A hot goalie can make all the difference and that's how it played out on Saturday night as James Reimer carried the Leafs to a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
All told the Sens had 90 attempts on goal (50 shots, 27 blocked shots, 13 missed shots) but Reimer and their defensive corps held up, limiting the Sens to just a single goal. The Sens dominated the possession but ultimately couldn't convert the necessary number of times to come away with a victory.
Sens Head Coach Paul MacLean echoed that sentiment during his post-game media availability, crediting the play of James Reimer and stressing the need for the team to get more bodies to the net in an effort to force second and third chances. He did acknowledge that similar efforts will produce wins more often than not, but with only four games left this season there are only so many chances to get those efforts out there. The race to the finish is very much underway.
Here's a rundown of Coach MacLean's thoughts...
We're two hours away from the biggest game of the year for the Sens and you're no doubt itching to get going too. With that, let's get you caught up to speed and prep you for the Battle of Ontario (5th edition).
It'll be a big game tonight when the Sens and Leafs square off for the fifth and final time this season. Toronto has take three of the four games this year, so the Sens will be particularly amped to bring one back in what is sure to be a buzzing atmosphere.
The Sens will keep the bulk of their lineup from their previous four games in tact with one change. Matt Kassian will draw back into the squad with Guillaume Latendresse checking out. The Sens would clearly like some more grit in there given the way Toronto has played their opponents this season.
No Erik Karlsson for those of you who were shaking in your chairs waiting to find out if maybe, just maybe, this miracle recovery could go that much further.
Here's how the lineup will look to start...
With the fifth edition of the Battle of Ontario going tonight and crucial playoff positioning on the line, the Sens will turn to Craig Anderson in goal when the puck drops against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
More below the jump.
If you had lingered around the ice at Scotiabank Place on Friday after the Sens left the ice, you would have seen the 20 or so NHLers replaced on the ice with a much larger, noisier contingent of individuals as the ninth annual Eugene Melnyk Skate for Kids got underway.
The yearly event, which brings youth in from across the Ottawa region, allows the Sens owner to donate skates and helmets to many local children who wouldn't have the opportunity to obtain them otherwise. It is an afternoon of fun for many deserving kids.
After a series of "Go Sens Go!" chants throughout the practice session, the kids were ready to hit the ice, just like their hockey heroes.
From the official release...
It wasn't very long ago that we saw footage of Erik Karlsson skating solo at the Bell Sensplex, and now there is even more reason for Sens fans to feel optimistic. The reigning Norris Trophy winner took in a full practice with the Sens today and appears to be recovering very well.
When Karlsson had a 70 percent sever of his Achilles tendon back in February, it was assumed that he would be done for the year. Now, it looks as though there is a chance Karlsson may, in fact, play in the relatively near future provided he feels comfortable.
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There were a couple moments of trepidation for the Sens on Thursday night but all in all they were in the driver's seat all game long, winning a textbook game over the Caps with a handful of games to play in the regular season.
The Sens were dominant in each zone. They controlled possession, as evidenced by their 2:1 shot ratio (even outshooting the Caps by a 36-15 margin at even strength), killed four Caps penalties and got solid minutes from all four lines en route to the 3-1 win. With the exception of a rush here or there, it's hard to recall a point in the game where the Sens didn't dictate the flow of play.
Coach MacLean was very positive about the Sens performance, highlighting positives from every Sens line, defensive pairing and, obviously, Craig Anderson. It was a solid performance up and down the lineup and Coach divvied up the praise accordingly.
The win is big for the playoff push as it stands and with Winnipeg's victory tonight, Ottawa has muddled the playoff certainty of the Caps, which is remarkable given Washington's eight game win streak coming into tonight. The unfortunate turn with said Jets win for the Sens is it makes them unable to clinch with a win Saturday over the Leafs. With this in mind, they're coming closer and closer, and that is very encouraging. Saturday could decide a lot in the East down the stretch.
Here's a Twitter rundown of what Coach MacLean had to say....
It's Gameday here in Ottawa as the Sens get ready to take on the Southeast Division leading Washington Capitals. With just two hours remaining before puck drop, let's get you caught up to speed on the news of the day facing the Senators and Capitals.
While it is depressing for the vast majority of us, Sens wunderkind Mika Zibanejad turns 20 today, bringing his era as the lone teenager on the roster to an end.
What's interesting to note is his performance as a teenager vs. other touted Sens prospects. Obviously given the Sens very respectable draft history, they have had a fair number of players break into the league before their 20th birthday. While Mika was the only one to make that jump this season, he is not the only one on the roster to have done it before.
Let's see where he stacks up.