A Missed Opportunity; Anisimov in OT and a Few Other Things

After taking some time to ruminate over the Ottawa Senators 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on January 19, a few things have come to mind. Yes, the Senators looked very good in the first period and at one point in the game enjoyed a 3-1 lead before giving that up and allowing the Jets to come back and tie it in the waning moments of the contest. It was a perfect opportunity to take two points.

The Jets were playing the second of back-to-back games. They had lost the night before in Toronto and were playing their back-up goalie, Laurent Brossoit against the Sens. They were without Patrik Laine for the second night in a row. Ottawa had rested since they lost to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night and everyone was fresh.


The Senators outshot the Jets 41-28 and had the chances to put the game away at different times through the night. But, as we have seen often in the past, the backup goalie looked like the second coming of Dwayne Roloson and stood tall in allowing his team to stay in the game long enough to eventually come out victorious.


The fear is that in their next game on Thursday night, the Jets will be rested and their Vezina Trophy winning goalie, Connor Hellebuyck may be back between the pipes and they will show the Sens exactly who the Winnipeg Jets are.


A LITTLE BIT OF THIS...


Back in the 1990s, I got to play on a mens’ league team with ex-NHL defensemen Fred and John Barrett. I was a goalie and playing behind those two guys was a joy. But what was more enjoyable was being able to sit and listen to these two long-time pros talk about the game. And I don’t mean stories of their time in the game, but the little things that mattered in the actual playing of the game.


One night, after a game, our team adjourned to a bar and we were enjoying a cold one when John was telling us one of the secrets of winning in hockey. He told us about one of his old coaches who told his team that if each of the skaters in the room was to go out that night and just make three hits in the game, that they would win.


The hits didn’t have to be explosive hits. They could be enough to separate the man from the puck or something that would hold the opposing player up enough to allow a teammate to be able to take the puck away and allow his team to go on offense.


If his team had 18 skaters and each of those guys laid out three hits that would be a total of 54 hits. You’d think that could be fairly easy, but then you look at game totals for hits in games this young season and you learn that 54 hits might be pretty difficult to attain.


In their first meeting in which the Senators beat the Leafs 5-3, Ottawa outhit them 33-11. In the first game of this three game series against the Jets, Ottawa had the edge in hits 26-25. Brady Tkachuk had 7 of those 26 hits himself!


A LITTLE BIT OF THAT...


I’ve been getting numerous messages in my inbox the last few days regarding what people are seeing as issues for the Senators after they lost to Toronto on Saturday night and then again to Winnipeg on Tuesday night.


“Why isn’t D.J. Smith playing the kids more often?” “Why are the Senators going into a shell with a lead in the third period?” And the one more than any other...


”What was Artem Anisimov doing out there in OT a in a 3-on-3 situation against the Jets?”


Part of the problem for the Senators (and the problem for every team, really) is the fact that there were no exhibition games to allow teams and players to iron out kinks, get comfortable with linemates and defense partners, learn new teammates tendencies, and for coaching staffs to be able to figure out who can do what in certain situations and when.


One thing I said to one fan was that I doubt you will see Anisimov out there in any late game situations for a while.


A LITTLE BIT OF THE OTHER THING...


In an Ottawa Citizen piece by Ken Warren from earlier this week, he talks about the relationship that coach D.J. Smith has with 6’5” defenceman Josh Brown. Brown played for the Oshawa Generals when Smith was the coach there from 2011-12 to 2014-15. Warren notes that Smith has been impressed with the way Brown’s skating has improved since he played Junior.


“He’s exactly the same as he was there. He blocks shots, he plays tough, he boxes out. He’s really competitive. His skating has improved and that has allowed him to play in the NHL.” Smith talked about a situation against Toronto when Auston Matthews was trying to get around Brown, and the Sens’ D-man beat him to the post and cut him off. Back, with the Generals, Brown would not have been able to do that, according to Smith.


I did have a little chat via text message with ex-Senator (and Oshawa General) Scott Sabourin’s Dad, Dave this week. Dave told me a little story about Scott and Josh Brown that might apply here as well.


Scott’s last two years with Oshawa were Brown’s first two years there. Dave picks up the story.


“I remember when Brown was a rookie. (During a practice) Scott told Brown to be a little meaner and a little nastier. The next shift, Brown almost put Scott through the boards. I guess he listened!”


The Sens could use a little bit of that salt in their next few games against the Jets and the Canucks.


ONE MORE THING...


Going into last weekend, there was a lot of chatter regarding whether or not Keith Yandle would play for the Florida Panthers when their season started this past Sunday night against Chicago. There were reports that Yandle had fallen out of favour with Panthers’ coach Joel Quenneville and there were rumours that Yandle was going to be a healthy scratch. This kind of thing happens all the time but, in this case, it would have put an end to Yandle’s 866-game consecutive game streak. That streak is the fourth longest in the history of the NHL.


Yandle did end up playing against the Blackhawks. In fact he scored a goal. He followed up that performance with a pair of assists in the Panthers’ next game. So, right now, at least, it appears that Yandle’s streak will go on for a little while longer. But talk of Yandle brought another memory to mind for me.


Right away, I was taken back to a December night in 1981. A friend of mine got four tickets for a game at the Forum between the up-and-coming Edmonton Oilers and the heading-into-the-sunset Montreal Canadiens. Jim’s Dad was a rep for the Carling-O’Keefe Brewing company and these seats were seven rows from the glass and we were in the corner of the rink with great proximity to the ice. The glass was lower back then so we were able to hear a lot of what was going on on the ice as well as seeing it.


The Habs still had Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, and Guy Lapointe. But Ken Dryden was gone. In his place was Richard Sevigny, Rick Wamsley and Denis Herron. The Oilers were young but they were stocked. Gretzky, Messier, Anderson, Kurri, Coffey. Grant Fuhr played the bulk of the games that year in goal and he was only 19 years old! He was backed up by Ron Low and a 21-year old Andy Moog.


There was one guy who was playing for the Oilers who was nearer to the end of his career than he was to the beginning. Garry Unger was 34 years old and his best days were behind him. His job with this young team was to take faceoffs and get off the ice. Unger’s significance was that he was the reigning NHL “Iron Man”. He held the record for consecutive games played at that time. His mark of 914 straight games played was the best at that time. It would be passed by Doug Jarvis in 1986, but on this winter night in 1981, Unger was a shadow of his former self.


One lasting memory from that night was seeing Unger taking a faceoff in the Montreal zone. The draw was in the circle across the ice from where we sat. When the play was going on, the Montreal crawd was famously hushed and we could hear the skates as they cut into the ice, the sticks as they smacked against each other and the puck as it ticked on to players sticks.


As the faceoff took place, and Unger won the draw, he lingered on the ice as the Oilers controlled the puck in the offensive zone. We could hear a voice coming from the Edmonton bench. It was their coach, Glen Sather. He didn’t like seeing Unger staying out there any longer than he needed to be.


“Unger! Get the f*** off the ice!”


I’m not sure why that memory came to me as soon as I heard talk of Yandle being scratched from the Panthers’ lineup...but it did.


Enjoy your glory days while you are experiencing them. They may not last as long as you want.


Cheers, folks! Have fun and stay safe!


By Howie Mooney | Sens Nation Hockey