The Blues continue their road trip into the Eastern Conference with a stop in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. While our last opponents were old friends, the Senators are not so familiar. Although they have been the less-publicized half of the Battle of Ontario, they have been slowly building a contending team there. Well, by Eastern Conference standards, anyway. One of the hindrances to their success is being stuck in a division with Boston, and another has been the financial restrictions placed on the team by their owner.
These same finances led to a couple of the oddest stories of the offseason. Aside from the league-wide salary cap, the Ottawa Senators had an internal cap - a budget that was considerably lower than what their competition was working with. This led to the Senators low-balling their captain and franchise player Daniel Alfredsson. Ultimately, he left the team and his legacy behind, to sign with now-division-rival Detroit. As this process was being worked out, an Ottawa blogger named Travis Yost started writing about the financial problems of the Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk. They weren't very flattering, and were coming at a time where Ottawa fans were angry at the handling of Alfredsson and free agency in general. There were several blog articles that painted a dismal picture of the Ottawa franchise's finances.... there were, that is, until they all disappeared one night. At the time, he had been the target of a lot of phishing attacks, and one of them apparently succeeded. His articles were deleted from the server where he had them posted. Of course, once something hits the web, it's impossible to remove completely, and this work was rescued and re-published elsewhere. Travis investigated on his own, and found that the guilty IP address of the "hacker" went back around the world to a Ukrainian internet provider. It was a pretty small operation, and the biggest client of that ISP was a children's charity Help Us Help The Children (HUHC). The honorary director of that charity ... Eugene Melnyk, who had tweeted from the Ukraine at a charity event just a week or so before. Obviously, nothing that can be proven or considered conclusive, but a very interesting connection.
On the ice, though, the Sens have had an up-an-down season so far. Their record of 13-15-6 is well below the expectations the fans have for the team. The two team leaders in points are stud 23-year old defenseman Erik Karlsson (9G, 21A) and goals leader Bobby Ryan (15G, 15A) with 30 points each. Rounding out the top 5 are captain Jason Spezza (10G, 18A), Kyle Turris (7G, 19A) and former Leaf Clarke MacArthur (11G, 14A). In their last ten games, they've gone 4-4-2, and have allowed 15 more goals than they've scored this season. In their previous game, they allowed 5 goals to the LA Kings, losing 5-2. Frustrations must be mounting within the team, if their recent practice hijinks are any indication. And now, they come face to face with the St Louis Blues.
As for goaltending, they have a nominal starter in Craig Anderson, but he is being pushed by the play of his backup Robin Lehner. Anderson's record is 9-8-3, with a 3.37 GAA and .898 Save Percentage. Lehner, on the other hand, has posted a 4-7-3 record, but with a 2.42 GAA and .930 SV%. It's not known, yet, who is starting for the Sens. One of them will get lucky and draw that assignment. In that last game against the Kings, Anderson got the start, but was yanked after allowing 2 goals in the first 5 minutes. Lehner stopped 19 of 22 shots against in relief.
Once again, the Blues have a ripe opportunity for 2 points against the East. Their biggest obstacle will be themselves. The Sens have the offense to take advantage of a slow Blues start. Compared to recent games, the Blues' first period play needs to be harder, better, faster, stronger. Sure, the Blues are perfectly capable of coming back, but they shouldn't put themselves in that position to start with. Either way, it should be an entertaining game.
Final Verse: Hurry home from work, as this is an early one. The opening faceoff is at 6:30 PM St Louis time. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call is on KMOX 1120 AM. The GDT should drop just before the puck does. Until that time, feel free to gather here. Share any hacking stories that you know, try desperately to generate any kind of hate for the Sens, and catch a glimpse of where I do all of my fact-checking for Canada: