4 Pithy Observations of Questionable Importance from the Season Opener

Hey, there was a hockey game last night. Did anything interesting happen? Anything historic? Oh, a 19 year old consigned to many years of indentured servitude in the most vicious market in the NHL due to the vicissitudes of some ping pong balls had an outstanding individual game in his team’s OT loss.

On Auston Matthews:

I can’t really work up much of a froth about Auston Matthews himself. Any player scoring four goals is an incredible feat. That Auston Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game ever is remarkable. The Auston Matthews chants that went up around the CTC were well deserved. I have no comeback to any of that.

I still gotta get on my Hater Grind though, and let’s face it, that is also why you are here. Let’s throw up that picture of Goldstein on the screen and get to…

THE TWO MINUTES HATE

It’s gotta be said that the Sens did lots to help Matthews look good. No one could clear the garbage on the first goal. Matthews’ second goal was a great showcase of his doggedness on the puck and the highlight that brought peace to the Middle East, but all I see when I watch that highlight is Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman failing to control pucks, Erik Karlsson being too soft on his own stick, and Craig Anderson getting beat by a really bad angle shot. If just one of those Sens does their job, Steve Dangle’s gotta find a new tombstone. Moving on, why are the Sens so soft on Morgan Reilly’s zone entry here? What is Dion Phaneuf covering, other than his own house in deep shame? What position does Cody Ceci think he’s playing in the buildup to Matthews fourth goal? The Sens had horrific breakdowns on all their goals against last night, and a single player benefited considerably from each of them.

Auston Matthews is gonna have a great individual career, but Toronto’s seen great individuals that still couldn’t drag the entire team to wins. This has also been the norm in Edmonton. Personally, I’d be wild tight if my team’s best player scored four goals in a losing effort. That’s the most Oilers-ass thing I’ve ever heard of.

Good game from Matthews though. Good for him. He’s good, a very good player. Good good good.

Good.

On the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre:

I saw a lot of rending of garments and gazing of navels on Twitter in the leadup to the home opener apropos of the (large) number of tickets still available. Ordinarily, a team’s first game of the season should be one of the better attended games of the year. It’s an Event! Hockey’s been gone for so long and it’s back! You get to see new players for the first time! Erik Karlsson is there! If you can’t bring out a big crowd to the home opener, you might as well pack it in, right?

Counterpoint: I can totally understand why Average Sens Fan wouldn’t want to pay Premium Ticket Prices to go out to a game mostly populated by Leafs fans on a Wednesday. Those Leafs/Habs tickets are ~3 times as expensive as a game against Minnesota or New Jersey. I know I wouldn’t pay that. If I didn’t know a guy who gave me a deal, I wouldn’t have gone either.

Leafs-Sens games in Ottawa make me believe in segregating supporters like they do in European soccer. It’s not a good vibe at the CTC for these things. It just isn’t. It’s always got tons of weirdly aggressive Leafs fans who just come out of the woodwork. I don’t mind that people cheer for the Leafs, but why do they have to be so in-your-face about it? Cheer for whoever you want, but I don’t want to have to see it.

So yeah, Loudmouth Bro in the Matthews Jersey negatively affected my experience. I’m not about to judge any Sens fan who stayed home because they wanted to watch the game on their television or mobile device sans pants and fans of the other team. Who did or did not show up to the game on Wednesday is not a commentary on the fanbase; it’s just a commentary on socioeconomic factors over which most of us have very little control.

On the Sens being bad:

The Senators were not good for long stretches of the game last night, and they were not good in many interesting ways. For all of Guy Boucher’s talk of systems and defensive structure, I didn’t see any last night. On an individual basis, the Sens were also sloppy. Between the failed zone exits, missed passes, pucks fired blindly up the middle, and lack of puck control, the Sens put on a masterclass of Bad Hockey. For all the fans who spent the off-season bemoaning the team’s mediocrity, this must have been very satisfying. You did it, my Boos. You were right all along. The team was bad. (A BAD TEAM THAT WON, THAT IS.)

The good news for the rest of us is that sloppiness is often transient. Anyone will tell you that the only way to get game reps is in games. Maybe we can send the whole team to Binghamton for a conditioning stint before the next game on Saturday so they can all play through whatever malaise is gripping everyone’s normally silky mitts.

As for the defensive zone coverage, we’re working on it. Still……working on it. *places shirt collar on Elon Musk’s shuttle and has it tugged it to Mars*

KOACHING KORNER
1. Cody Ceci needs to watch this game tape until he’s internalized the message.

2. Thank you for that demonstration of Mark Borowiecki. I am now ready to see Thomas Chabot for comparative purposes.

On the Sens being good:

Erik Karlsson’s going to have 400 shots and 100 points this year. Dude is playing Sweet Georgia Brown in the offensive zone at Petersonian speeds.

I think Dave Cameron encouraged EK to be more of a distributor instead of a shooter last year, and early signs are that Guy Boucher has instructed Karlsson to bomb the net like he’s Bruce Willis and it’s the only way to save the Earth from an asteroid strike.

Derick Brassard is good, extremely good. I think he might be better than Mika Zibanejad. His goal on a great individual effort was soul soothing and restored my waning spirit.

While Ottawa didn’t score on the powerplay, they should have as Mike Hoffman was robbed by Andersen off a beautifully worked shot late in the 1st period.

Finally, I would like to express my great appreciation for that piece of performance art that was Ottawa’s overtime shift. Everything about those 37 seconds was perfect. Karlsson’s patience to enter the zone, and then leave it again after he didn’t like what he saw was consummate professionalism. The tic-tac-toe setup to finish the game was the greatest existing argument for giving Michelin stars to hockey plays.

Some people might give Matthews a hard time for losing Turris on the play, but I don’t really think it’s right to do so. He’s only 19 years old. He’s got time to learn. Plus, Matthews had already scored 4 goals! Toronto isn’t even in the position to lose that game in overtime if not for Matthews. One defensive lapse does not wipe out all the good Matthews did in that game. In short, I will not stand for the Spezzification of Auston Matthews. I know a lot of people will want to hang the blame for this loss on Auston Matthews, but it’s wrong and anyone doing such things should be ashamed of themselves. If you’re someone who is perpetuating the idea that it’s Auston Matthews’ fault that the Leafs lost, you should ask yourself if you’d still want him on your team. I think we all want Auston Matthews on our team, we just don’t want him on the ice in overtime when one defensive mistake can cost you the game. That said, he’s just one man; he can’t be expected to do it all himself against all-world talent like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris. Even if Auston Matthews could have done better on that play in particular, it’s not good form to point it out. Let’s just celebrate what an amazing night this young man had, instead of dwelling on the single fly in the ointment which is the blown defensive zone coverage on Turris’ overtime winner. I will not send The Soup of Matthews back to the kitchen simply because The Cockroach of Kyle Turris resides within. Such bad defending during a critical moment of the game could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t; it happened to Auston Matthews and that’s not his fault, except for the ways in which it is entirely his fault, which is most of the ways. Ok, even if it is his fault, there’s a kind of cosmic justice in the fact that he got to ruin his own debut. Sure, Kyle Turris’ glorious snipe over the listless glove of Frederik Andersen was like Sidney Crosby’s mustache painted over the Mona Lisa, but at least Da Vinci himself i.e. Auston Matthews was the one who painted it. As Thelonious Monk once said, “If you make a mistake, play it loud. Then people will think you did it on purpose.”, and by that standard, there can be no question that Auston Matthews made this mistake loudly, and on purpose. Let us all just move on from this mistake that Auston Matthews made.

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