OTT Defeats TOR 5-3, Wins Battle of Ontario
By Ken Hawkins (a.k.a. khawk)
Saturday night was another interesting test for the Senators, as the NHL schedule inexplicably gave them 5 extra days without a game since the All-Star break. Not that games between the provincial rivals need a lot of extra sauce to deliver on entertainment value, of course. And this game definitely got a healthy dose of extra sauce before the final buzzer, which will no doubt fuel podcasts, opinion boards, and comments sections as the NHL makes its decision about whether supplemental discipline is needed. But prior to the circus that transpired late in the 3rd period, there was an actual NHL game played.
The First 59:54 Of The Game
It didn’t start well for the Senators, as early in the first period they looked every bit like a team that hadn’t played in over a week. TOR jumped out to the early 1-0 lead, and it would have been worse if not for a successful coach challenge. Korpisalo made a number of big saves to keep the game within reach, and OTT responded with goals from veterans Giroux and Tarasenko, which helped get the rest of the team into gear. Most importantly, Norris scored his first goal in over a month, and the sense of relief was palpable. It’s also noteworthy that despite Sanderson being out of the lineup, the top-4D pairings looked more balanced with Chabot and Chychrun playing on their natural side… and with dedicated RHD support in the form of Zub and Bernard-Docker.
Overall, this game became a showcase of just how important Shane Pinto has become to the Senators. In just 7GP since his return, the team has a 5-1-1 record, and he’s now scored 7pts, has a +7 rating, has a 62.5% faceoff win %, has displaced both Stutzle and Norris from the #1PP role, and earned the trust of Martin in all key game situations. He’s developing into the kind of 5-tool player that every good team needs down the middle to handle tough minutes, and play an honest 200’ game regardless of who the opposition lines them up against. Most interesting is that his ice time gain appears to be coming at the expense of Tim Stutzle, who despite leading the team in scoring continues to look off his game. Hopefully Martin can work with him like he did with players like Alfredsson and Hossa to help him round out his overall game.
Three Key Stat Lines:
Pinto - 3 Pts, +3, 10/15 FO, 20:14 TOI (Team-High)
Korpisalo - 1 Win, 3 GA, 0.912 sv%
Stutzle - 0 Pts, -1, 2/2 FO, 16:37 TOI
The Completely Uneventful Last 6 Seconds
There are empty net goals, and there are empty net goals. Ridley Greig opted for the latter, using a full-windup slap shot that certainly added an exclamation mark to the win. Apparently this didn’t sit well with Leafs’ defenceman Morgan Rielly, who responded with a cross-check to Greig’s head that earned him a 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct. The predictable scrum ensued, but at that point it felt like the players on the ice were still taken by surprise by what they’d just seen from both players. This sentiment may have even carried over to the locker room, given Sheldon Keefe’s post-game comments that he believed Rielly’s actions were “appropriate”. Credit has to go out to Claude Giroux for having a bit more class in acknowledging that emotions can run high, without saying anything disparaging of the Leafs' assistant captain.
Safe to say that “appropriate” is the wrong word to describe the chain of events that transpired at the end of this game. This starts with the EN goal scored by Ridley Greig, which was clearly meant as a provocative statement to fuel the rivalry. Next, you have a deliberate cross-check to the head as overt retaliation, which has already earned Morgan Rielly an in-person hearing with the NHL. Then you have Sheldon Keefe putting Ryan Reeves on the ice for the last five seconds of the game, which served about as much purpose as his absurd post-game comments. Fortunately, the NHL referees on the ice confirmed the major penalty on the ice, and added a game misconduct to make it clear it was anything but appropriate. The league will presumably do their part now, with the in-person hearing allowing the potential for a suspension of more than 6 games. The suspension may not be that many games, but there’s no reason for the NHL to tolerate a flagrant attempt to injure.
What did you think of the Greig-Rielly incident? Feel free to comment below (respectfully), and as always thanks for reading!