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.
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The Senators Extra panel give their predictions for tonight's game against the Islanders.
With many people around the league beginning to sour on the Ottawa Senators' playoff hopes after a rash of injuries, Daniel Alfredsson was clear on Friday that this team isn't out of it yet.
Alfie acknowledged the injuries to the likes of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and others were big subtractions from the roster, but ultimately feels the work ethic of the group and systems in place will give them enough to work with going forward.
"It's a big blow for us, there's no question with what Erik does for this team. But, we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," said Alfredsson. "We're in a tough spot without some of our top players but at the same time it's a great opportunity for some other guys. I think we have a good system in place and if we work hard we're still going to give ourselves chances to win games."
With so much youth being injected into the lineup by way of reinforcements, the Sens will be playing the high energy hockey you can expect from young legs. Alfredsson also suggested that this is a good reflection of the job the front office has done to fill out the depth of the franchise. Meaningful minutes for young players now will eventually pay dividends down the road.
"It will be a vibrant group, there's no question," said Alfredsson. "What management has done and the scouting staff has done to give this organization more depth is a good thing and is going to help us not just right now but also down the road."
The Sens are accustomed to the role of the underdog under Head Coach Paul MacLean. In 2011-12, many wrote them off as bottom feeders destined for the draft lottery before the team earned a playoff berth. Now, with fans and pundits around the league crossing the Sens off their list of playoffs threats with no Karlsson or Spezza, the team will be looking to make the rest of 2013 a case of déjà vu for opponents.
Alfredsson says people can expect the team to develop that underdog's chip on the shoulder once again.
"I think this group, we weren't expected to do much last year and people aren't going to expect us to do much now either. We feel that as a motivator and we're going to go out there and work hard every night and give ourselves a chance to win."
The Ottawa Senators are replacing an Erik with an Eric on their roster, but that won't be carrying over on to the ice.
Eric Gryba joined the Sens on Friday after being called up. While the prospect is having a great season in Binghamton with the Baby Sens, his style of game couldn't be much more different from that of Erik Karlsson.
"Karlsson's an irreplaceable player," Gryba said. "I'm not going to come in here and do anything other than what my strengths are: hard work, physical presence, keep it simple."
"You're not going to see too many toe drags from me out there but hopefully I keep the puck out of the net."
At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds — a frame reminiscent of players on NFL defences — it's fitting he'll sport the number 62 for the Sens. He goes about his business the way many football linemen do — a lot more physicality than flash.
With the chance of his first ever NHL action coming Saturday night in Toronto, Gryba has the opportunity to walk into one of the biggest stages the League has to offer: The Battle of Ontario on Hockey Night in Canada.
Needless to say, it doesn't get much more exciting than that for Gryba or his family and friends.
"I'm excited to get the chance to hopefully contribute to that," Gryba said. "Last night I called all my buddies who are Leafs fans to let them know and see if they wanted to come down to the game."
A mentor for Gryba this season has been his head coach in Binghamton, former Senators defenceman Luke Richardson. Gryba has flourished in The 'A' this season under Richardson, posting a plus-28 in 38 games despite only recording 11 of his own points.
Not only that, but there's a good chance he would still be standing in Binghamton had Richardson not been there to wake Gryba up when he got word.
"It was surreal," Gryba said. "I stood there and Luke kinda had to snap me out of it, I couldn't believe it."
Good coaching can go a long way. For Gryba, it took him over 400 kilometres.
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With the Ottawa Senators a few hours away from their Wednesday night tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sens are up against it physically tonight having finished up their game with the Buffalo Sabres less than 24 hours ago. Throw in a midnight flight and late check-in and you have a less than ideal way to take on Sidney Crosby & Co.
Marc Methot was a rock at the back end for the Sens against the Sabres on Tuesday and says that making sure you're taken care of physically is priority number one for a game like this.
"The obvious one is that we came in pretty late last night. Making sure that our bodies are ready and that we're well rested for tonight will be huge," said Methot, adding that the momentum of a win helps the situation.
The Sens made a point of going back to basics this week. Lots of shots on net and traffic in and around the opposition's crease have helped increase the potency of an attack that had disappeared over the last few games. Going forward the plan is to keep that approach consistent.
"We played a lot more simple. We weren't trying to do too much with the puck and we were driving the net pretty hard. Defensively we were strong, especially with Andy back there obviously and we had some good key penalty kills," said Methot. "Having timely goals for and getting the puck out of our end as quickly as possible is huge."
"Against a team on the road we're going to have to muck up some goals. They may not be the prettiest ones but those are the ones that will help us win and, like I said, there's no exception with that tonight."
Methot had a bit of a tweak to his sweater on Tuesday as he took on the 'A' typically worn by Jason Spezza which the coaching staff has been rotating amongst players. The letter was a new experience for Methot who hasn't worn one in some time.
"I think it was an exhibition game in Columbus. That would have been the last time so that was pretty cool for me," said Methot. "I don't ever actually expect it. I think we have so many good leaders in this room, the letter is obviously significant but we have a lot of guys who are capable."
If he keeps his level of play this high going forward, one would have to think the 'A' will be a regular sight on his jersey.
Watching Erik Karlsson play hockey this season has been a pleasure for anyone who has had the opportunity. The growth in his game from a year ago has been remarkable for two reasons:
1 He has now launched himself into the echelon of the best of the best.
2) He is visibly improved from a year ago despite being the reigning Norris Trophy winner.
Seeing advances in a player's game like that are few and far between, particularly when you're already at the level Karlsson has reached. The way he controls play and jumps into the rush in games this season confirms his status as a truly elite player.
I brought you the NHL Network's early Vezina predictions earlier this afternoon so we'll follow it up with some Norris ones. If Anderson and Karlsson can keep up their pace throughout the season they would be just the third tandem to win a Vezina and a Norris.