Featuring prominently in Ottawa’s stunning last minute comeback win over the cursed Columbus Blue Jackets were Alfredsson, whose savvy read and work ethic generated the chances, Spezza, who scored the tying goal, and Michalek, whose play has been equal parts gritty and speedy. Without those three – arguable the only legitimate NHL line this team has – and Ottawa’s surprisingly potent powerplay (3rd in the league), Ottawa’s early season would be even worse than it’s been.
Spezza in particular has been dominant at times, and with 11 points in eight games might finally start to receive the kind of respect and attention elite players deserve. Michalek is showing what he can do when 100% healthy, and Alfredsson is once again defying his age. Beyond Karlsson, they’re everything this team has.
If Ottawa is going to surprise anyone this season – and read any non-Senators blog and you’ll see an endless stream of “lowly Senators” and “destined for a lottery pick” and just straight up “this team stinks” references – these three need to play this way all season long. In other words, they’ll need to play the role expected of Craig Anderson in everyone’s pre-season predictions and steal some games.
Now, were Anderson to return to his late 2010-2011 season form combined with the trio’s play, you might even have consistency from game to game. You might even, dare I write it, compete for a playoff spot. Now that there’s an extremely modest win-streak under their belts, this team might have some momentum and start challenging teams that aren’t, you know, the absolute worst.
More likely of course is that at least one (if not all three) of those forwards will be injured in due time, and then there will be trouble. Stephane Da Costa has one point in eight games and is -8. Zibanejad has one assist, and is 18 years old. Peter Regin is already hurt. Forget that these guys are barely second line centers, sooner or later they might even be called up to take critical face-offs as the Senators top centermen.
In other words, I’ll take these gutsy, exciting wins while I can. There will be enough tough games ahead. But what’s clear this early on is that Spezza is again proving himself, and is likely the future captain of this team. Let’s soak up the chance to watch him in his prime.