Right off the hop, I must confess to you, Game Time reader, that I’m cheating. On 29 occassions this season, I will be able to witness a team in person, gather my thoughts and a few fun facts and even talk to some interesting folks about life on the road and the ways their games may change.
This column, however, covers the 30th instance. I have massaged and manipulated my schedule as much as possible (I did three games in three days in three cities last weekend!), but the damn Ottawa Senators just don’t fit.
While they did play in Brooklyn last night, I’m driving to St. Louis from Washington on Thursday, and the thought of squeezing in a round trip to New York, well, sucked. The Senators travel to DC in March, but by that point, I already have a column planned for every single home game. The schedule is weird. I blame Arch Madness.
So, instead, I’m trying something different. Tonight’s column on the Ottawa Senators (Edmonton returns to St. Louis in February, and they’re in Washington as part of that same trip) will be based on my observations of their game against the Islanders from my couch in DC. It should be taken with an appropriately sized grain of salt, and you should remain aware that I’m utterly useless when it comes to behind the scenes information flowing out of Ottawa.
While the Senators don’t have any direct connections to the Blues, they do have a St. Louisan. Defenseman Chris Wideman is a Chaminade alum who was drafted by Ottawa in 2009, and in his second season in the NHL, he’s carving out a comfortable niche as a considerably less Swedish version of Carl Gunnarsson.
Tonight’s game is the NHL.tv free game of the night, so you, dear reader, may be following along with me. I’ve chosen the Ottawa feed, for obvious reasons, and it’s kicking off with an interesting but wholly depressing vignette covering Gord Downie, small families and sadness at Christmas.
Ottawa has been hit by a series of tragic occurrences lately; team owner Eugene Melnyk, GM Bryan Murray and goalie Craig Anderson’s wife Nicholle have all been fighting cancer. Even still, I find myself surprised at the chord this is striking, and incredibly hopeful that some cool hockey stuff happens to make it worth the slog.
This game is a bizarre game in net. Andrew Hammond, who has been through waivers this year, is making his third start of the season for Ottawa. J-F Berube has been the Islanders third goalie for the last two seasons, but is playing for only the fourth time this year. There appears to be no truth to the rumor that he lives in the truck parked at Barclay’s.
Kyle Turris remains a dangerous offensive force for the Senators, and he has an interesting tie to the Blues. Turris was acquired from Arizona in exchange for David Rundblad, who the Blues famously traded for the pick they used to select Vladimir Tarasenko. Rundblad, of course, has his name on the Stanley Cup, which should provide you with a heartwarming Christmas reminder that, if a hockey god exists, she fucking hates the Blues.
Chris Neil recently celebrated his 1,000th game in the NHL, all spent with Ottawa. He may truly be the last of his kind, as his career 82 game average for goals is about nine, and the same statistic for PIM is 205. Most guys who do that don’t play 1,000 games for the same team.
Dion Phaneuf took an early interference penalty by stepping in a lane in front of Cal Clutterbuck and initiating some totally pointless and ineffective contact. Phaneuf was traded to Ottawa last year for a second-round pick and four pieces of waiver fodder that leveled the financial obligation for the Senators, and his consistently deteriorating play has made even that a questionable move.
The first Ottawa goal of the game was a hard work, high pain goal by Bobby Ryan. Following an ill-timed pinch by Dennis Seidenberg, Ottawa took off on a three-on-one that was capped by a Turris wrist shot hitting Ryan in, well, the wrist, resulting in a weird bounce and a goal in his third straight game, though he has a meager six on the season.
It would be very difficult, and also very dumb, to write about Ottawa without writing about Erik Karlsson. In addition to having the best reaction to Mark Borowiecki’s broken skate blade on Saturday night, the two time Norris Trophy winner continues to display superlative play at both ends of the ice, making it very difficult for Blues fans to continue to justify Kevin Shattenkirk’s ongoing defensive deficiencies.
As it turns out, I’m a poorer self editor than I realized, so my profile of the Ottawa Senators will be briefer than intended. Andrew Hammond just injured himself reaching awkwardly for a puck behind him, bringing waiver pickup and nominal starter Mike Condon into the game.
Condon entered from the strange door behind the net that holds backup goalies in Brooklyn in solitary confinement, because apparently a building that’s less than five years old can’t possibly have included sufficient space for real NHL benches. That bizarre entrance is a perfect metaphor for this bizarre profile – I have no idea what the hell it’s doing there, but it serves a rational purpose, and someone somewhere is willing to defend it. Tonight, In Game Time, that’s me!