It was only a few days ago that I wrote in this very space David Rundblad was beginning to backslide out of a roster spot and that he'd have to turn it around in a very short timespan to stay in Ottawa to start the year.
Cue the comeback
Today's game was basically a washout for the fatigued looking Senators, but Rundblad really opened my eyes for the first time since rookie camp where I commented quite early that I thought he looked like an NHL player. Of course, rookie camp is an easy time to get suckered into thinking prospects are ready by playing against other prospects who are clearly not.
That certainly rang true as the first stretch of exhibition games showed a clearly hesitant and possibly over-thinking Rundblad who, while pretty good in the offensive zone when he had clear possession of the puck, was also too passive and a step behind the play when defending and reacting to changes in possession.
Not the case today in St. Johns, especially in the third period when Rundblad quickly became the best player on the ice for both teams, excelling during the power play and starting the break outs with ease. Now, it's nothing to get too excited over just yet. Rundblad still has a long road ahead of him to displace a veteran on a one-way contract, but he may very well get the minimum amount of games to start the season before the Senators really have to make a decision on him. And by then he might have solidified his spot due to either injury to another d-man or just old fashioned good play. All they'll want to see is steady improvement in order to keep him around. Today was a good first step for Rundblad. Better late than never.
The game itself was pretty much a bore, maybe because it started at 4 pm Eastern as the majority of us were just getting off work or close to it. I guess that's what PVR's are made for, but now I wish I hadn't bothered to tape the first period and actually sit through it.
Every exhibition season there comes a game when players hit a wall, even the guys desperately trying to make the team. Today seemed like that game in some respects.
Jared Cowen continued his steady and sure progress towards a roster spot, Daniel Alfredsson had some jump and was the best all-around forward for Ottawa as he continues to overcome his back injury, while Mika Zibanejad provided another one of his stunning moments in an otherwise pedestrian game for him. He corralled a loose puck, calmly pulled it to his backhand around Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec right outside the crease and then tossed it in on his forehand, something only a real goal scorer is able to do down low like that.
Zibanejad, just like Rundblad, is not done here yet and remains a candidate to stick around, if only for the first 10 games of the season to see how he does when the tempo gets turned up. Zibanejad has the size, the hands and will to stick, but he just has to get it all together in one package. That could take time, or it could happen tomorrow.
Today's game offered no answers. Just more questions.