Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Et Tu, Brute?: Silver Seven Sens
After a nice rebound victory on the tail end of a home and home with Minnesota, the Hawks will now have the Senators to face less than 24 hours later. Meanwhile, the Sens have been off since a 5-2 pecker slapping at home at the hands of the Sharks, and have not been on United Center ice in nearly three years, since January of 2011.
After a promising run in last year’s playoffs that ended at the hands of the Penguins in the second round, it’s been a tumultuous go of things for the Sens. Longtime captain and franchise face Daniel Afredsson defected to Detroit, which resulted in some of the most useless he-said/he-said nonsense in recent memory between he and the martyr-complex-afflicted Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. But lost in all of the public whining back and forth in that situation was the acquisition of Bobby Ryan from Anaheim, who is ultimately an upgrade in virtually every sense of the word over Alfie, despite being a bit of a baby himself.
With Alfredsson gone, the natural succession of things dictated that Jason Spezza and his Lewis Skolnik laugh would bear the mantle of captain, and so far things have been a mixed bag for Spezza. While he leads the Senators in goals and points (7G, 11P respectively), he’s been getting his skull absolutely caved in possession wise, both in Corsi and Fenwick. This has in no small part led to the Senators allowing a league-worst 36.7 shots against per game, which is highly uncharacteristic of the game Paul McLean wants to play. Though one of the side effects of this has been Kyle Turris’ line occupying the traditionally soft minutes a #2 center usually gets, and dictating the majority of the play. For as much of a bad rap as Turris got with his contract situation in Phoenix, as well as probably being over-drafter by about 20 slots, he seems to be nicely filling in a second center role finally in Ottawa.
Any discussion of the Senators’ blue line begins and ends with Erik Karlsson, who is apparently Deadpool after returning from a grizzly injury well ahead of schedule last year. Karlsson can be an adventure in his own end, but he’s always going to outscore any mistakes he makes at the other, and dear god don’t give him any room on the power play. The rest of the Senators blue line is rife with physical types, with Lars Eller face-obliterator Eric Gryba, the drecrepit Chris Philips, the massive Jared Cowen, and woman puncher Joe Corvo.
In net will be CHICAGO GUY and Team USA hopeful Craig Anderson, who is certainly doing his part based on the volume of shots he’s faced, with a .920 save percentage in 9 starts, facing a total of 286 shots already. Anderson, WHO DA HAWKS SHOULDNTA NEVER GAVE UP ON, has always shown a propensity to thrive under heavy work loads, and has the ability to steal any game he plays, provided his scarecrow like frame doesn’t snap in the slightest breeze, as it is often wont to do.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, while the results in Minnesota were encouraging, most of the flash on display was due to Nicklas Backstrom simply being awful last night. With Anderson staring them down tonight, I sincerely doubt there will be any empty cages for Sheldon Brookbank of all people to tee up on and fill.
What last night did show definitively, though, was that the second line of Saad, Kane, and Pirri is certainly worth another look. Pirri had two points and actually cracked the 10 minute mark of playing time when he had real linemates, but he’ll need to keep up that type of play consistently if he ever has any hopes of earning Joel Quenneville’s trust permanently.
At press time there’s still been no word as to whether it will be Brookbank remaining in for Rozsival, or Crow getting the start in favor of Khabibulin, but the smart money is on both staying in with the Hawks being off after tonight until Saturday in The Peg.
The Senators want to play the same type of game as the Hawks, but they’ve been having difficulties executing that platonic ideal so far this season, so it would not be a shock at all if McLean had them come out and trap tonight in the hopes that Anderson can steal two points for them. But even still, Quenneville will have last change, and with Spezza not able to outscore how underwater he’s been in the chance department, throwing Toews, Sharp, and Hossa at he and the ghost of Milan Michalek might prove too tall of a mountain for the Senators to climb. But this just smells like a herculean 50 save effort from Anderson with one bad glove side goal on Crawford to foment the furor of meatball nation. But the hope is for the dam to break in Anderson’s net. Let’s go Hawks.