Sometimes pre-season games can be fairly dull but the tilt in Toronto tonight was actually worth watching, and not only because it was the first Senators hockey since April.
The Senators romped past the Leafs largely thanks to some offense by veterans like Chris Neil, Nick Foligno and Chris Kelly, but the best player on the ice for both teams was easily rookie goalie Robin Lehner.
He was Ottawa's best goalie in camp last season and it looks like he's going to defy the odds and make a case for himself again this season, starting with a shutout against the Senators biggest rival. Nothing will endear him to management and to fans more than that.
As for those few Senators fighting for a roster spot, not many made a major case but no one seemed to really hurt their chances either.
Roman Wick looked good to start the game but was a non-factor the rest of the way. Corey Locke played well and got a nice goal and a couple of points. You can guarantee he'll be a call-up at some point this season if a top six guy goes down to injury. Zack Smith played his usual game, tough and smart, but I wouldn't really say he's fighting for a spot. He should be a lock to make the team in October.
Not many negatives in a 5-0 shutout, but Jared Cowen didn't look very good, continuing his underwhelming play from the rookie tournament. He made a nice play at one point by jumping up into the play and going to the net for a scramble, but watching him turn around in his own zone and behind his net is like watching a sea liner change directions. Right now, he's at least two steps behind the play. He'll benefit from another year in junior and be just fine because of it. There's no reason to worry about Cowen's future.
Both David Hale and Brian Lee played somewhat average but they still have lots of time to impress in the pre-season. You have to give credit to Lee for attempting to fight Christian Hanson, the son of the legendary Slap Shot goon Dave Hanson. Lee's heart was in the right place but he got destroyed in a matter of seconds with Hanson finishing it off by slamming Lee's face into the ice. Not a pretty sight. Lee should probably stick to his stickhandling in future games.
The boys are back at it tomorrow. And I am trying not to get sucked into over analyzing pre-season games. But I guess we can make an exception for the first one...