Maple Leaf fans got much of the same old, same old on Wednesday night, overpowered by an Ottawa Senator squad that controlled most of the play, scored when it counted and could count on the Leafs to take the inevitable dumb penalty or two (Hello there Darcy) to help out the cause.
The night started out nicely for the Blue and White, a fairly emotional little tribute to the hoisting of the banners of Hap Day, Red Kelly and Borje Salming to the roof of the Air Canada Centre. And for the first period they had more than a few chances to get on the scoreboard, but just couldn't score on the Sens. By the third period though, many a Leaf fan might have wished that the banners might float down to the ice, so as to provide some kind of defence in the Leafs back end.
The Sens who started newly acquired Martin Gerber in the nets discovered that contrary to the coach’s thoughts at the end of training camp, Gerber can play pretty good when the time comes. Gerber made the key stops when they were needed, facing 34 shots to keep the Leafs off of the score sheet all but once, the only goal a questionable penalty shot call for Mats Sundin who managed to put one by the Swiss guard in the Sens net.
The Sens who after a slow start, finally showcased their usual speed and passing, a team built to take the game to the oppositions end and keep the play there for a good period of a game. Defensively they were solid, even if that huge pillar of strength Zdeno Chara is gone, Phillips, Redden and Meszaros to name a few did more than enough to clear the zone and knock the Leafs around a bit.
Paul Maurice got to see his squad under real fire conditions, liking some of what he saw but no doubt concerned about discipline, a perennial problem for the Leafs over the years. Darcy Tucker while probably trying to motivate his team mates with some physical play, took a dumb penalty during the course of the game, leaving the Leafs shorthanded, but he was not alone as a parade of Leafs made their way to the box too often.
It’s one thing to try to play the body, it’s another to slash away not once, not twice but three times at a Sen all while a ref is standing beside you. Until Maurice can control the bone headed plays by his veterans, one wonder what he will be able to do with his crop of young and nervous rookies.
The two teams will meet each other three more times before October is over, the next match up tonight from Ottawa on CBC. We’re not sure what the pre-game opening ceremony might be in Ottawa tonight, but Sens officials should make it short. Getting the Leafs back on their heels early would be a good move for the Sens, one game down they are already ahead on the season series, a quick start and a few goals could have them pulling ahead right out of the gate in this 2006-07 season.
Senators 4, Leafs 1 Stats pack