Jen’s Jibberish: All About the Butt – Discover Your Inner Booty Beauty

March 29, 2012 3:40 pm
Screen shot 2012-03-29 at 3.08.56 PM

Who doesn’t appreciate a nice rear view? It’s nice that there is a month dedicated to the butt. However, I am not talking about what’s on the outside here. It’s all about your inner booty beauty. While Colon Cancer Awareness Month, comes to an end, I couldn’t let the month pass without flagging it.

Now, this stuff isn’t glamorous. Fair enough. But think about this. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to stack the odds in your favour. Sure, there is the usual advice (eat right, get enough fibre, watch the belly fat, cut back on the red meat and processed foods and of course, exercise). But there is also an important part of bottom health: screening, aka, colonoscopies.

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

Have you experienced any of the following? A change in your pooping habits? Blood in your stool? Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain or a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely when you are, you know going?  If so, consider calling your doctor. And of course, if your family has a history of colorectal issues, ask to get screened. You’ll be glad you did. In fact, you will just be joining the trendy set. Colonoscopies are becoming the in thing. Oprah had one and dedicated part of a show talking about it.  Need I say more?

The trend is a good one.  Imagine you had something there, some little nugget or two (known as polyps), didn’t know about it and it eventually turned into cancer. Imagine what a chump you would feel like for not taking a tour of your bum years earlier. Generally speaking, it takes a few years for a growth to turn into cancer so it is even more crazy not to get checked out, if not for peace of mind.  In fact, caught early enough, colon cancer is 90% treatable.

Early detection through regular check-ups can save your butt!

If the screening results are clear, you’re good to go for years to come. And if the doctors do find something then all the better for early detection.  It can be dealt with and might just save your life. You’ll have to go every 5 years after that for a follow-up colonoscopy. But it’s really not that bad. Why people live in fear of the procedure is beyond me. Some people complain that the two days before are extremely unpleasant as you discover reserves of  number two you probably never thought possible in the human body.  But it’s a great way to cleanse yourself and it’s a great excuse to take it easy, sit around, watch too much tv or read eating vats of jello.

Then there is the procedure. Nobody tells you, but the drugs are fabulous and if you have a great doctor like I did (Dr. Arni Sekar 613-729-3179) or a great anaesthicist, they are your new best friends.  The experience isn’t bad and sure beats the alternative. Fear is just not worth  risking your health. Period.

Last but not least, remember that fibre is your friend.  I have a great cookie recipe if you’re interested. Email me at  I have nicknamed it Jen’s Colonoscopy Cookies.  These suckers will kick your ass into gear if you need a little help. And they even taste good.

Learn more about your bum at the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada web site The organization also has a great PR campaign to boot (no pun intended).


The Final Four: Kentucky, and the Rest

9:03 am

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas sparked an interesting debate on Twitter last Sunday: how many Final Four appearances has Kentucky head coach John Calipari actually made? The NCAA has vacated two of Calipari’s previous visits, with Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008, due to rules violations involving star players Marcus Camby (in 1996) and Derrick Rose (2008). Bilas contends that Calipari’s first two Final Four appearances are, in fact, legitimate, as both teams lost upon reaching the national semifinals, and none of Calipari’s losses were vacated. Bilas’ point, unfortunately, is neither foolproof nor accurate. Not only was Memphis’ entire 2007-08 season vacated (including the losses), but Bilas’ point begs the question: If Calipari’s teams had won the national championship instead of losing, would the Final Four appearances still be legitimate?

Semantics aside, Kentucky’s four victories in the 2012 NCAA Tournament has guaranteed Calipari a trip to his second consecutive Final Four. (His 2011 appearance with Kentucky, which culminated in a 56-55 loss to Connecticut in the semifinals, has yet to be vacated.) Calipari has won 11 tournament games in just three seasons at Kentucky, and while previous teams populated with future NBA talent failed to survive March Madness, this Wildcats squad has a golden opportunity to clinch the school’s eighth national championship, and Calipari’s first as a head coach.

Anthony Davis swats one of his 175 blocks on the season, best in the country.

Kentucky will enter the 2012 Final Four as prohibitive favourites, a result of the team’s overwhelming proficiency at both ends of the basketball court and the elimination of their strongest possible opponents. Calipari plays just seven players with any regularity, yet those seven men form the most destructive, cohesive and talented unit of teammates in the entire country. Sometime this upcoming weekend, Anthony Davis will collect the Naismith College Player of the Year award as the top men’s player in Division 1, becoming the first freshman to claim the honour since Kevin Durant in 2007. Davis’ interminable wingspan and peerless defensive presence evokes a hybrid of Durant and Kevin Garnett, while 2011-12 averages of 14.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game have entrenched the 6’10 Davis as the top prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Davis is complemented by 6’7 freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a devastating athlete in transition with the ability to score, defend and rebound from the small forward position. Explosive sophomore forward Terrence Jones, sharpshooting sophomore guard Doron Lamb and gifted freshman point guard Marquis Teague (brother of the Atlanta Hawks’ Jeff) round out the starting lineup; senior Darius Miller is the nation’s best sixth man, while Canadian freshman Kyle Wiltjer provides depth in the frontcourt. The length and versatility of Kentucky’s wings and forwards allows Calipari to rotate these seven players in any possible combination, shifting ball-handling duties to Lamb or Miller when Teague goes for a rest or relying on Jones to control the interior with Davis on the bench.

Despite their youth and potentially frightening lack of depth, Kentucky has rolled through their competition, dropping just two games en route to the final weekend of March Madness. (One of those losses came on a three-pointer at the buzzer against Indiana in December, though Kentucky avenged the defeat with a 102-90 beat-down in the Sweet Sixteen.) The Wildcats have gotten this far with such ease due in large part to their impressive ability to defend without fouling. Although Kentucky broke the NCAA team record for blocks in a single season (326, through the Elite Eight), they have committed 154 fouls less than their opponents. Davis has fouled out of just one game this season, while Kentucky loses a player to fouls just once every four games on average, keeping their core group on the floor late in games.

John Calipari is searching for his first NCAA championship as a head coach.

The other reason that Kentucky has enjoyed so much success in 2011-12 is, simply, that they’re better: better than previous Wildcat teams under Calipari, better than their fellow #1 tournament seeds and most certainly better than the three teams joining them in New Orleans this coming weekend. Indiana shot 52.2% from the field and scored 90 points in the Sweet Sixteen, only to watch Kentucky score 102. The Wildcats went on a 16-0 run against Baylor in the Elite Eight, turning an early deficit into a rout within four minutes. Unlike Calipari’s last two Wildcat teams (who still enjoyed considerable tournament success), Kentucky is equally destructive on offense and defense, picking from a myriad of worthy scoring options and suffocating the opposition with unprecedented vigour.

Despite their loss in the SEC Tournament final to Vanderbilt, Kentucky appeared to be a tier above their fellow #1 seeds entering the NCAAs: Syracuse, North Carolina and Michigan State. Syracuse was hamstrung by the suspension of center Fab Melo for academic reasons, avoiding the greatest upset in tournament history with significant help from the officials, topping a plodding Wisconsin team by one and eventually falling to #2 Ohio State. North Carolina lost sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall to a fractured wrist in the second round, narrowly surviving in overtime against #13 Ohio and falling apart late in a loss to Kansas. Michigan State earned a #1 seed on the basis of their Big Ten tournament championship, but imploded offensively in a 57-44 loss to Louisville.

A mere 76 miles separate Louisville and Lexington, one of American collegiate sports’ most heated rivalries, a conflict dominated on the basketball court by Kentucky, both recently (Kentucky is 3-0 under Calipari) and historically (29-14 Wildcats all-time). Saturday’s semifinal will represent the schools’ first NCAA Tournament matchup since 1984, and their first-ever meeting in the Final Four. The focus will be cast upon Calipari and legendary Louisville bench boss Rick Pitino, who led Kentucky to a national title in 1996 (topping Calipari’s UMass team in the semifinals). Kentucky is a tremendous favourite on paper, however, and nothing the Wildcats have done in their first four games suggests that they will falter now. It is exceedingly unlikely that the leadership of point guard Peyton Siva, the three-point prowess of Kyle Kuric, the inside presence of Gorgul Dieng (who should play an admirable foil to Davis, nonetheless) or the boundless energy of sixth man Russ Smith will be enough to derail the Kentucky machine.

Louisville's Peyton Siva, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Kansas' Thomas Robinson will attempt to derail Kentucky this weekend in New Orleans.

The same goes for the finalists on the far side of the bracket: dueling 2-seeds Ohio State and Kansas, who rode the absences of Melo and Marshall, respectively, to minor upsets in the Elite Eight. Ohio State is led by a quartet of sophomores, most notably prospective lottery pick Jared Sullinger and crafty point guard Aaron Craft (there’s really no other word to describe him). The Buckeyes are plagued by the same depth issues as Kentucky, though Ohio State’s reserves offer no reliable secondary scoring option. Expect all five Buckeyes starters to play upwards of 35 minutes if they can escape foul trouble.

The Kansas Jayhawks, meanwhile, start five upperclassmen, led by player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson and emerging 7-footer Jeff Withey, who form a daunting tandem on the inside. The Ohio State-Kansas tilt promises to be the most enthralling of the weekend, with the victor likely to combat Kentucky in the national championship. Barring any injuries, Kansas should be favoured by a smidge, but the Jayhawks’ recent success against Calipari (defeating his Memphis team in the 2008 title game) will offer no reprieve against the Wildcats on Monday night.

A more pressing debate concerns a statement made by CBS temp Charles Barkley, who asserted, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that this Kentucky team would defeat the Toronto Raptors. While the Wildcats boast seven future pros in their lineup, Barkley seems to have ignored some of the obvious problems Kentucky would face in such a matchup: Marquis Teague trying to corral Jose Calderon; Andrea Bargnani and his 20 points per game in the NBA; the unspeakable atrocities that would occur when Davis inevitably got into foul trouble; and the general strength, experience and basketball knowledge possessed by professionals in the greatest league in the world. Unless the bulk of the Raptors can regain NCAA eligibility by Saturday evening, however, it appears that Kentucky will cruise to Calipari’s first title and solidify their positions as champions of March Madness and the best team in the country.

67s Vie for Playoff Redemption

March 21, 2012 11:29 am

For one game, it seemed as if the 2012 United States men’s national junior hockey team would not require the services of Shane Prince, the Ottawa Senators draft pick cut from the American squad days before the start of the World Juniors. The US faced off against Denmark in their first round-robin game, thrashing the Danes 11-3 in a contest that saw 18 American players record points. It appeared that the American strategy of rewarding players who progressed through the US developmental system and spurning those who migrated north to play in the Canadian Hockey League (most notably, Prince) would pay off handsomely.

The burst of offense proved to be unsustainable, however, as the Americans stumbled through the rest of the round robin, tallying just five goals in the next three games and earning a berth alongside Denmark in the relegation round. A late-game collapse against Finland would be followed by a rout at the hands of the Czech Republic, with none of the 13 American forwards (eight from the NCAA and five from the CHL) able to mount any sort of consistent offensive pressure. A 3-2 loss to Canada on New Year’s Eve and the ensuing consolation games cemented the US’ seventh-place finish, their worst World Junior result since 1999.

Shane Prince responded to his exclusion from the US national junior team by exploding offensively for the 67s.

The United States’ woes cannot be pinned solely on the exclusion of Prince or any other player, regardless of the underlying politics of USA Hockey. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Prince adamantly denied that he was given a legitimate chance to make the American roster, asserting that coach Dean Blais and his staff had essentially chosen the team prior to the December selection camp. While the motives of the US coaching staff will remain unclear, it is evident that Prince’s snub has paid enormous dividends for the young forward and the Ottawa 67s, who will open the OHL playoffs this Thursday as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference.

By virtue of winning the OHL’s East Division with 88 points, Ottawa will face off against the Belleville Bulls, a team they defeated in seven of eight regular-season matchups. The 67s cruised to their third consecutive division title largely on the contributions of Prince, who went on an absolute scoring tear following the World Juniors to finish 4th in the OHL with 90 points. Prince teamed with OHL goal-scoring leader Tyler Toffoli (52 goals; 2nd in the league with 100 points) to pace the vaunted Ottawa attack, demonstrating a penchant for offense sorely missed by the American juniors.

Although they feature no first-round NHL draft picks, the 67s boast one of the most complete teams in the OHL. In addition to Toffoli and Prince, Ottawa is led by 17-year old centre Sean Monahan, who sits 16th in league scoring in his second OHL season; and 18-year old blueliner Cody Ceci, 2nd in scoring among all OHL defensemen. Monahan has helped offset the loss of former top-line centre Ryan Martindale to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons, while Ceci has become the 67s’ top defender despite still being draft-eligible. (Ceci is projected to go in the top 20 of this year’s NHL Entry Draft, while Monahan should be a top-5 pick in 2013.)

67s and Czech Republic netminder Petr Mrazek was named the top goaltender at the 2012 World Juniors.

After missing the 2011 World Juniors due to a protest from his former club team in the Czech Republic, 67s goaltender Petr Mrazek was simply spectacular in 2012, dragging the Czechs to the quarterfinals en route to being named the tournament’s top goaltender. Mrazek has been similarly solid for Ottawa, registering a .917 save percentage and winning 30 games, tied for second in the OHL. A fifth-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, Mrazek will likely join the club’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids in 2012-13, leaving him one final opportunity to backstop the 67s to a deep playoff run.

Several players who possess equal parts scoring depth and grit will complement the three-pronged offensive punch of Toffoli, Prince and Monahan. Assistant captain Dalton Smith strikes fear into the hearts of opponents while providing an adept scoring touch. Steven Janes and Tyler Graovac can be counted on for secondary offense. Captain Marc Zanetti has returned from injury to solidify the defensive corps, alongside Ceci, veteran Jake Cardwell and rugged Slovak Michal Cajkovsky. Youngsters Ryan Van Stralen and Brett Gustavsen could be cast into pressure situations up front, as will Taylor Fielding and Mike Vlajkov on the back end.

Head coach and general manager Chris Byrne was active at the OHL trade deadline, sacrificing young talent and draft picks in exchange for established veteran help. Byrne rescued diminutive centre Mike Cazzola from the dismal Erie Otters; Cazzola tied for fifth on the team with 36 points despite playing just 28 games for Ottawa. Byrne also acquired heralded winger John McFarland from Saginaw in exchange for 16-year old David Perklin, though McFarland appeared in only 13 games before being sidelined for the year. Daniel Broussard, obtained from Sarnia in midseason, will log crucial playoff minutes on the blueline in his final junior season.

Tyler Toffoli led the OHL in goals for the second consecutive season.

Ottawa will enter the postseason in the same position as last year: 2nd in the conference, squaring off against the supposedly lowly 7th seed. In 2010-11, the 67s faced the Sudbury Wolves, a team they outpaced by 31 points in the regular season. With stalwart defender and captain Travis Gibbons out with a broken ankle and Prince having just returned from a concussion, the 67s were promptly eliminated in four games, beginning with an 8-7 overtime heartbreaker at Scotiabank Place and followed by defeats of 5-3, 5-4 and 5-3. The defense imploded after the injury to Gibbons, while Toffoli and Martindale were the only forwards able to score consistently, dooming Ottawa to a humiliating first-round defeat.

This season, the health of Prince, the emergence of Monahan and the fortification of the blueline should ensure a radically different result. The 67s will face the Belleville Bulls, the lowest scoring of all 16 OHL playoff teams. The Bulls are led by two players eligible for the upcoming NHL draft: centre Brendan Gaunce, the team’s leading scorer with 68 points; and goaltender Malcolm Subban, brother of PK and winner of 25 games on the year. Beyond Gaunce, there is average scoring depth, though no other Bull comes close to replicating the impact of Toffoli, Prince, Monahan or Ceci.

On paper, Belleville appears less dangerous than the 2010-11 Wolves, a veteran-laden squad that saw four key forwards (Michael Sgarbossa, Marcus Foligno, Mike Lomas and Eric O’Dell) miss significant amounts of time due to injury before returning full-bore for the postseason. Belleville’s top players have remained abnormally healthy, though it has hardly spurred their lifeless offensive attack. It is unlikely that Mrazek and the Ottawa defensemen will face much pressure from Gaunce and company, while the lethal scoring punch of Toffoli, Prince and Monahan should wear down the Bulls defense and their prodigious netminder.

Given their regular season success against the Bulls (earning 15 of a possible 16 points), Ottawa should roll through the first round with relative ease, though no 67s fan or player will readily admit it after what transpired last year against Sudbury. With Toffoli, Prince, Cazzola and Mrazek all set to turn pro, this will be the last shot at a deep playoff run for this iteration of the 67s, a team that has garnered many regular season accolades but minimal success thereafter. The key to it all may be Prince, the Senators draft pick who played hurt in last year’s playoffs, who was exempt from the American debacle at the World Juniors and who is prepared for one last chance at junior hockey glory, against Belleville and beyond.

Prepare for Spring with Total Cleanse

March 15, 2012 11:10 am
Photo by j.sparksphotography

Ottawa residents have been enjoying unseasonably warm weather these days and, given the welcomed change, many are starting to think of spring and even summer. Gradually, these thoughts of summer lead to a renewed focus on healthy eating and physical fitness. It’s time to get active, wipe the proverbial dietary slate clean and return to a healthy lifestyle!

Unfortunately, many of us are still battling the edible ghosts of the holiday season (yes, still). Wintertime tends to trap us into a rut, which then becomes difficult to escape. In desperate need of a jolt, I turned to a cleansing regime to reset my healthy habits. In the past, I have relied on ‘clean’ diets in order to reset my system, which means cutting out caffeine, alcohol, dairy, meat, and preservatives, while loading up on fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. However, this year I felt I needed something more drastic, as well as convenient. I wanted nutritious meals that I did not have to plan or cook. Finally, it came to me. I would try a liquid detoxification diet, also known as a juice cleanse.

Cleanse your body of toxins to make it healthy and strong!

Why choose a detoxification diet? For one, detox diets rid your body of its toxin build-up, whether environmental or dietary. While the body naturally detoxifies itself on an ongoing basis, an accumulation of harmful toxins slow the cleansing process, therefore making it more laboured and less efficient. You can ease the progress by committing to a short-term detox diet. A large variety of such diet plans exist. Most focus on the elimination of culprits, such as caffeine, alcohol, dairy and red meat, instead focusing the bulk of caloric intake on raw organic produce. By detoxifying you aid the function of your lymph, liver and kidneys. Once cleansed, you may experience increased immunity, higher energy levels, a greater ability to concentrate, improved circulation and overall mood, reduced bloating, better skin, restful sleep, among many other benefits.

Given my need for convenience due to a hectic family schedule, I chose to enroll the expertise of Total Cleanse. Based out of Toronto, Total Cleanse offers several different cleanse and meal packages delivered directly to your door for a complete hassle-free experience. Cleanses range from Energize, Refresh, Revitalize, to Purify, as well as special packages for brides-to-be. All you have to do is follow the program, which can last from one day to five days depending on your preference. There are no gimmicks or supplements. The juices are jam-packed with super foods, such as kale, romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery, parsley, cashews, blueberries, honey, and coconut – plus, they are all unpasteurized and preservative-free!

During the cleanse, you drink six juices per day, every two to three hours, in an order specified on the packaging. For optimal results, it is best to follow the menu guide two days prior to the cleanse and up to five days after the cleanse to ease your body onto solid food again. The pre and post menus are chock-full of veggies, raw nuts and some grilled fish.

If you are considering a juice cleanse, take note that it is not for the weak. While the six juices per day do provide an acceptable amount of calories for an average-sized adult, liquids are not as satiating as solid food so expect to feel hungry. Certainly, I was not starving but I experienced latent hunger for the entire duration of the cleanse. However, I never felt light-headed and was able to function normally. If anything, quitting my morning cup of coffee is what proved to be most difficult. In addition to the caffeine withdrawal headaches, I also experienced a very mild ache in my kidneys and lungs (two organs that play an active role in the detoxification process) and felt cold. Having said this, the benefits I enjoyed were important: high energy levels, clear skin, weight loss and the complete elimination of bloating. After years of blaming my lower belly bump on the birth of my children, I realized that it was most likely the result of poor food choices.

While it is true that the process was not easy, the cleanse was worth the effort.

While it is true that the process was not easy, the cleanse was worth the effort. The benefits I experienced afterwards were significant enough to justify three days of latent hunger. After months of feeling tired and sluggish I welcomed the renewed motivation and zest. My high energy levels are no longer caffeine-induced and allow me to keep up with my children.

In order to share this experience with our readers, Total Cleanse is offering a free three-day Purify Cleanse to one lucky winner. To enter, simply:

  1. ‘Like’ Ottawa Life Magazine and Total Cleanse on Facebook;
  2. Follow @ottawalifemag and @totalcleanseca on Twitter;
  3. Leave  a comment on our website telling us what you do to stay healthy

We look forward to all of your responses. One lucky winner will be announced at the end of this month on March 30, 2012!

*** featured photo taken by j.sparksphotography***

Ottawa Senators Monthly Report: February

March 1, 2012 9:00 am

As the Ottawa Senators continue their rise up the Eastern Conference and NHL standings, any notion of tanking the season for a high draft pick becomes fainter and fainter. The later parts of the 2011-12 season have been devoid of any mention that the Sens may be compromising their rebuilding process by winning games. The idea of an “Ottawa-style rebuild” has began to make its way around the league: take an established star (Jason Spezza, for example) and veteran talent to be replaced in the next few years (like Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba) and surround them with youngsters and a #1 goaltender, allowing the franchise to remain competitive and the future core to grow together in a positive environment.

Having traded for 22-year old centre Kyle Turris earlier in the season, the Senators made two more deals in February to improve the club both this year and beyond. With Craig Anderson sidelined indefinitely with a hand injury, Bryan Murray sent a second-round pick in 2013 to St. Louis for 25-year old goaltender Ben Bishop, the AHL’s top netminder at the time of the trade. Hours before the trade deadline, Murray swapped oft-maligned blueliner Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for 27-year old defenseman Matt Gilroy, a three-year veteran out of Boston University.

The Bishop deal (and subsequent one-year extension) serves as an instant remedy to Ottawa’s lack of depth in goal, allowing Robin Lehner to gain another year’s experience in the AHL while Bishop relieves Anderson for 25 to 30 games (a luxury the Sens couldn’t afford with Alex Auld as the backup). With a prospect pool already chock-full of potential NHLers, losing a second-round pick in next year’s draft is more than offset by the acquisition of a young player ready to fill an immediate need in either Ottawa or Binghamton.

The Gilroy deal, meanwhile, is similar to last year’s trade that brought in Anderson, in that Gilroy (a pending UFA) will have the final quarter of the season to audition for a new contract. It is clear that Brian Lee didn’t factor into the Senators’ plans beyond this season; by making the trade, Murray hopes that Gilroy can add an offensive dimension that Lee did not possess. The outcome of both deals remains to be seen, though at first glance, both the Bishop and Gilroy trades appear to be prudent moves for a young team staking their claim as dark horses in the Eastern Conference.

Record: 7-3-2. (Currently 34-23-8. 2nd in Northeast Division. 5th in Eastern Conference. 8th in NHL.)

Leading Scorers: (February) – (Total)

Jason Spezza (12 GP: 8 G, 13 A, 21 PTS) – (65: 28-43-71)
Erik Karlsson (12 GP: 7 G, 11 A, 18 PTS) – (64: 15-51-66)
Milan Michalek (12 GP: 5 G, 7 A, 12 PTS) – (60-28-17-45)
Daniel Alfredsson (12 GP: 5 G, 3 A, 8 PTS) – (59-22-25-47)
Nick Foligno (12 GP: 1 G, 6 A, 7 PTS) – (65-13-25-38)

Game-by-Game Recap

Carrying a four-game losing streak that straddled both sides of the All-Star Game, the Senators promptly dropped their first three games of February, falling 2-1 to the New York Islanders, 5-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs and 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues. Barely keeping hold of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Ottawa righted the ship with a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators, before losing a 4-3 overtime tilt to the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Day in Canada.

A Southern excursion would put an end to the Sens’ mid-winter blues, as the team picked up a pair of commanding victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning (by a score of 4-0) and the Florida Panthers (6-2). The winning streak would continue in Long Island, with a 6-0 thrashing of the hapless Islanders, and back at Scotiabank Place, where Ottawa won 5-2 over a Washington Capitals squad sans Alexander Ovechkin.

As February wound down, the Senators nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Boston Bruins, eventually coming up short in a 5-3 defeat. The brief homestand would conclude with a 5-2 victory over the Islanders, before Ottawa gained a measure of revenge against Boston, smothering the Bruins attack in a 1-0 shutout on the road.

Players of the Month

Just as Erik Karlsson has somehow managed to step his play up to another level, Jason Spezza has played the greatest hockey of his career to keep the Senators in a playoff position. Ottawa is challenging for the playoffs based on a run-and-gun offense that sits 5th in the entire league – an offense predicated on the ability of Karlsson to lead the breakout and Spezza to create plays from scratch in the offensive zone.

While many of the younger forwards lost steam in February (Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Zack Smith and Kaspars Daugavins combined for just three goals and 10 points in the entire month), Karlsson and Spezza have played out of their minds, carrying the load offensively with support from Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. At this juncture in the season, Karlsson and Spezza are Ottawa’s co-MVPs, an honour exemplified by their brilliance in the build-up to the postseason.

Goal of the Month

Although no Senator has topped this section twice, Washington blue-liner Dennis Wideman is making his second appearance for his cringe-worthy defensive ineptitude. On December 7th, Nick Foligno scored the prettiest Senators goal to date, blowing past Wideman and undressing several other Capitals in a beautiful individual effort. Foligno’s marker was relegated to runner-up last Wednesday, after Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek combined for the second goal in a 5-2 Ottawa win.

Each of Karlsson’s other 50 assists pale in comparison to his stretch pass to Michalek: delivered from his own goal line, off the boards, just past the reach of a Capitals fore-checker and onto Michalek’s tape at the far blue-line. From there, Michalek faced a backtracking Wideman, slipped the puck through the defender’s legs, cut to the middle and went five-hole on Tomas Vokoun, punctuating the goal with a call for the Scotiabank Place goal siren.

Hit of the Month Year

Chris Neil rocked Johnny Boychuk so hard, he knocked the wind out of himself. Exactly the type of hit the NHL needs to keep in the game.

Game of the Month

There are a number of suitable candidates here, including Ottawa’s consecutive blowout wins over Tampa Bay, Florida and the New York Islanders, scoring 16 goals and allowing just two in the same span. With the season winding down, however, Ottawa’s most important victory in February was the last one – a 1-0 shutout on the road against the mighty Boston Bruins. Robin Lehner stopped all 32 shots he faced, Erik Karlsson netted the game’s lone goal on the power play and Ottawa crept ever closer to the Bruins with their biggest statement win of the season.

Erik Karlsson Norris Watch

Put simply, Erik Karlsson’s accomplishments in 2011-12 are absolutely absurd. He has scored 66 points in 64 games, sixth overall in the entire league and 23 points up on any other defenseman. He is currently tied in scoring with Henrik Sedin and is two points up on Daniel – the two most recent Art Ross Trophy winners, no less. Averaging 25 minutes a game, Karlsson has refined his defensive game by leaps and bounds, compensating for his lack of size with unparalleled speed and an active stick. No other defenseman is in the same offensive realm as Karlsson, which is the primary reason for Karlsson’s legitimate Norris Trophy candidacy at just 21 years of age.

Karlsson’s offensive eruption surpasses the career seasons of Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky (68 points in 2010-11) and Washington’s Mike Green (73 points in 2008-09, 76 points in 2009-10). While Visnovsky and Green both benefitted from the presence of elite offensive talent up front, Ottawa’s offense derives from Karlsson’s prodigious playmaking ability from all over the ice. Karlsson sits 2nd on the Senators’ scoring list, just five points back of Jason Spezza, while Visnovsky ranked 5th on Anaheim in 2011 (behind Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan) and Green 4th on Washington in 2009 and 2010 (behind Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin).

While Karlsson generally struggles against teams with aggressive, physical fore-checks, such as Vancouver and Boston, he stands to improve as he adds strength and gains even more experience against elite competition. Karlsson has evolved from maligned 15th overall pick to extremely raw offensive talent to All-Star to one of the game’s greatest talents in just four short years. His greatest competition is Nashville’s Shea Weber, a defensive stalwart putting up solid statistics in his own right. As it stands now, the massive gap between Karlsson and Weber in scoring should be enough to offset any differences on defense, making Karlsson the leading candidate for this year’s Norris Trophy.

Looking Ahead

Ottawa will play 13 of their 17 remaining contests in March, with five coming against Northeast Division rivals (including three matchups with Montreal Canadiens). Games against New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia late in the month will carry significant playoff implications, while Florida, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg will be making a desperate push for inclusion in the postseason. Seven games will be played on home ice, including tilts against Chicago and the New York Rangers, two teams priming themselves for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

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