This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.
Tuesday, November 24 – Senators @ Stars
Ah, Dallas, another one of those teams that you forget has already won a Stanley Cup, although in fairness, most people in Dallas probably have as well. But Dallas’ improbable, triple-overtime 1999 Cup win is really more Buffalo’s entirely probable, fully inevitable Cup loss, isn’t it? Keep plucking that chicken, Buffalo. I will say that as far as teams that have left Minnesota go, the name “Dallas Stars” works a lot better than “L.A. Lakers,” although locals still frequently refer to the team by its unofficial nickname, “Not Quite Cowboys Tickets”.
Hey, you know who nobody seems to talk about much anymore? Dallas’ second-line centre, Jason Spezza. Remember him? Tall guy, #2 overall pick, former Senators captain? Anybody? Spezza’s still getting it done at 32; these days he doesn’t warrant nearly as much attention on a team that’s surrounded him with young offensive talent, but he’s still got the highest ticket on the Stars’ roster at $7.5M for the next four years. Yowza. Dude is going to look like Richard Attenborough by the end of that deal. Thankfully, the Senators trading Spezza was one of those clean breakups where both parties won; one gets to start over in a new town with a clean slate and a fresh reputation, and the other gets to laugh every time they see their ex on Facebook wearing a cowboy hat.
PREDICTION: So far this season, Dallas has been “the best team in hockey”, which is exactly the position you want a team in before it takes the Senators for granted and fails to prepare. Look for Alex Chiasson, who had a point in his dramatic return to Dallas last year, to quadruple that effort in this game, and for Jason Spezza to turn the puck over to Mark Stone at every opportunity. Senators 5, Stars 0.
Wednesday, November 25 – Senators @ Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche have one major point in common with the Ottawa Senators, which is that Stats People hate them, and one major point of difference, which is that the Avalanche have a terrible record whereas the Senators continue to be awesome. I’m not saying you’re wrong, viz kids. You’re just wrong about the Senators. Tell me how you’re not. See, you can’t.
Why have the Avalanche crashed back to earth after succeeding wildly as a poor possession team not much more than a year ago? I mean, they’ve still got a number of great players, and also John Mitchell. Some blame their coach, the super-chill Patrick Roy, whose management strategy to date has been “depend on PDO even though I don’t know what it is”. Some blame regression by their goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, as if a guy with Varlamov’s rap sheet could somehow regress any further. Some blame the moral pestilence that has taken root in Colorado since the enactment of Amendment 64. Like most complex hockey analysis questions, it’s probably some combination of all three.
PREDICTION: Denver is literally the “mile-high” city, with significantly lower air pressure than at sea level. Thin air can cause altitude sickness and even delirium for those not accustomed to it; it also results in lower coefficients of aerodynamic drag, allowing heavier bodies to move more quickly with less air resistance. Look for Chris Neil to be a superstar in this environment. Senators 5, Avalanche 0.
Saturday, November 28 – Senators @ Coyotes
Before you roll your eyes at what’s likely to be a poor turnout for a November game between the Senators and Coyotes, remember that a Saturday night in suburban Glendale offers a lot of options for your entertainment dollar. You can take the kids to the Challenger Space Center. You can take your wedding ring off and hang around Home Depot. Hell, you can find a garage cockfight in five minutes if you’re looking for one. So in that light, does anyone really expect people to go to the rink at the mall and watch a hockey game involving some weird, budget NHL team they’ve never heard of? That being the Arizona Coyotes?
We were talking before about breakups. This game will by Kyle Turris’ fourth return to Arizona as an Senator, and his first as an undisputed, on-pace-for-forty-goals first-line centre. If Jason Spezza looks back on his time in Ottawa as the kind of relationship that just ran out of runway after eleven years, then his replacement Kyle Turris probably looks back on his time in Arizona as the kind of relationship where he was tied to a chair in a garden shed for three years being force-fed gruel and bible verses until the SWAT team pulled him out. That’s not a breakup as much as the inspiration for years of Count of Monte Cristo-style revenge. I have seen Twitter wags joke about how Turris’ goal song should be Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, because of his ubiquitous gold necklace. Rather than that feel-good divorce-rock, however, Turris’ performance in this game should be soundtracked by any of several GG Allin songs, none of which have titles that can be printed here.
PREDICTION: The Coyotes beat the Senators in October in a game in which you may recall Milan Michalek’s nugatory brother Zybnek concussed local sunbeam Curtis Lazar. Lazar fights now, so look for him to reenact the end of Rocky III on Zybnek Michalek, and most of the rest of the Coyotes’ paltry roster while he’s at it, as the Arizona fans still in attendance grudgingly stand to cheer his leadership. Look for Milan Michalek to send his brother’s widow a ham. Senators 5, Coyotes 0.
Season prediction record: 10-5-5
Next week: Really having a problem figuring out an angle on the Blackhawks. Any ideas?