With seven games in the books as an Ottawa Senator, and with a respectable 3-2-2 record, Ben Bishop has settled in comfortably as option 1B for at least the rest of this season, even as his arrival seemingly coincided with the Senators entering a Twilight Zone of flat performances.
Option 1A remains Craig Anderson who is very close to returning from a freak Julia Child/Dan Aykroyd inspired kitchen accident, but if more of the unexpected happens, Coach Paul MacLean knows he can throw Bishop into the nets and his boys will have a chance to win hockey games.
Yet there was some anxiety for a few fans when GM Bryan Murray moved a 2013 second-round draft pick for the unproven behemoth, but they had good company in a few NHL GM's who were also chasing Bishop but didn't want to pay the asking price.
Here's the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman on Ottawa trading for Bishop: “Other teams (Toronto, Tampa Bay) didn't want to give up a second-rounder. But when the time comes to decide between him and Robin Lehner, you've got to figure the Senators get back that pick, if not something better.”
It's strange how much of a no-brainer this seems now, only weeks after the deal. You'd think a second-rounder would be a very reasonable price to pay for an NHL goalie but obviously some felt differently. I think some fans feel the accumulation of draft picks is more important than actually winning hockey games but it's surprising to hear some NHL GM's were that cautious. If Bishop were to be drafted this season, he’d be a late first-rounder or a second at worst.
Of course, pro and amateur scouting has a lot to do with successful trades but when it comes down to pushing the big red button on a transaction, the GM has to have the nerve to make the decision, knowing it could flop and make him look foolish in the eyes of some critics.
Goalies in particular seem hazardous to the sanity of GM's. You feel for guys like Bobby Clarke and Rejean Houle.
Yet there's a fairly recent example of second-rounder/goalie swap that worked out well for the team acquiring the warm body.
The Anaheim Ducks traded a second-round pick to Calgary for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, another big goalie (for the pre-Rinne era at least) back at the 2000 Entry Draft. Giguere led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 where they lost to the Devils (Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy despite losing the series), and then finally won the Cup in 2007 against the Senators. That second-rounder traded away by the Ducks (and then later moved to Washington) became Matt Pettinger, a serviceable player but not a true difference maker like Giguere was for many years.
If you don't take any risks, you end up watching other team's parades.
New Jersey 1 Ottawa 0
This was another frustrating game for the Senators, who look like they've hit the wall after a long season of giving us entertaining hockey.
That's about 3 clunkers in a row and on Tuesday night the Senators were even without Jason Spezza who missed the game for undisclosed reasons, although it's been acknowledged he's had a tough week away from the rink
Whatever insight you could gain by breaking down the last week of plodding, low-scoring games might be misleading. The Senators look tired and frustrated on their own home ice but these kinds of spells hit most teams at some point in the season.
They remain 6 points up on idle Buffalo who seem to be the only team who could realistically pull the Senators kicking and screaming from the top eight. Ottawa's not going to catch the Devils for 6th and a Florida first-round matchup anymore, but they only need to tread water at .500 to reach their goal.
No reason to scream for the lifeguard just yet.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Ben Bishop (.971 SV%)
2. Chris Neil (9 hits, 4 shots)
3. Erik Karlsson (6 shots)
Honourable Mentions: Matt Gilroy
Matt Gilroy – still tanned…. Daniel Alfredsson has been fairly cold for a while now, but I suspect the wise veteran has learned a few hard lessons over the years (thanks to Mark Bell) and is making sure he reaches the playoffs healthy so he can put it all on the line when it matters. He knows this could be his last chance at the post-season and I’m sure these final few games can’t go fast enough right now…... As I said on Twitter this weekend, the Senators have fallen flat way too many times against the Toronto Maple Leafs over the years to call it a coincidence. It’s more like an incurable neurosis that spans generations of players through a mysterious process that no one can seem to grasp. I propose a dressing stall in the Senators locker room be cleared to make room for the exact same altar of worship that Pedro Cerrano from Major League set up for Jobu. “Tis' very bad to steal Jobu’s rum. Tis' very bad.”
…. Another reason hockey is the best? One woman proposed marriage to another Saturday night on the ice in Kanata. And the Senators helped facilitate the moment, which was a classy move on their part. But what if Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been in attendance that night (as he sometimes is at Scotiabank Place)? Would he have sat on his hands and frowned (as his core far-right supporters would insist he do) or would he have applauded like the rest of the crowd who clearly enjoyed the moment? That would have been ten times more interesting than the game that night…. No surprise we hear the typical hand-wringing from pundits horrified that the Devils and Rangers started off their Monday night game with three “staged” fights off the opening faceoff. “O, the humanity! The barbarism!” Personally, as a fan of the game, I loved it. I wish more games would start that way. If Ottawa went out for the opening faceoff last Saturday night against the Leafs and immediately started a line-brawl, it would easily go down as one of the great Battle of Ontario games, no matter what happened the rest of the 59 minutes. Nothing wrong with a good yard-sale once in a while, especially between bitter rivals like the Devils and the Rangers. The players seem to enjoy it. That’s good enough for me…
....If rumours are true that Patrick Roy already has a deal in place to take over as Montreal coach this summer, the Habs have hit the jackpot. There will be a lot of doubters out there but Roy is a winner and he’ll find a way to win as an NHL bench boss as well. And as an ex-player who clashed with more than a few head coaches, he’ll understand what his players are going through and what it takes to survive in Montreal as an object of fanatical obsession. Now, what's Mark Messier doing lately…. Lots of hype about Alex Radulov and the Nashville Predators, but there does remain the very real possibility that Radulov doesn’t make much of an impact and the Preds lose to Detroit or someone else in the first round. The expectations have risen so quickly that a potential disappointment may not be far behind. We’ve seen this type of thing play out so many times in the first round. Ottawa fans know this reality all too well. Nothing against Radulov or the Preds at all, but it just seems too storybook right now....
.... Here's Mel Bridgman, the Ottawa Senators first GM, on the cover of the Devils 84-85 Media Guide (click for larger image). I'd love one of those old foam and mesh caps the kids are wearing.
..... Roy MacGregor, one of my favourite sportswriters, has a little fun at Ottawa’s expense in Tuesday’s Globe by calling the capital city and Winnipeg “(t)he two lesser cities, of roughly equal size…” Oh Roy. Ottawa is the 4th largest census metropolitan area in Canada with a population of 1,236,324. Winnipeg is 8th with 730,018 people. But give Roy credit. He knows how to get an easy rise from us Bytowners, and that’s to call the city small and boring (in the same article he calls Ottawa fans “so librarian”). Hey, columnists have been doing it for a century. Roy’s just doing his small part. But here’s the catch - When you complain, like me, that someone is calling your town small, you’re basically confirming it by the act of complaining. I even trotted out the stats. How small-town and sad is that?.... Here's “Dobber” via Puck Daddy on the woes (and sudden emergence) of Columbus goalie Steve Mason, who recently switched to bigger pads, and what that could mean for a future crackdown on oversized goalie equipment: “Probably the worst goalie in the league from October through February, Mason has suddenly become one of the best. The reason? Bigger pads? If that truly is the case, then the NHL would have all the proof it needs to increase scoring. If bigger pads can turn a guy who was probably not fit to start in the ECHL into an NHL goalie with a 94% save percentage, then what would shrinking said pads do for league-wide offense?”
This is what NHL shooters used to face:
This is what they face now: