It was a pretty good joke by the NHL schedule maker.
They threw the team every pundit picked to finish last up against Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk in Motown and didn't even give Paul MacLean a chance to miss his old digs.
But no one said the NHL is fair and the Senators, for all their efforts, basically got choke-slammed from the top rope in an awful second period in which they completely shut down and watched the Red Wings skate circles around them in their own zone. Veterans served up giveaways like they were waiters handing out free spumoni ice cream at the Old Spaghetti Factory (never, ever go to the Old Spaghetti Factory by the way).
In short, it was ugly at times, and right on the money as far as what the critics were saying about this team going into the season. But who's throwing in the towel after one game against a vastly superior team?
There were some positives to take out of crumbling Detroit once the Senators found their legs and their brains by the third period.
Daniel Alfredsson had a lot of jump in those legs and was skating as good as ever after surgery. Stephane Da Costa played exactly like he'd been playing since the rookie tournament - sneaky good. This guy is extremely shifty with the puck and didn't look intimidated at all by the Red Wings. He was better than Mika Zibanejad, but Zbad played pretty well for his first game, throwing a few hits and not making any major mistakes which was probably his main goal. He survived.
Milan Michalek was ridiculously good, scoring two goals, one of them a highlight reel contender. Jason Spezza was the main catalyst for both of Michalek's markers and Nikita Filatov worked pretty hard as the third piece on that line.
Despite one tough play, Sergei Gonchar was skating and passing well. Brian Lee led the team in hits with six. Chris Neil did his job well by sticking up for Mika Zibanejad when the rookie was hit hard by Wing defensman Jakub Kindl. Craig Anderson got torched in the second but had a strong first and third periods.
And lastly, coach Paul MacLean was able to call a timeout during the brutal second period onslaught by Detroit and really got his vets and young players back playing the right way. That is probably a pretty good sign when a coach gets his players to really respong like that when they could have easily called it a night.
So....that's about it.
As Reggie Dunlop said in Slap Shot, "Yeah, we're working on it."
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Milan Michalek
2. Jason Spezza
3. Sergei Gonchar
Poor Dean Brown didn't get to call his famous "Scrambbllleee" until there was 5:35 left in the second period. That might be an unofficial record.....Jason York made his Sportsnet debut and pretty much knocked it out of the park when he took a shot at his old coach and current Sportsnet analyst Doug MacLean by saying the one-time assistant with the Wings was more worried about his hair than anything else when young York played his first NHL game. You'd think the "new guy" would be a little nervous and stick to the basics during his first broadcast but York basically brought his radio game to TV and it worked well. If he's that funny on opening night, what's he going to be like when he really gets comfortable?.....The reason Chris Neil seemed so upset after being called for what looked like an obvious hooking penalty in the second period was because the replay showed Darren Helm grabbed Neil's stick and held it there long enough to get the call. Smart play by Helm.....
.....Erik Karlsson looked awful in the first period by being so soft on the puck breaking out of his own end, obviously trying to win a stickhandling contest. Karlsson had similar troubles in the pre-season but you were able to brush it off because the games were meaningless. He didn't look ready to play in the first 20 minutes but wasn't much better in the second when he gave the puck away behind his own net, leading to Detroit's 3rd goal of the night, scored by Cory Emmerton. He got back to work in the third period and was much better for the most part. Where's the intensity?.... That was a tough few moments to get through when the late Brad McCrimmon's son put on his fathers jersey at centre ice during a pre-puck drop ceremony. Not much to say when you see something like that......
....Current favourite talking head has got to be Steve Kouleas. How this guy isn’t a bigger media star is beyond me but it looks like he’s getting there with his current gig on TSN (a network he was a part of quite a while ago before leaving). The amount of energy he brings to every show is amazing. Never boring. Always brings it. How did the Score Network let this guy get away? His show there with Steve Ludzik at 11 pm was essential viewing for the late crowd….Actually, Kouleas is the second best. Forgot about Ottawa boy James Duthie, the finest in the biz ….
....The Leafs/Habs game on Thursday night wasn't exactly a barnburner. In fact, it was nearly lifeless. Wonder if the almost complete lack of passion or hitting had anything to do with that? Mike Komisarek tried to stir the pot a few times with some physical play but nobody else seemed interested. Per a James Mirtle tweet, the CBC says 1.935 million Canadians watched the game on Thursday. That was nearly 2 million people bored out of their minds until Don Cherry started calling people "pukes" and showing Scott Stevens videos.....The best thing about Cherry is how he can bring a flamethrower to the studio, toss a few grenades into the laps of the viewers and then walk away for a week and not give a crap what the reaction is. Nobody has taken more abuse in the press than Cherry over the years but he’s still the same – unflinching and brutally honest. I’ve always loved that about Don even though I only agree about half the time with him (especially when he goes on those strange right-wing rambles). The people who get so upset about everything he says are being played by Cherry perfectly. He knows the hockey world has rapidly turned against his vision of how the game should be played, but he hasn’t backed down an inch. Nor should he. For all the voices on one side constantly trying to clean up the game (which has been going on for over a century with varying intensity), you need a strong voice for the other side to keep the balance. A lot of fans are now too ashamed to admit they like fighting or big hits in today’s ultra-righteous atmosphere but at least Cherry is still there like the old gunslinger he is. I hope he keeps going for a long time to come. The pendulum of opinion will swing back to his side eventually. It always does. To me, his real love for the game of hockey is clearly evident. The coffers are full of people who tear down the NHL game and criticise it ceaselessly while claiming to be "fans". It's still nice to see someone who clearly loves it, even if it means he gets into endless trouble for speaking his mind .….. Not sure what to make about people’s remarks that Cherry is “too old”, that he’s like a “crazy uncle” or that he “should retire”. How does being old invalidate your opinion or views? It’s one thing to disagree with him but why attack him for his age? That says more about the person saying it than it does about Cherry….
….Geez, booing your own head coach before the puck is even dropped on the season is beyond harsh, yet that’s how Maple Leaf fans welcomed Ron Wilson when he was introduced on Thursday night in pre-game ceremonies. Who are these people that do these things? These village idiots are actually making me feel a tinge of sympathy for Wilson, something I never thought could happen…. Had to love seeing Matthew Lombardi of the Leafs scoring a goal right away after missing an entire year with a concussion. His awestruck celebration was hilarious as he skated to the bench and jumped into the arms of his teammates. If you hadn’t scored a goal in that long, you’d probably do the same thing. According to CBC, his wife couldn’t make it to his first game in a year because she couldn’t find a babysitter. Yes, hockey players and their families have the same problems us schleps do – except with bills….
...Vancouver GM Mike Gillis is so dour and humourless that he makes the Sutter brothers look like the Ringling Bros. Heyooooo...... The Senators should steal the Red Wings arena trademark and re-upholster their seats bright red. Or better yet, how about some barber pole fabric? The Senators have already made the glass dividers in the ends of their rink red. Looks good.... One of the best free agent signings in the past five years has been the Habs signing Hal Gill away from Pittsburgh. Every time I watch him play in Montreal I get more appreciation for his game. Hard to believe it's the same player who looked so hesitant and clumsy in his early years with Boston..... Scary news for the Eastern Conference - at some point late last season and over the summer, Dion Phaneuf recaptured whatever it was that made him such a feared player in his first few seasons. He just has that swagger back. He'll have a big season but will it be enough for the Leafs to make the playoffs? They just don't have anyone to get excited about up front. With apologies to young Nazem Kadri, there's not much in the system either that makes you think that will change anytime soon.....
... Will we see David Rundblad make his Senators debut against the Leafs on Saturday night? And if he does, who do the Senators take out of the lineup? Filip Kuba scored a goal on Friday and was decent for a good portion of hi 20 minutes. Is it Brian Lee? (I can envision the hate mail piling up from the Brian Lee Nation ie; every Senators fan with access to the internet.) Certainly not Jared Cowen right?
Should be interesting to see if MacLean decides to make any changes.