This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.
Tuesday, December 22 – Senators @ Panthers
You have to time your winter trip down south carefully. Sure, by the third week of January it’s 25 below and you’re desperate to get some sun, but if you go that early then you’ll have to sit through an entire snowy February with nothing to look forward to. You need to pace winter out. So wasting two trips to Florida during the balmiest December in recent memory? That is a complete failure to plan, like putting on your shoes before your socks, or drafting Brian Lee.
Of course, going down south again is exactly what the Senators are doing, finding themselves back in sunny Sunrise, Florida (“Miami’s Kanata’s Kanata”) just two weeks after their last trip to play the Panthers. And only three days before Christmas! It’s hard to focus on the game at hand when you’re playing in front of just a few thousand people on a Tuesday and you’re preoccupied because you still have to get something for your Mom, and she was too kind to say anything last year but that breadmaker you bought her was actually the third in a row, and you didn’t even remember you’d given her the first two because you were too busy buying yourself another ATV, and then Christmas morning your Dad took you out to the backyard to not-so-quietly remind you that you weren’t on an entry-level contract anymore and your Mom deserved something nice after all she’d done for you all these years, and then he ordered you to shovel out the hot tub he’d made you buy him. Holidays are a lot of pressure.
PREDICTION: You know what can alleviate pressure? Playing the Florida Panthers, who are the NHL equivalent of those nice old ladies working the gift wrap station at the mall who know that you’re short on time and that you can’t tie a ribbon to save your life anyway – I mean, look at those meathook hands of yours – so they’re happy to wrap up that fourth breadmaker for you. “Oh, this one’s top of the line,” one will tell you; “I’m sure your mother will just love it. Although you get to be our age and your childrens’ presence is the real present, you know.” The Panthers are like that, except instead of making you feel better about your terrible gifting, they’ll just give you two points in the standings. Look for callup Ryan Dzingel to pick up his first NHL point and inspire thousands of terrible headlines the next day. “Dzingel Ready to Mingle,” they’ll say. Senators 5, Panthers 0.
Sunday, December 27 – Senators vs. Bruins
For years the Bruins lived right on the edge of general decency, and they were good at it. They knew how to get under your team’s skin just a little early, finish their checks just a little late, and tiptoe just slightly over the line until they won, which they usually did. They could find every seam your team had hidden and methodically start pulling at them like they were disassembling a quilt. Some said the Bruins were the only genuine, old-school, win-at-all-costs hockey team left in the modern NHL, and others said they were just shameless goons. The only thing both sides could agree on is that the Vancouver Canucks were a thousand times worse.
Times have changed (unless you’re the Canucks, that is), and only a few years removed from their Cup win, the Bruins’ filthy zestiness has metastasized into a kind of filthy malaise. The Bruins still play hard, but there’s little that’s fun about them; sure, dirtbags like Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic are gone, but the Bruins just swapped in even more irredeemable dirtbags like Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo. Feel-good prepper Tim Thomas has long been replaced by a Finnish cyborg, and Tyler Seguin took his party to Dallas. Even Zdeno Chara has begun to struggle with injuries and age, some nights resembling less a skyscraper than a condemned tenement building. 2014-15 was the first season in 400 years in which the Senators took their series against the Bruins, a development entirely responsible for the Bruins missing the playoffs by two points. To their credit, the Bruins are still challenging for the Atlantic division lead this season when many thought they’d be challenging the Leafs for the basement; expect most of Boston to start caring some time in February after the Patriots lose the Super Bowl.
PREDICTION: There are really two ways you can come back after a few days off over Christmas; recharged and healthier, or logy as all get out, dried gravy and bourbon still staining your sweater. Look for the Senators’ young players to get a jump on the older Bruins early in this one, and for you to change your sweater after three days of gorging yourself, maybe? Did you even get any of that cranberry sauce in your mouth? Senators 5, Bruins 0.
Season prediction record: 17-12-5
Next week: start 2016 the right way, with… ah, Patrick Kane. We’ll try again in 2017, I guess.