This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.
Tuesday, November 3 – Senators @ Canadiens
You probably saw more than a few annoying articles in your Facebook feed last month from your Habs fan uncle – not the one in prison, the one who just got out of prison – about how strong Montreal’s start has been this season. Sure, fine, the 2007-08 Senators say hello. Go back and check how often the team with the best record in October wins the Stanley Cup, I’ll wait. I’ll just sit here and watch these Habs fans practice throwing trash cans through storefront windows, because it’s never too early to start getting ready for a first-round playoff exit.
You can ask most NHL experts and all my high school girlfriends – there is such a thing as “peaking early”. If the Canadiens were a Behind the Music episode, this would be the part where a portly British man in a cheetah-print blouse says, “Looking back, we thought the good times would last forever,” as a comically-large pile of cocaine is pushed across a mixing console in slow motion. Even now, you can see the seams starting to show for the Habs – Carey Price is already out for a week with a lower-body injury, which is Price’s code for “hip flexor” in November and for “shame” in May. Last week they blew a 3-0 lead to the Oilers. They’re now paying Tomas Plekanec $6M a year and they’ve never even seen his Adam’s apple. That purchase alone is more ridiculous than any money I’ve ever seen wasted on Behind the Music, and I watched both parts of the KISS episode.
PREDICTION: This will be the Senators’ first trip to the Bell Centre this year, where they typically play well; if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to score a goal there as a visitor, just recall Obi Wan’s speech from Star Wars about the destruction of Alderaan and how “millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.” That’s right, that quote uses the word “suddenly” twice in the same sentence, because Star Wars sucks. But not as much as the Habs! Look for whoever is playing goal for Montreal to eventually burst into flames. Senators 5, Canadiens 0.
Thursday, November 5 – Senators vs. Jets
On the one hand, it seems reasonable to have a soft spot for the Jets as a bizarro-version of the Senators playing in a smaller, more racist city but with an actual billionaire for an owner. On the other hand, no matter how often you celebrate Peggers as “die-hard hockey fans” (which typically just means “willing to pay through the nose for two more years of mediocrity at most”), it still seems like there’s something ersatz about their team, like the Jets are one of those fancy English gentlemen in a 19th century novel that mysteriously comes to town and wins a lady’s hand only to be unmasked by a jealous rival as a poor country peasant, or in this case the Atlanta Thrashers.
It’s not that the Jets are necessarily bad. They have some good players, some good prospects, and took a step forward to make the playoffs for the first time last year. They also still have Ondrej Pavelec in net, which is a bit like spending a few painstaking years building a custom sports car only to give it a four-stroke engine salvaged from a 1985 Honda Prelude. And it’s that’s kind of decision that contributes to general feeling of something being “off” about the Jets, like their logo being close enough to the RCAF’s that they had to negotiate a usage contract, or their best player not really having a position, or their fans arguing about whether their franchise scoring leader is Dale Hawerchuk or Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s like something’s been lost in translation somewhere, as if these new Jets are a redubbed anime, or maybe a Chinese tattoo that actually means “ham boat”. They’re still an NHL team, sure, but there’s something weird about them that you can’t quite put your finger on. Tyler Myers, maybe?
PREDICTION: Jets fans always seem to show up in bunches at the Canadian Tire Centre, either because they travel well or, more likely, because of how many proud Winnipeggers eventually make the decision to get the hell out of Winnipeg. Look for Mike Hoffman to have a big night, and for a mid-level Environment Canada analyst in a Jets sweater to scream at you in frustration as he sits in the parking lot after the game. Senators 5, Jets 0.
Saturday, November 7 – Senators @ Hurricanes
This spring will be the ninth anniversary of the Senators’ Stanley Cup Final loss, also known as “The Most Exciting Thing To Ever Happen to Ottawa”, and the tenth anniversary of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup Final win, also known as “Oh Yeah, We Forgot About That” in the Raleigh-Durham metro area, or maybe “The 487th Most Exciting Thing to Ever Happen in North Carolina After Every College Basketball Game Ever, And Most NASCAR Races, and AAA Baseball, and Probably a Few Panthers Games”. These people don’t need it the way you do. They live far enough south to get real barbecue but far enough north to get decent bagels, AND it’s mild year round. Have you ever been to the Outer Banks? They’re delightful. Screw these people.
It’s no secret that the Hurricanes are bad, functioning partly as a Staal family work-release program and partly as a clearinghouse for generic dudes with names like “Brock McGinn” and “Riley Nash” and “Brad Malone”, names you’d find in a particular type of film called, oh, let’s say Crease Crashers 7. But when you don’t have the pressure of carrying your local sports market, or even being cared about at all, you can basically just go with first ideas without worrying if they’re any good or not. Sure enough, everything about this team is so tossed-off it’s kind of amazing. Their uniforms are just generic enough to avoid a lawsuit from the Red Wings. The old joke is that their logo looks like a flushing toilet, but to me it looks like a graphic designer given $80 and an hour. Their team hashtag is #Redvolution, which is actually, miraculously, so bad that even the Senators haven’t used it. What are you revolting against, effort?
PREDICTION: What’s deadlier than Mark Stone? Mark Stone having just finished a bid for a crime he didn’t commit. Look for this to be less of a game than a Steven Seagal movie. Senators 5, Hurricanes 0.
Season prediction record: 5-4-2
Next week: the only team that even God hates more than you do, the Vancouver Canucks.