by Chet Sellers
Nobody knows anything. Exactly one week ago, the Senators, riding a three-game win streak, faced the struggling Philadelphia Flyers only to fall completely flat and lose 5-0. All of the pre-game storylines I tried to gin up about a desperate Flyers team getting violent with the Senators in the usual way fell equally flat, as the Flyers controlled the game from start to finish and the most severe harm to a member of the Senators occurred when Paul MacLean broke his glasses.
|Paul MacLean struggles without his glasses as most Ottawa sports media members appear as shapeless blobs.|
If you read today's game preview, you'll know that site founder, Philadelphia resident, and Ian Mendes BFF Bonk's Mullet is attending tonight's game in enemy colors. Let's check in with him just before puck drop:
We're less than a minute in when Brayden Schenn high-sticks Eric Gryba to put the Senators on an early power play, despite Paul MacLean shouting "duck, duck!" from the bench. "Where, where?" asks Gryba, staring at the rafters. On the power play, the Senators come out looking like they've shown up for the game, and though they don't convert, they get some good chances, including a Jason Spezza shot that rings off the post. On the bench, Chris Phillips offers to take the captaincy from Spezza, in exchange for his promotion to Postmaster General. Spezza politely declines.
Although there's no scoring to start the game, both team play at a rapid pace but are unable to convert chances in front of the net. This back-and-forth continues until 12 minutes in, when Wayne Simmonds takes a delay-of-game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass. When the Senators power play can't score a second time, Claude Giroux makes a savvy, veteran move by putting the puck over the glass again to ensure the Senators remain pinned down on the power play. Although the boos from the Philadelphia crowd suggest displeasure with the call, they understand exactly what Giroux has done, and are simply frustrated because the Wells Fargo Center DJ has missed a golden opportunity to play Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Put 'Em On The Glass".
The power play mediocrity can't continue for the Senators, though; the PK needs its turn. Kyle Turris draws a holding call near the end of the first period and after only 21 seconds on the power play, an uncovered Claude Giroux takes a feed from Jakub Voracek in front of a wide-open net and puts it past a diving Robin Lehner. On TV, it sounds like the crowd loves it, but let's go to our man on site:
Looks like it's not just Claude Giroux's wrister that has some mustard on it, am I right? 1-0 Flyers.
Are the Senators fired up to come out and turn things around? Sure, let's see how that goes. Five in, Sean Couturier scores his first goal of the year, a weak shot from the side of the net that sneaks behind Robin Lehner. Senators fans everywhere go into panic attacks, having been convinced that not even daylight could get behind Robin Lehner. 2-0 Flyers.
But wait! Brayden Schenn goes to the box again, and within a minute Clarke MacArthur has scored a power play goal! You know, the kind where you have more guys on the ice than the other team, and you're statistically more likely to score? Weird, right? But what's it like in the rink?
2-1 Flyers. And just like in the stands, we've figured out what triggers the kind of physical play we're used to in Flyers-Senators games that we were missing last week . . . the Senators actually scoring a goal. Within a couple minutes we've got roughing shenanigans going on in front of the Ottawa net, and near the end of the period, Colin Greening starts taking out a quarter-season's worth of offensive frustration on Luke Schenn's visor, pounding him repeatedly until the referees pull him off. "That's exactly the kind of moment that's going to turn his season around," say fighting proponents and psychics.
Three minutes in, Zack Rinaldo hooks Zack Smith for another Flyers penalty, and not ten seconds later Kyle Turris puts away a Marc Methot rebound to make it 2-2. We're right back in this thing!
But Turris isn't done, and facing an open net after a Bobby Ryan shot pulls Steve Mason out of the Flyers crease, he puts the puck right on net only to have it bounce out off of Nicklas Grossmann's skates. Though video replays seem to show the puck going over the line, after a lengthy review the referees still call no goal.
And then the Senators fall apart, giving up two goals in 30 seconds to Kimmo Timmonen and Wayne Simmonds. 4-2 Flyers. A few minutes later, the referees award Kyle Turris a totally-not-a-makeup-call penalty shot on a Timmonen holding call, but an exhausted Turris is unable to bury his third goal of the evening.
And that's it, short of an empty-net Flyers goal right at the end. 5-2 Flyers. Philadelphia fans go home happy, as their team has made another stride toward .500 hockey at the expense of a struggling, unlucky opponent. But don't take my word for it:
Despite all the indignities foisted on them so far this season, maybe tonight's game is finally the straw that breaks the camel's back, the one that gets the Senators truly angry and turns their season around. Or maybe tonight's loss, the second in a week to the sub-.500 Flyers, is the final indicator that this year's Senators aren't the team we thought they were. How will we know for sure? See you tomorrow night against the Minnesota Wild!