A Toronto View on the Senators' Opening Night Win Over the Leafs

Pesky.


A word that meant something in 2017. At least, it meant something to fans of the local hockey team in the Nation’s Capital.


In the spring of 2017, The “Pesky Sens” went on a magical run that saw them get to within a shot of going to the Stanley Cup final before losing Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh eventually won the Cup in six games over the Nashville Predators.


Guy Boucher was the coach that season. The captain of that team was Erik Karlsson – when he was still the great player that he had been. He also led the Senators in scoring with 71 points.Kyle Turris was the leading goal scorer on that team with 27. Craig Anderson and Mike Condon were the goalies who shouldered most of, and an equal amount of the workload that season. Anderson shone in that playoff run starting all 19 of the team’s games, compiling a .922 Save Percentage and posting a Goals Against Average of 2.34.


Guy Boucher was the coach that season. The captain of that team was Erik Karlsson – when he was still the great player that he had been. He also led the Senators in scoring with 71 points. Kyle Turris was the leading goal scorer on that team with 27. Craig Anderson and Mike Condon were the goalies who shouldered most of, and an equal amount of the workload that season. Anderson shone in that playoff run starting all 19 of the team’s games, compiling a .922 Save Percentage and posting a Goals Against Average of 2.34.


None of the players from that team are still with the Senators. In a house cleaning that has gone on since the end of the 2016-17 season, the team has been left a wizened husk of its former self and last year, 2019-20, were the second-last team with just 62 points. The only team worse than Ottawa was the Detroit Red Wings who finished with a mere 39 points.


In forecasting the standings for the Canadian Division this season, the unanimous selection to finish at the bottom of the group was...Ottawa. The choice for many to end up at the top of the division was the Toronto Maple Leafs. So you can imagine how everyone looked upon the two teams as they met in Ottawa for the Senators’ opening game of the season. The Leafs already had a win under their belts, having edged the Montreal Canadiens in overtime in their first game.


On the morning of the Leafs-Sens matchup, former 67s and NHL defenceman Brendan Bell was on Toronto sports radio and he said that the Senators were a young team and young teams can be inconsistent.“ They could go on a three or four game winning streak but then they could lose three or four games in a row too.” And he used that word. He said they could be another version of the “pesky Sens” .


Really? Could Senators’ fans be that hopeful?


As game time approached, the voices on Toronto sports radio echoed the conventional wisdom.The Leafs would surely win that game in Ottawa on the Friday night. The Sens could be competitive but the Leafs had too much talent for this young Senators team to stay with them. But, hey, we could all get a look at Sens’ rookie Tim Stutzle.


And then came game time. Let's review...


The Leafs opened the game looking strong. Zack Hyman opened the scoring halfway through the first for the Leafs. But the Senators took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play and Thomas Chabot scored on a cross-ice feed from Drake Batherson with less than a minute to go in the first to tie the game.


The Leafs regained the lead halfway through the second frame. A long seeing-eye shot from Alex Kerfoot got through the crowd of skaters in front of Sens’ goalie Matt Murray and beat him glove side to make the score 2-1. But the persistent Senators tied it up about a minute later when Brady Tkachuk deflected a shot off the half wall from former Leaf Nikita Zaitsev past Leafs’ goalie Freddie Andersen and the score was 2-2.


They took the lead for good when Austin Watson got his first goal in a Senators’ uniform.Chris Tierney made it 4-2 a couple of minutes later. Matt Murray did a good job stopping shots when he had to. Derek Stepan made it 5-2 about seven minutes into the third.Soon after that, John Tavares got a power play goal to round out the scoring. The vaunted Leafs had lost to the team that was supposed to be the bottom feeder.


Toronto managed just four shots on goal in the third period and was outhit 33-11 by Ottawa. Morgan Rielly finished the game -4. His defense partner, TJ Brodie was -3. Auston Matthews was -3 as well. On one of the sports radio stations in Toronto, the post game host called the game “an abomination”.


Leaf fans and media were not happy with their team’s performance.

The two teams play again on Saturday night and maybe the Leafs wake up from their stupor. But for a night at least, Ottawa hockey fans were treated to their “Pesky Sens” one more time.


By Howie Mooney | Sens Nation Hockey

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