Those pesky Sens did it again tonight. Despite losing Craig Anderson and needing a shootout to complete the comeback they found a way to win the game.
There was obviously a sense of "here we go again" once Anderson was helped off the ice, but it appears to be a simple ankle sprain and he is day-to-day in the meantime (exhale). What this means is Ben Bishop is your prospective starter from here on out with Robin Lehner returning to the roster from Binghamton.
Coach MacLean was very positive after the game, and it's hard to blame him. This is a team that has been dealt bad hand after bad hand this season and still finds ways to win the pot at the end of the night. Bishop did allow two goals in relief, but both required extremely fortunate bounces for the Rangers. The team picked its game up as a whole once Andy went down and the victory, gritty as it was, was well deserved.
Here's a Twitter rundown of Coach MacLean's thoughts:
Coach MacLean: We played a hard game. When we went down I thought we played our best.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 2013
MacLean on the battle back: We have great leadership on this team.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 2013
MacLean: The execution was better tonight but we still need to work on it.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 2013
MacLean on the Daugavins winner: We always knew he had a sick move.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 2013
MacLean on Zibanejad: Mika showed what he can be at this level tonight.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 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 also said that he expects Robin Lehner to join the team at some point tomorrow.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 22, 2013
Your daily roundup of what the Internet has to say about the Ottawa Senators...
Ken Warren breaks down the numbers of the Sens injury riddled start to the season.
The Senators Extra panel weighs in with their predictions for tonight's game.
Sylvain St-Laurent looks at former Sens defenceman Matt Gilroy who is back in New York.
Don Brennan writes that Dave Dziurzynski is making his mark.
Silver Seven looks at some stats and factoids surrounding this year's Sens rookies.
The 6th Sens wonders if Craig Anderson can sustain this level of play.
SenShot considers the possibility that the Northeast is the best division in hockey.
SensChirp previews tonight's rematch with the Rangers.
It's not going to be easy down the stretch for the Ottawa Senators, but if they are going to keep their names in the discussion down the stretch, the penalty killing will need to continue to be exceptional.
Through 17 games this season the Sens have been one of the top shorthanded units in hockey. They have been a man down 65 times and killed those penalties successfully 59 times for a 90.8 per cent efficiency rate, good for second in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins and their 94.1 per cent penalty kill rate.
The successful penalty kill has been a big reason why the Sens have been able to get away with such a low scoring output. They rank 25th in the NHL in goals for at 2.29 goals per game. Conversely, the Sens have been the most stingy team in the league on the back end, allowing just 1.82 goals per game.
Obviously a big part of the disparity between goals for and goals against has to do with the stellar goaltending the Sens have received. Craig Anderson has been (arguably) the best goaltender in the NHL this season. Similarly, after a shaky start to the season, Ben Bishop has rebounded nicely, allowing just two goals in his last two starts.
The old adage in hockey says that a goaltender must be your best penalty killer and the Sens have received that backstopping to this point in the season.
After last night's win over the Islanders, Head Coach Paul MacLean was quick to praise the work of his penalty killers. It was easy to see why. They held the Islanders to an 0-for-4 mark with the man advantage and had the likes of John Tavares and Matt Moulson visibly frustrated. The work of Erik Condra, Zack Smith, and others up front put the Islanders point men on their back heels, while the defensive unit as a whole cleared the space around Anderson effectively.
It was a textbook performance.
Whether or not this efficiency is sustainable is another issue in and of itself. Over the last five seasons, the Sens have never killed penalties at less than an 81 per cent rate which stacks up favourably against the NHL. Even if we drop this year's rate to the worst it has been in that span, the team only allows six more goals this season and slides to sixth in the NHL in goals against from first.
Still perfectly respectable.
The fact is penalty killing has never been a more valuable commodity. With a shortened season and teams constantly running hot and cold, there has never been more of a premium on scoring with the man advantage. Approximately 27 per cent of goals scored in the NHL this season have come on the power play.
While the Sens will obviously need to continue putting a big emphasis on crashing the net on the offensive end to manufacture offence and, ultimately, win games, the real key to how the 2013 season ends will lie in its ability to kill off the man advantage.
Murphy's Law dictates that Anderson and Bishop will eventually have nights where they won't be as sharp as they have been. Last night made it clear that goals will come and go. The power play will eventually round into form and give the Sens an offensive boost. Fans can take solace that the team's play has been of quality all season long, it's simply been a matter of the ends not always following the means.
Consistency in all facets of the game is of the utmost importance. But, as long as the team can continue to find a way to kill of eight or nine of every 10 penalties, they will continue to be in the thick of things.
It looks like the Ottawa Senators will take on the New York Rangers tomorrow with one big name missing as Rick Nash won't be accompanying the team on the trip to Ottawa.
Coach MacLean was asked at length (video above) about the addition of Nash to the Rangers lineup which knocked the Sens out of the playoffs one year ago. Coach said that Nash was going to be a handful amongst the other core players the Rangers have in their lineup.
#NYR Nash is not going with team to OTT. Has not been ruled out to re-join team in MTL— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) February 20, 2013
With Nash out, the Sens will still have a very stiff test against a very talented team, but one less star to worry about will be a good thing for a defensive corps with plenty of new names still looking for consistency each shift.
Your daily roundup of what the Internet has to say about the Ottawa Senators...Wayne Scanlan looks at how the Sens are finding ways to scrap for success.
SensShot has some observations and a recap from the 3-1 win as well.
Ian McLaren has a Silver Linings Playbook for Sens fans.
And for your daily dose of of lighthearted material, here's Sens PA Announcer Stuntman Stu trying to figure out how you pronounce Dziurzynski. (Luckily he got it right when he needed to)
Paul MacLean was very deadpan in his comments after Tuesday's win over the Islanders as the Sens didn't necessarily make it look pretty but they did enough to get the win.
Craig Anderson stood tall in goal as we have become so accustomed to seeing, turning aside 37 shots, to hold the Isles to just one goal despite many close calls.
It was also a night of firsts in many ways for the Sens as they scored their first power play goal in 25 attempts while Andre Benoit and Dave Dziurzynski scored their first career NHL goals. Eric Gryba also recorded his first career point and earned his first career Three Star selection.
Did you get all that?
The key to take away from all of this is the Sens found a way to grind out a win, plain and simple. As Coach pointed out tonight, they've had games where they've played better hockey — the OT loss to Carolina at home comes to mind — and still not mustered enough offence to come away with a victory. Tonight they found a way, even if it wasn't a sparkling performance for the reel.
The Sens will look to work out the kinks and keep the offence coming for Thursday's game — a rematch of last year's first round playoff series vs. the New York Rangers.
Here's a Twitter rundown of Coach MacLean's thoughts on the win.
Comments from Coach MacLean coming up...— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 2013
Coach MacLean on the win: We got three and they got one.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 2013
Coach credits @craiganderson41 and the penalty killing unit with doing a great job.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 2013
Coach doesn't think the team played a great game but found a way to score three goals. Says we've played much better and scored none.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 2013
On Andre Benoit: He's an excellent player and it's great to see him get a second goal...— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 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 facing the team that eliminated the Sens from the playoffs last year: We're looking forward to it.— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) February 20, 2013
We're two hours out from start number 14 for Craig Anderson in 2013, and the results to this point have been stellar. He is arguably the best goaltender in the league this season.
While he will attribute much of his success this season to luck, his approach to the position doesn't actually have much to do with him at all. It's about how he helps out the team.
"Being there for the guys and making the save that they need, and giving them the confidence so they know that they can play loose and not feel like they can't make a mistake back there. We're just going out there and playing hockey."
The key, of course, is that when players do eventually make a mistake their teammates are there to lend a hand. That can be the sole difference between a win a loss.
"It's a game of mistakes. Sometimes it's a defenceman that makes a big play after a mistake, or a forward backchecking after a bad mistake or sometimes it's a goalie making a big save. That's just the nature of the game. The team with the least mistakes is going to win the game usually."
In many ways, Anderson's triumphs to this point have been his ability to erase mistakes. He has handled clean shots on goal effortlessly, he has been the team's best penalty killer and he has been a model of consistency. You know each night that the team has a chance to win with 41 in goal.
With the Sens looking for all the help they can get on the ice right now, they can take some solace knowing that the space in the blue paint is well taken care of.
Getting to play in your first NHL game is an honour and a rush, but it's rarely as simple as you'd like it to be. Nerves, finding chemistry and adjusting to competition all come into play for you as you look to settle in to your new hockey home.
Derek Grant made his NHL debut last Saturday with Eric Gryba and Dave Dziurzynski in Toronto before turning around and getting some matinee action in on Monday against the Devils. For Grant, the experience has been a thrill, but now the focus is shifting past the awe and playing his brand of hockey.
"It was exciting. Kind of a dream come true I guess, but going forward it's starting to settle in and hopefully I'll be able to play my game a little bit more," said Grant. "I'm excited to play the first one at home. Going forward I'm just trying to keep it simple and play the way I've been playing all year. "
For fans who didn't have a chance to get a look at Grant while he was playing in Binghamton, you can expect defensively responsible play while he's on the ice — taking care of his own end is a personal focus.
"I think I'm a pretty defensive player. I like to kill penalties and something I've taken pride in this year is penalty killing and my defensive game," said Grant. "Obviously I like to contribute offensively as well so I just try to chip in when I can and get pucks on net."
The 22 year old Abbotsford, B.C., native has enjoyed a solid 2012-13 at both ends of the rink to this point in the American League. With 21 points in 47 games, Grant currently sits sixth in Bingo scoring. He leads the team in goals with 15 goals on just 88 shots.
Obviously Grant couldn't be expected to continue shooting at a 17 percent clip in the NHL, but as he continues to adjust to the level of play at the top flight, expect him to fill in much more naturally with the big club.
Grant knows his game still hasn't caught up to him yet, but it'll come around.
"I think it's been okay, probably a little too much thinking going on out there," said Grant. "It's something you have to simplify and just go out and play. It's just another game. Obviously it's exciting and a little nerve wracking at first. Hopefully I can just settle in and get back to the way it was."
His defensive prowess will be subject to a serious test in game three of his NHL career with the New York Islanders rolling into town. The Isles bring plenty of offensive ability to the rink and Grant expects the Sens to rise to the challenge, even if it means grinding another one out.
"Obviously they're playing pretty well and they have guys like (John) Tavares who tore it up this past week so we just have to play our game and keep battling away," said Grant. "It's never going to be pretty and these ugly ones, we'll take them."
"I think we have a good group in here and we can win a lot of hockey games."
With the shortages on the big club, many players from Binghamton have been thrust into crucial roles. As we near the halfway mark of the season, few of these call-ups have impressed more than Stephane Da Costa.
Da Costa has been singled out numerous times as a post-game bright spot for the Sens and has provided a spark with his speed and creativity. He has seen his play rewarded on multiple occasions with promotions to the top line and power play unit. Not only has his play with the puck been noticeably improved, his play away from it in the both zones has never been better.
Clearly things are going much better this time around for Da Costa with the big club. His refined approach after some time with the Baby Sens is paying dividends through seven games.
"My key was to keep it simple because it's a different league than Binghamton and the AHL," said Da Costa. "I try to bring as much energy as I can as a young guy I think those are the two major factors."
Simplicity and speed have been the mantra of these new look Sens. The team is trying to manufacture production by playing direct end-to-end hockey with pace and crashing the crease. Play around the red line has benefitted the Sens greatly since their renewed commitment to this type of blue collar hockey.
Da Costa can vouch for the approach as his first goal of the season came off a bank off of Marc-Andre Fleury from below the crease. Certainly not Da Costa's prettiest goal, but they all count the same on the scoreboard.
By watching Da Costa play, you'd have to think the monkey off the back is just a signal of what's to come.
"I mean, I get all those chances and I don't score and then I get a goal like this," said Da Costa. "It goes around, right? The luck is going to come at some point and I'm going to score."
With his play begetting additional minutes on the ice, it's a matter of production coming along with them from here on out to keep them.
"It's always nice to get those (opportunities) for sure. I've got to score now and capitalize on them."
Looking to tonight's matchup with the Islanders, Da Costa thinks the Sens have a tough game to look forward to. A young Islanders team will be coming in with a chip on their shoulder after a tough loss to Philadelphia on Monday.
"Well they had a tough game last night so they're going to come out really hard tonight," said Da Costa. "They have a lot of young guys and a lot of energy and it's going to be a really fast game I think."
With speed and energy comes space, and that space should yield plenty of opportunities for Da Costa to raise his point total.
Your daily roundup of what the Internet has to say about the Ottawa Senators...(is back from a weekend/holiday hiatus)
The Senators Extra panel give their predictions for tonight's game against the Islanders.