These late nights are killing me.
While it was difficult to stay up to see the Senators lose in overtime to the Avalanche, it was a noteworthy game for a few reasons.
Jason Smith played in his 1000th game (and not many of those 1000 were soft ones either) while the team's new "young gun" Nick Foligno played in his 100th game.
If you had talked to me just two weeks ago, I would have told you that Foligno would have been better off in the AHL because he certainly wasn't getting it done in the big league. Now he looks indispensable on a line with Mike Fisher and Ryan Shannon, giving the Senators a legitimate second scoring presence for the first time this season.
And now they have a chance to put that to use. With 9 of their next 10 games at home, the Senators could conceivably go on a run here and put themselves in a position come April when there are 12 points up for grabs, all against Eastern Conference opponents.
Now I'm not saying that the Senators have a great chance of making the playoffs here. They don't. But it's conceivable they could rack up enough points in late February and March that the games in April actually become meaningful.
Even with 9 of a possible 10 points in their last 5 games, we don't see much improvement in the standings. But if they play over .750 hockey for the next month, that gap will close considerably.
But you have to remember that February is sort of a Twilight Zone for the NHL. Good teams go into slumps and bad teams go on tears. Last year at this time, Detroit was going through hell but they went on to win the Stanley Cup. It wouldn't be too surprising to see Ottawa level out in the coming weeks here but at least they are playing a system that's entertaining and gives them a chance to win every night.
Here's a strange thought. Last year the Senators got off to one of the best starts in NHL history. It would be bizarre to say the least, but wouldn't it be appropriate if they finished off this season they way they started the last. That's the Hollywood ending everyone desires here in town but what are the chances?
In tribute to Jason Smith playing in his 1000th game last night, here's a clip of him tangling with tough guy Mark Tinordi when Smith was still a Leaf. Quite the bout.
It's hard to believe with all those great teams, but Smith was also the longest serving captain of the Edmonton Oilers. I find it hard to believe that Kevin Lowe ever let players like Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith leave town. That team hasn't been the same since, no matter how much money they saved (which they then blew on Dustin Penner).
Alex Picard went into the lineup last night, replacing healthy scratch Brendan Bell. I don't think Picard looked too sharp. Bell is certainly inconsistent at times but I think the Senators missed his skating ability against the Avalanche. I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in against an equally quick Vancouver squad.