WTF Happened In Nashville?
Forgive me if this one is a little all over the place, but it will coincide nicely with the Senators' play last night....
So much for a Nashville-Ottawa game being a snoozefest. The two teams combined for an NHL season-high 12 goals in a single game, with goaltending certainly in the sub-par to terrible range and defense not a whole lot better on both sides.
Nashville scored 3 unanswered goals in the third period to win the non-shootout shootout by a score of 7-5, in a game that saw both coaches probably get a lot greyer as they watched their defense implode at certain times.
Usually 5 goals is enough to win a game in today's NHL, but this wasn't the case as Craig Anderson was not strong and he got very little help from the 18 skaters in front of him.
Ottawa held leads of 2-0, 3-1 and after falling behind they re-took the lead at 5-4, but they quit playing once again for a spell and Nashville made them pay for it. Nashville's third period outburst was the second straight period that they struck for 3 straight goals, and although the timeout Cameron called in the second period seemed to work momentarily, it is almost unfathomable that Craig Anderson was left in the game at that point. At least two of the first four goals were very stoppable and shots that an NHL goalie needs to save, regardless of the score being close at the time.
Not that this loss can be put entirely on the shoulders of the netminder, because there is plenty of blame to go around. On a night where the opposing goaltender, Pekka Rinne, stopped barely 80% of the shots sent his way, the Senators seemed to close up shop after exiting the first period holding a 3-1 lead. They didn't manage a shot for the first half of the second frame and couldn't play defense either, which made for a stretch that was exciting, frustrating and maddening all at the same time and was certainly an emotional roller coaster.
A game after being sat as a healthy scratch Zack Smith apparently got the message and had the Senators in great shape through 1, scoring a pair of goals including a great solo shorthanded effort in the last minute of the period.
Defensive lapses, turnovers and a 3 shot second period outweighed the fact that the Senators scored twice on the power play and the shorthanded effort, and had a shooting % of almost 19% (and 66.7% in that 3 shot middle stanza).
While the defensive assignments were switched to exaclty what I had been touting for the past 2 months, the duo of Wiercioch and Borowiecki was brutal and the other two pairs weren't much better defensively. Wiercioch especially has been a disappointment after seemingly turning the corner in the second half of last season.
Bad games can certainly happen, and this certainly was one of them, but like I said in the preview yesterday you can only count on goaltending so long before it comes back to bite you, especially when you have a hot and cold goalie like Anderson.
The sky isn't falling (yet), but there certainly needs to be something done to shore things up in the defensive zone so they aren't allowing so many shots and scoring attempts against.
The Senators are about to begin a 5 game home stand, one that will go a long way to determining how the rest of the season is going to go. They are in solid shape despite the foibles in their game right now, but they are playing like the team that cost Paul MacLean his job about a year ago.
They are just as likely to go on an epic slide as they are to go on a winning streak they way they are playing, especially with 3 tough opponents on the front burner in Vancouver, the Rangers and Detroit. The parity in the standings means that they could fall as low as 7th by this time next week...or they could be in second as well.
With this team it is a complete crapshoot of what you are going to get game to game, from the goaltending on out which is probably about what everyone (or at least most) expected and/or feared as the worst case scenario.
We will see what happens Thursday...