Opening Night: What's My Line?

Friday, October 4, 2013

By Luke Peristy


Editor's note: When you're done perusing Peristy, be sure to check out our October prediction poll, where you, the valued reader, get to predict stuff. 

Perhaps this is my fastidious analysis of off-season minutiae talking, but this past summer was riveting. From the time Daniel Alfredsson left Ottawa because the Senators didn't offer him enough money, to that time we all talked about how the Senators don't have enough money, it's been an off-season full of rich and varied storylines. Remember back when "Jared Cowen RFA Contract Watch" was a thing? I haven't been on the edge of my seat like that since the Patrick Weircioch negotiations.

And the preseason? Don't get me started! As memorable as all the games were in their own way, there's no doubt in my mind that the best preseason game the Senators played was the Breaking Bad finale. It's just a shame Mika Zibanejad went down the way he did. Damn you, Vince Gilligan!

Anyway, as fun as it's been to deconstruct the percentage values Erik Karlsson was assigning to the health of his foot, we don't have to do that anymore because Erik Karlsson and the rest of the Senators are about to start playing actual regular season hockey games. Way to survive the off-season, everyone! Well, mostly everyone...

Ottawa's first regular season foes are the Buffalo Sabres. This year's Sabres team is trying to follow Ottawa's blueprint for success from last year i.e. ride a squad of AHLers, depth players, whatever it is Patrick Kaleta is supposed to be, God-mode goaltending, and their one remaining star player to an improbable playoff berth. Can they pull it off? Maybe, but to be more specific, probably not.

With the opening day lineup pretty well set, let's take a look at the line combinations Paul Maclean is likely to send out tonight.

Forwards

Michalek-Spezza-Ryan
This line promises to be the "Pizza Line" sequel everyone's been waiting for, but the critics are reserving judgment so far. Michalek's Magic German Knees are on notice, and Spezza's been dealing with a niggling groin injury, but as my father used to say, "The lower body is a long way from the heart, son! Well, actually, it might not be. 'Lower body injury' is such an ambiguous term, it could mean practically anything. You know what, maybe we better get that looked at." My father's caution aside, this line will crush it this year assuming everyone stays healthy, which is a little like saying, "Nuclear power is awesome, assuming you don't explode."

MacArthur-Turris-Conacher
The chemistry between the players on this line in the preseason has been palpable. Cory Conacher looks so much like a wrecking ball in front of the net that [MILEY CYRUS JOKE REDACTED. We're better than that around here. - Mullet]. With Conacher adapting well to his "crash the net" role, the coaching staff has asked Kyle Turris's Ass to change the way it plays the game. Training camp reports stated that Turris's Ass reported to camp looking leaner than last year, having put on 10 pounds of muscle. Turris's Ass has mostly been shadowing Turris in the preseason, but may get some time on the 2nd powerplay unit as time goes on.

Smith-Da Costa-Neil
Smith and Neil are well established in the [grit/sandpaper/rough edge/woodworking metaphor of your choice] role on the Senators. For Da Costa, this represents an opportunity for him to play with the most skilled linemates of his career. Watch for this line to get under the skin of the opposition, and for Zack Smith's locker room song selection to improve now that he doesn't have DJ Z-BAD breathing down his neck.

Greening-Pageau-Condra
This line is a bit of a mixed bag, because even though Pageau and Condra are possession stat deities, like a backpacker fresh off a European trip, Condra can't seem to replicate the scoring success he had in Germany (18 G in 17 GP!), and Greening finds most of his success as Jason Spezza's wingman. On the other hand, the last time we saw this line together, this happened:



Screw it, I'm back on board! Let's possess that puck into the back of the net, boys!

Spare Facepuncher: Matt Kassian
I think we can all agree that getting a pizza to the face from a ninja turtle would dissuade anyone from taking a run at any of Ottawa's skill players, so no worries there. Erik Karlsson can now skate freely without fear of reprisal.

Defensemen

Methot-Karlsson
"He's a faux-hawked, stay-at-home defenseman from the Ottawa Valley. His partner is an award winning Swedish prodigy with a penchant for striped spirit animals. Wacky misunderstandings are inevitable as the two defensemen couldn't be more different, but when the evil forces of the other NHL teams conspire against them, they must put aside their differences and work as a team to discover their true potential. Mark Methot and Erik Karlsson star in 'The First Pairing', this Fall only on FOX Rogers Sportsnet!"

Cowen-Wiercioch
Paul Maclean opted to put the 6-foot-5-inch defenseman with the new contract extension with the other 6-foot-5-inch defenseman with the new contract extension. What could go wrong? Well for one thing, if Cowen accidentally hits someone with his wallet, catastrophic injury could ensue. In general, Wiercioch is expected to do Erik Karlsson things like carry the puck and make incisive passes, and Cowen is expected to stop people from scoring. The way I see it, as long as they don't accidentally do the other's job, they should be fine.

Phillips-Corvo
Earlier this summer, Bryan Murray looked at the Senators' roster and asked, "What was on the 2007 Cup Final team that we don't have now?", and decided the answer was "Joe Corvo". For what it's worth, Chris Phillips is still rock steady in a shutdown role, but I still say that if your pairing's mobile defenceman is Joe Corvo, things are not entirely ideal. Expectations for this pairing should be set firmly at, "Anything that doesn't make you wish for the return of Eric Gryba is a success.".

Goaltenders

Starting: Craig "Toriwasa" Anderson
Backup: Robin "Release the" Lehner
Anyone else get a weird "Sith Master/Apprentice" vibe from these guys? I just get the feeling that Lehner's fine with being the backup for now, but he's just biding his time until Anderson becomes old and weak then BAM! Anderson gets a lightsaber through the chest while he's sleeping and Robin's the new starter. Then Robin's assassinated by the next goaltending prospect and the Sith circle of life continues.

Oh right, the thing with the hockey! Both these guys were great last year. A reasonable expectation is that these Anderson and Lehner form one of the better goalie tandems in the league. I have no idea how this would manifest itself. I'm a Senators fan: the idea of having one good goalie blows my mind, let alone two.

Conclusion

I'm tired of talking. Let's drop the puck, already!