Step It Up Sens!
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.
Feature photo Courtesy Andre Ringuette NHLI via Getty Images
Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion hasn't made a whole lot of questionable calls, but you have to wonder about the one from last July where he surrendered centre Mika Zibanejad to the Rangers for fellow centre Derick Brassard.
Don't forget the teams exchanged draft picks in the deal as well – New York landed a 2nd-rounder and Ottawa left with a 7th.
Now, let's be clear – Brassard has been Ottawa's offensive leader in the post-season, so this isn't close to being a fleecing. But after watching what Zibanejad poured out onto the ice Tuesday in New York, you have to think this might not turn out so well for Johnny Senator.
The 24-year-old Zibanejad was New York's best player. He was physical and dominant. Clever and sneaky, Zibanejad was a load.
When in Ottawa, the big centre was tagged with hefty potential, but the consistency was missing. In New York's biggest game of the year, the Swede showed up in a big way as the Rangers coasted to a 4-1 win and crawled back into the series. Zibanejad picked up an assist, fired six shots on goal and was a terror on the puck.
Brassard, meantime, who turns 30 by the start of next season, was again one of the Senators top skaters.
The potential is clearly evident in Zibanejad's game. If he can maintain focus – always a question-mark in his game – 'Zibby' can be a difference-maker.
The Rangers game-plan in the win was to instigate a physical presence, and they succeeded. Zibanejad was part of that, but the entire team bought in.
Sick bay is also starting to reach capacity (again, a testament to Dorion's wheeling and dealing to add quality depth through the season, as documented in this space previously), and Ottawa saw Zack Smith leave early and Bobby Ryan late. Thankfully, the addition of guys like Tommy Wingels and Viktor Stalberg paid dividends.
Unfortunately, the addition of veteran agitator Alex Burrows (who Ottawa paid a price for) has yet to add much of anything. Burrows enjoyed a pretty decent start upon arrival but has been invisible since. The Rangers were the ones sporting edge and grit Tuesday night, and this is where Burrows should have stepped up, but wasn't to be found.
NOTES AND NOTIONS: Ben Harpur has been a nice 'find,' and might turn out to be a solid defenceman, but at this point he's clearly out of his comfort zone against the Rangers and looks a little lost . . . The landscape has certainly been altered in the other Eastern Conference semi-final. Depending on the severity of Sidney Crosby's head injury – and we know there's a lengthy history here for Sid – the balance of power might have shifted towards Washington. Pens forward Nick Bonino was putting on a brave face though: “We showed for parts of 50 minutes that we can play them without Sid,” Bonino said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following Monday's game. “Obviously we want him here, but if he’s not, we have to find ways to win. We almost did tonight.” . . . Can't imagine how the post series handshake line is going to play out. This one could be taylor-made for Milan Lucic . . . Was that a statement game for Anaheim Sunday when they plowed the Oilers in Edmonton 6-3? The Oil have shown an ability to bounce back from shellackings. Stay tuned . . . If the LA Kings decide to trade G Ben Bishop's rights prior to July 1, the betting is the pending free agent goes to Calgary. The Flames were buried in the opening round of the playoffs by poor netminding. Dallas is reportedly also in the mix . . . Is there a sadder story in sport than what has happened to the Toronto Blue Jays? In a world of quick and devastating turnarounds, this might qualify as the biggest. Given the aging and injury-prone roster, this likely won't be a happily-ever-after scenario. Remember the bat flip? Sigh.
WEEK THAT WAS:
Thursday: Ottawa 2, NY Rangers 1
Saturday: Ottawa 6, NY Rangers 5 (2OT)
Tuesday: NY Rangers 4, Ottawa 1
Thursday: Ottawa at NY Rangers (7:30 pm)
Saturday: NY Rangers at Ottawa (3 pm)