This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.
Monday, January 4 – Senators @ Blues
I’m trying to think of a team with whom the Senators have less of a rivalry than the St. Louis Blues. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, maybe? The Milwaukee Bucks? The 1912 Princeton rowing team? The Blues have been around for like 50 years, during which they’ve made the playoffs pretty much every season but never won anything, sort of like the Leafs if they made the playoffs every season. Crucially though, the Senators play the Leafs like 27 times a year, so I could talk your ear off about historic scrubs like Ken Klee or Boyd Devereaux, whereas the Blues are in the Western Conference, and I think they had Wayne Gretzky once? For like ten minutes?
The current Blues do have a few connections to the Senators, at least. Their backup goaltender is Brian Elliott, who was so terrible as an on-again, off-again starter during his time in Ottawa that Bryan Murray traded him straight-up for the best goaltender in franchise history, Craig Anderson, which is sort of like trading one red paperclip for a space shuttle. Ask a Sens fan about this trade and they’ll talk about how Mika Zibanejad should be Gabriel Landeskog, or something? I don’t know. The Blues also have star winger Vladimir Tarasenko, whom the Blues drafted with the Senators’ first-round pick in 2010, a pick they obtained in exchange for erstwhile Rockford IceHog David Rundblad. This would seem like a bad deal if Bryan Murray hadn’t already traded Rundblad for maybe the best all-around centre in franchise history, Kyle Turris. Ask a Sens fan about this trade and they’ll talk about how even Bryan Murray finds a nut once in a while? I don’t know.
PREDICTION: Wait, this is supposed to be about the Blues, right? Look for the Senators to defeat the Blues. Look for Colin White, whom Bryan Murray drafted with the first-round pick he obtained for Robin Lehner, to lead the US junior team to victory the following day. Senators 5, Blues 0.
Thursday, January 7 – Senators vs. Panthers
This is the third Panthers game in a month. In a month! It’s the first in Ottawa, though, and the first trip north the Panthers have made this year since snow has fallen, which means you can expect the Panthers’ louche, tax-free mercenaries to crumple like that plastic kiddie pool your snowblower found under a foot of snow in your driveway last week. You thought autumn would last forever, didn’t you? So did the Panthers.
The Panthers actually just got $86 million – that’s like 15 more years of Dave Bolland! – as part of a renegotiated lease deal with Broward County. Unfortunately for future overpriced veterans though, this money is going to be spent entirely on arena operating costs. It will also be financed entirely by tourist taxes, which is basically like if all the money that Ottawa earned during Winterlude was spent on that promo video where Bobby Ryan tells you about the CTC’s new money-saving LED lighting. The actual video production costs are minimal, but then you add a bunch of CGI explosions and a cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. “I’m Iron Man,” he says, “so I know when your clapbombs go bar down!” The he and Ryan do an elaborate fist-bump. It sounds like a stupid concept, but tell me the Bolland contract isn’t still a bigger waste of money.
PREDICTION: Alex Chiasson has 32 career NHL goals. Jaromir Jagr has 735, but four fewer teeth. Advantage Senators. Senators 5, Panthers 0.
Saturday, January 9 – Senators vs. Bruins
Brad Marchand! We talked last week about how there was no point hating on Brad Marchand – he is post-hate – and then last week he was suspended three games for throwing Mark Borowiecki over his back like a 200-pound feed bag. That’s the only way you can throw a feed bag like Mark Borowiecki, though. Credit to Marchand for figuring out the leverage on that one. Good Canadian boy!
Marchand missed the New Year’s Day Winter “Classic”, with many suggesting that he was thus partly responsible for the hated Bruins’ 5-1 pasting at the hands of an equally unlikeable Canadiens team. You know the tagline from Alien vs. Predator? “Whoever wins, we lose?” A Bruins-Habs Winter Classic is basically like that, if the Aliens were a collection of humorless cheap-shot artists and the Predators held up every battle with a 30-minute, uncomfortably militaristic pre-game ceremony. Whoever wins still gets to exterminate humanity, but only in a black-and-white montage which George Strombolopolous introduces by saying, “Lotta ghosts, man. Lotta ghosts.”
PREDICTION: This game will be Marchand’s first following his suspension; look for the Senators take the high road and ignore him, much like a mother whose child is throwing a tantrum in a supermarket. Don’t judge her; you don’t know what kind of day she’s having. Senators 5, Bruins 0.
Sunday, January 10 – Senators @ Capitals
Oh no, I ain’t writing four of these this week, other than to congratulate the conference-leading Capitals for having, top to bottom, what is easily the ugliest roster in hockey. This is the kind of fair, even-handed analysis the Sens blogosphere is lacking. Senators 5, Capitals 0.
Season prediction record: 18-15-6
Next week: The annual west coast road trip – the closest thing to vitamin D you’re getting for three months!