It is a well-known fact that most people fail their New Year’s resolutions early on in the year. On January 1st, people try to reinvent themselves, to change their habits and bring positive change into their lives, and within weeks, they figure out that it won’t work.
The Ottawa Senators aren’t even bothering with New Year’s resolutions this year. No “new year, new me” for this team. In their first game of 2018, they showed us all that we need not worry about them suddenly tightening up defensively or improving their special teams or playing line combinations that make sense or – god forbid – winning hockey games.
Or successfully tanking. No, we definitely don’t need to worry about that.
This game perfectly encapsulated everything that the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators are, and will apparently continue to be. They are a bad defensive team with a few stars the coach insists on saddling with bad players. They are a team that isn’t good enough to win but refuses to lose, and also plays in front of a lot of empty seats. It sent a clear message to everyone watching that although the year has changed, this team has not. It’s still the same team we all know and (sometimes, occasionally) love.
I, for one, am thrilled.
The Red Wings took control of the play right off the opening faceoff, and very nearly scored a goal before a full minute had elapsed. I’ll let you guess which defense pairing started the game. The next few minutes were excruciatingly familiar to Sens fans, as the team collapsed defensively and couldn’t seem to gain control of the puck for more than a few minutes. It was like that Dave Cameron-coached team that couldn’t break out of their zone or maintain pressure in the offensive zone, except the players were too afraid to make mistakes to be creative so it was just bad all around.
The undisputed highlight of the period was when Cody Ceci got the puck in the offensive zone, then sent a slap pass right into the corner, also known as the only area of the ice where none of his teammates were stationed at that time. Get that man a contract extension.
Still, play continued and the score remained even, as Anderson made a few key saves and, to their credit, the Sens did manage to get a few shots on goal. They also gave up a dangerous 2-on-1 with their man back being rookie defenseman Thomas Chabot, but those are just details. No need to dwell on them.
Detroit got on the board soon after the failed 2-on-1, capitalizing on a defensive breakdown that can probably be blamed on every Senators player on the ice. Johnny Oduya failed to get the puck along the boards, Nate Thompson sent a pass right into Erik Karlsson’s feet, and the captain didn’t quite manage to pick up the puck in time. The Detroit forwards made Ottawa’s defense look silly, and took an early lead.
Bobby Ryan almost evened the score shortly afterward, in a positively Condra-esque play. His shot ended up going behind the Detroit goaltender but just in front of the goal line, so that it looked like the puck had gone in but it hadn’t. Like I said, this whole game was pretty reflective of the season the Sens have been having.
Now, I did not watch the intermission on Sportsnet because Sportsnet is unwatchable, but from what I heard, the commentators predictably spent a lot of time bashing Erik Karlsson for his play on the first goal. While I don’t think Karlsson should be completely absolved of blame, it’s worth pointing out that 1) he’s probably not completely healed, and 2) as I pointed out on Twitter, he’s being saddled with bad players and that’s probably a big part of what’s making him look bad.
The second period, just like the first, began with an excellent scoring chance for the Red Wings, this one from Andreas Athanasiou, the guy who scored the first goal and basically walked all over the Sens throughout this game. To be fair, though, I’m pretty sure just about anyone could walk over the Sens at this point in the season. I coached the Sens Blogger Classic this year and I’m not entirely convinced the Sens could beat either of those teams.
After a good scoring chance for Mike Hoffman, Dion Phaneuf got into a tussle with Danny Dekeyser, and both players went to the box. Detroit predictably held the bulk of the play during the 4 on 4, but did not extend the lead. Dzingel and Duchene got a good scoring chance together, and Detroit regained control almost immediately afterward. Craig Anderson was in #BeastMode as he kept the Sens in it even though they clearly deserved to be losing.
Then the Sens got a penalty for too many men on the ice.
Remember what I said about this game perfectly encapsulating the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators?
The penalty kill actually went over much better than any of us could have imagined, though. Only about 30 seconds in, the Wings were assessed a delayed penalty, and the Sens actually managed to play keepaway for the rest of the penalty. It was perhaps the most exciting 90 seconds they’ve played all season. Ottawa even upped the drama by pulling Craig Anderson, leaving us all in suspense as we wondered if they’d manage to score on themselves. Incredibly, they did not, and their brand new powerplay went to work.
It did not result in a goal.
Some things never change.
Detroit finished the second period by almost scoring twice, but Anderson kept the score 1-0.
In a shocking turn of events, Ottawa was the team to start the third frame with a scoring chance. In an even more shocking turn of events, that scoring chance resulted in an actual goal. Ryan Dzingel made a beautiful play, and Mark Stone celebrated with enough enthusiasm for the entire team.
The goal was challenged for goaltender interference. While it was pretty clear that the Detroit netminder had not been interfered with, it would not have been that surprising if it had been overturned, because honestly, what else can go wrong this season? Mercifully, it was eventually deemed a good goal. Mark Stone thought it was a great goal, even. The best goal. Mark Stone is too good for this world. We should all strive to be more like Mark Stone. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job so far.
The Sens picked up their play a little bit after that, with a few good chances coming from Karlsson and Pageau. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when Dion Phaneuf was too slow for Andreas Athanasiou and went crashing into the net. The Detroit player got a shot away, but was awarded a penalty shot anyways. Thankfully, Anderson came through for the Sens and the score remained tied.
Almost immediately after the penalty shot, Karlsson was robbed by Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings finished the game with a very scary sequence resulting in quite a few chances, but did not take back the lead, and the game went into overtime.
Overtime lasted all of six seconds.
Life comes at you fast.
Athanasiou scored right off the opening faceoff, and the Sens went home with a point that would hurt their chances of finishing in the league’s basement and getting a good draft pick, but would not bring their fans joy and satisfaction in the way a win would.
The team didn’t really deserve to win this game, but Anderson did. It would have been nice if they could have at least won for him.