scorers.
The real question after all of this is what he is doing with that first ever puck, scored on Rick DiPietro on February 19, .
"Ottawa makes a first goal thing for you so it's going to go to my family. My parents have a Wall of Fame type of thing so it's going to go to them to put on their wall."
Most pictures are worth a thousand words. This one is probably worth about two, and they add up to way more than a thousand.
Between Carey Price in a pretzel in the crease, sly Regin non-chalantly realizing he's being photographed while scoring a ludicrous goal and winning a game, it's tough to beat this photo.
Those of you who want to see other lovely photos from this game can click here.
Those who want to watch Regin's beautiful goal again can watch below. Clicking replay several times is allowed.
Your roundup of what the internet has to say about Ottawa Senators hockey...
Bruce Garrioch recaps the Sens win over the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout.
Ken Warren looks at the key quotes and big numbers from the aftermath of the victory.
Wayne Scanlan argues that the Sens and Habs are "unlikely Eastern Conference titans."
Sylvain St-Laurent looks at the Sens historically unlikely shootout success this season.
Don Brennan notes that the Sens haven't taken part in many fights this season.
Silver Seven have a prospect report that focuses in on Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel.
Travis Yost looks at this five game winning streak.
What else can you say about these Pesky Sens?
Ben Bishop stood on his head and stole them a game. Peter Regin was huge in his first game returning from injury. Paul MacLean was extremely complimentary of both. It certainly wasn't the best game the Sens have played all season, but they all count the same when you get the win.
Here's a Twitter rundown of Coach MacLean's thoughts:
Post-game thoughts coming up...— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
Coach MacLean on the win: It was all Ben Bishop.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
More on the win: Work ethic, leadership, structure and the great goaltending are why we won.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
On the winning streak: Four straight wins at home was a great way to build momentum.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
MacLean on putting Peter Regin in the lineup tonight: It was a great coaching decision.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
MacLean on Regin: After I said no changes to the lineup this morning he marched into my office and said "I want to play."— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
For those of you who are more audio inclined, you can listen to Coach MacLean's full post-game press conference here on this page.
Coach: You have to respect a veteran player like that.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 26, 2013
It's not often that a Monday is a banner day for anybody, but today will go down as a good one for Ben Bishop. He was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week for the week ending Feb. 24.
Obviously there was some trepidation when Craig Anderson went down against the New York Rangers, but Bishop has the Sens in good hands. He may be best described as "sneaky good" last week, as the numbers underscore just how solid he was in goal.
From the NHL:
THIRD STAR -- BEN BISHOP, G, OTTAWA SENATORS
Bishop went 3-0-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .931 save percentage as the Senators won all four of their games. He posted 30 saves and denied all three shooters in a 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils Feb. 18. Bishop then relieved an injured Craig Anderson and made 11 stops, plus another six in the shootout, to pick up a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers Feb. 21. He closed the week with 26 saves in a 3-2 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs Feb. 23. The Denver, Colo., native has played in 28 career NHL games, posting a 10-10-3 record with a 2.63 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout.
Bishop is going to look to keep the ball rolling tonight when he faces the Montreal Canadiens.
With tonight's matchup against Carey Price and his previous two against Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur respectively in addition to appearing in relief for Anderson, Bishop has certainly had his work cut out for him and found a way to thrive.
If you sneak a peek at the upcoming schedule, don't expect that to change.
Not much to say after that game except what a big win in their first game without Craig Anderson on Hockey Night in Canada against a division rival.
Colin Greening was the no-brainer first star. He was great in all three zones, tied a career high in single game points with three and scored the game winner with 24 seconds to play. Greening's line with Mika Zibanejad and Erik Condra was the best line for either team, forcing turnovers and generating chances. They were rewarded with the offensive zone faceoff late and they delivered. Full marks to them.
Coach MacLean was very positive after the game. Here is a twitter rundown of his thoughts:
Post-game thoughts from Coach MacLean coming up...— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
Coach thought it was a very exciting game... "The only people yelling for whistles in the second period were coaches."— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
Coach on what went right: "We got a little puck luck and it went our way this time."— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
On playing the Greening-Zibanejad-Condra line with less than a minute to play: Offensively we tried to give them another chance.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
More on that line: "They were our best line all night."— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
On the players who have come up from Binghamton: They know what it takes to win.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
For those of you who are more audio inclined, you can listen to Coach MacLean's full post-game press conference here on this page.
On Greening's healthy scratch last week: Sometimes when you sit a player out you take the pressure off. They can reset.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 24, 2013
A focal point of discussions this season has surrounded the impressive depth of this team. No position may be deeper, however, than goaltender.
Craig Anderson has put up Vezina calibre numbers from the outset of the season. Ben Bishop is one of the most talented back-ups in the league. Robin Lehner is one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey, if not the most highly rated.
With Anderson now out for the immediate future with an ankle injury, the Sens will be forced to rely on his other talented battery mates. Here is what Bishop had to say on taking over the job for the time being.
"I was lucky enough to have the same type of experience last year. Andy went down and I got to play seven games in a row, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity again. It's nice to have the experience this time."
On the team picking up the slack:
"When one guy has gone down another guy has stepped up. I don't think that's going to stop."
On playing division rivals:
"I got to play Toronto and Montreal last year and both of those are big rivals, last year we played Toronto here. It was a lot of fun. They're big games. You don't look too much into the rivalry you just look at it as another game that obviously have a lot more excitement in the crowd."
On replacing Craig Anderson:
"You just have to go out there and play your game. Obviously you watch Craig and pick up some things. He's the best goalie in the league right now so you try to watch and pick up some things from him. You don't try to be like him at all, you have to do your own thing and just go and play."
On what has changed from his first start of the season:
"The Tampa game they were scoring on screened shots, rebounds and empty netters, you can't do much about that. I don't think it was a bad start at all. I'm just happy to keep playing the way I've been playing."
Those who watch the Sens play night in and night out have no doubt been impressed with the work of Erik Condra.
The 26 year old has been a shining example of the brand of hockey this team wants to play each game. A smart player who competes in all three zones and creates havoc around the opposing crease, Condra has not only emerged as a solid two-way player, but one who is a catalyst for puck possession by forcing turnovers and handling himself well in corners.
The key to his game is understanding where to be on the ice and what to do when you get the puck.
"I think I just try to be smart about the game and know where to be defensively and it ends up leading to my offensive chances. A big part of it is just getting the puck out of your zone and once it's out of your zone you don't have to play defence as much."
Many will argue that the Sens were the better team the last time they played the Maple Leafs. They tested Toronto offensively and played sound defence despite integrating three new players into the lineup. One sided "puck luck" led to Toronto goals off of odd bounces, and kept the puck of the Leafs net.
If the Sens can pot a couple of goals, it stands to reason that they should fare better at home. The question is how they go about it.
"We just need to go from what we're doing right now. I think last game we had just lost a few guys and we were at a low point. We've got some young guys scoring now and we're looking to keep that going and it's goals by committee for the rest of us."
It goes without saying at this point that many around the league have written off the Sens, particularly after the latest injuries to Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson. During a shortened season where there is no room for error, missing your top centre (Jason Spezza), defenceman and goaltender is a hat trick no team dreams of.
With the pressure off, in many ways, the Sens are channeling the low expectations of others motivation and wins.
"A little bit, yeah. I think that low point was in Pittsburgh after Karl (Erik Karlsson) went down but we regrouped and we know who we are. We have a lot of young guys but we're going to work hard and do all the right things to win games."
After Thursday's win over the New York Rangers, Head Coach Paul MacLean said that the game was Mika Zibanejad's first game where he truly showed the type of player he can be at this level.
Zibanejad's play was certainly an encouraging sign from a week where, just three days earlier, he was a healthy scratch in New Jersey. He bounced back with a strong performance against the Islanders on Tuesday and scored the game tying goal on Thursday.
The day off in Jersey seems to have been a boost for Zibanejad. Not necessarily because it sent a message, but because added perspective has helped take the pressure off and simplify his thought process.
"Yeah, I think it was good for me. Obviously you don't want it to be like a wake up call, but at the same time it's just like a little note there that I should be myself and play my game and yesterday I did and, hopefully, it shows what I can do. Now I just have to keep working."
After the words of encouragement from his coach, the young Swede is just approaching each game as it happens and trying to play his best.
"Now obviously after that game I've kind of had it in the back of my mind obviously, but more after the scratch game there, that I'm just trying to take it one game at a time and play as hard as I can. Just work as hard as I can and don't think ahead too much. Just enjoy every game I play and that's all I can do."
It's never an easy task to deke and go five-hole on Henrik Lundqvist to win a hockey game, so when Kaspars Daugavins did just that on Thursday night, the excitement was justified.
While it may have looked pretty on the ice or on TV, it didn't exactly go the way Daugavins had planned in his head. What looked like a changeup shot sliding through the Rangers netminder was actually a simple whiff.
"Definitely didn't go the way I wanted to but it worked out well, and actually had I got it to my forehand I would have had an empty net," said Daugavins. "So, either or it would have worked out."
The Daugavins praise among Sens fans extended well beyond the Capital Region as fans were thrilled to see one of the team's sparkplugs finally be rewarded for that hard work. In fact, those who pay close attention to the team's social media venues will know that there is consistent support pouring in from Kaspars' home country, Latvia.
With a population of a little over two million and just one NHLer to their credit, Daugavins' success means a lot to the country and their support means a lot to him.
"Latvia's a pretty small country and they love hockey. In Latvia hockey is the same as it is in Canada pretty much. I'm their only player in the NHL right now and I was playing during the lockout at home," said Daugavins. "It's huge. There's a lot of kids that look up to you and you try to do your best for someone who follows you and is trying to make the NHL after you."
It's fairly common in Canada to speak of the microscope players are under. With such a hockey crazed population and seven devoted fanbases, there isn't much room for players outside of the public eye. For many, the pressure is a lot to deal with.
And with that you have to wonder if perhaps being the sole citizen of a country to make the NHL comes with a microscope that's just a little bit more magnified.
"It was a little bit tougher playing back home during the lockout, especially with all the hockey fans there. They expected me to score every game and it was a little tough," said Daugavins. "Apart from that they know I'm a hard worker and I can chip in offensively and defensively. They know what I can do, they don't expect me to be Sidney Crosby, they just expect me to play good every night and hopefully I can play here for a few more years."
Latvian hockey fans may not expect Daugavins to be Sidney Crosby, but they both belong to a pretty exclusive club. Both players have gone five hole on Lundqvist in a shootout to win a game.
Even if they don't go in the way you planned, they all count the same.