“This is Christmas! The Season of perpetual hope!” – Kate (Catherine O’Hara) in Home Alone.
Once December 1st rolls around, people start to get into the Christmas spirit, if they haven’t already. For the majority of Sens fans, October and November have been huge disappointments, starting the season 4-14-1. There were much higher expectations for this Senators team heading into the season and rightfully so. The perpetual hope was that this team would finally shake the rebuilding phase and start competing with the big dogs around the NHL.
The Sens kicked off the month of December playing 5 games in 7 days and while it didn’t start well, these last 5 games gave the fans some hope that they needed.
It all started with an ugly 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Canadian Tire Centre on December 1st. The WHOLE team played terrible, likely one of their worst performances in all of 2021, and rock bottom for this club. From giving up goals in the first 5 minutes of all 3 periods to making Luke Schenn look like Bobby Orr, it was a night the fans and team would like to forget.
Following that loss, Ottawa boarded a plane and took off to Carolina for a date with the Hurricanes, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Alex Formenton would score an early goal in this one and a pair on the evening, but it was Anton Forsberg that stole the show. Forsberg robbed this victory from the Hurricanes stopping 47 of the 49 shots he faced on the night after Ottawa very much was out-played all evening. Josh Norris scored his 9th of the season less than 20 seconds after the ‘Canes tied it at 2, giving the Sens a 3-2 lead, which would hold up as the final score. DJ Smith has been asking for one of his goaltenders to take the net and give his team a chance to win and that’s exactly what Forsberg did in this 3-2 Sens win.
After an off-day on Friday, the Senators returned to the ice on Saturday for a matchup with the Colorado Avalanche. Anton Forsberg saw himself back in goal after his stellar performance in Carolina, but this time it was the Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle show. Stutzle was awarded his 2nd goal of the season on a controversial play where the net was already off its moorings, but there was no doubt about his 2nd goal of the game. Stutzle wired one home on the power play to put the Sens in front 5-2 about midway put the team on his back! In overtime, Brady made a great defensive play getting his stick in to break up an Avalanche chance, and then turned on the jets to score the game-winning breakaway goal. It was his 2nd of the game and an absolute beauty. Sens defeat the Avalanche 6-5 in OT!
Ottawa took on the New Jersey Devils on Monday night looking to turn back-to-back wins into a 3-game winning streak. Once again, DJ Smith turned to Anton Forsberg as his starting goaltender. The Devils scored 35 seconds into the game, but Drake Batherson would score his 8th of the year to tie the game at 1. After another Devils goal, Brady Tkachuk would also score his 8th goal of the season to make it a 2-2 hockey game. Both the 3rd period and overtime saw no goals, leaving this one to be solved in a shootout. Josh Norris would net the shootout winner to make it 3 straight wins for Ottawa and Anton Forsberg. Sens over the Devils 3-2 (SO).
The Sens went into last night’s game looking to win 4 in a row for the first time since 2017. They took on a struggling Islanders squad who’ve lost 11 straight games and sit last in the Metropolitan Division. Filip Gustavsson got the start in goal for the Senators but didn’t quite have the performance he wanted. “Gus the bus” allowed 5 goals on 27 shots in his first start since the 6-2 blowout against Vancouver. Josh Norris buried his team-leading 11th goal of the season, while Nick Holden and Alex Formenton would also add goals. The Islanders were the better team in this one though, coming away with the 5-3 win. DJ Smith has never been one for excuses but this one looked like the 5 games in 7 days caught up with the Senators.
Not a lot of people would have predicted the Sens go 3-2 over their 5-game stretch. It wasn’t pretty, but the team showed character in all 3 of those victories. Ottawa doesn’t play again until Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have some tough games coming up in December against the likes of Florida, Washington, and St. Louis, but, if they continue to take steps in the right direction like the last 5 games, fans can hold on to that “perpetual hope”.
By Steve Bunda