Once upon a time the Ottawa Senators were viewed as the acme of the 'new' NHL. Off to a 19-3 start and seemingly on their way to a Stanley Cup it all looked rosy for hockey fans in the nation's capital. Fast forward 12 months and one more springtime capitulation and the Sens find themselves in the midst of their worst losing streak in a decade and looking up in the standings at the boys in blue and white. Thankfully, despite their hard times, the Sens and the Lisp have continued to provide guidance to others in the NHL. The Leafs were clearly watching the Sens past two games and took a few lessons to heart.
Lesson # 1 - Get a big lead
The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Boston tonight on the back of a Darcy Tucker powerplay goal (#1 in the NHL), Michael Peca's 400th point (could have been a Senator), and a Chad Kilger deflection.
Lesson # 2 - Get solid goaltending
While Martin Gerber was allowing 4 goals on 26 shots against the Capitals and 5 goals on 31 shots against the Thrashers, Andrew Raycroft made 28 saves on 30 shots before tweaking his groin. Martin Gerber was signed to a 3 year $11.1M contract while Andrew Raycroft was given a 3 year $6M new deal. Apparently one good year behind the NHL's best team and one good game against a underperforming Canada outweigh a season of excellence. One more reason to fire Muckler.
Lesson # 3 - Don't let the backup shut you down
The Sens failure to score on either Atlanta or Washington's second string goaltender cost the Senators both games. Their inability to stretch the lead allowed the Thrashers and the Capitals to slowly work themselves back into the game. The Leafs did the exact opposite. They added a quick 4th in the second period on the back of Ponikarovsky driving to the net and Antropov following up to pop in the rebound. When the Bruins scored their first Ponikarovsky provided the eventual margin of victory by tapping in a rebound off of Kyle Wellwood's shot.
Lesson # 4 - Don't let an injury to your goalie cost you the game
When Martin Gerber took a shot to the shoulder/neck area it left him visibly shaken and resulted in weak tying and winning goals. When Andrew Raycroft went down with a suspected groin pull, I think the reaction of every Leafs fan was 'OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT'. The Leafs, however, kept working and while they gave up two powerplay goals (geez those boards are bouncy in Boston) they did not give up the equalizer. Some would call that a test of character and the Leafs passed.
The Leafs put the Senators lesson plan lesson plan to good use. Without their captain and one of their top defencemen the Leafs went into Boston and defeated the Senators old friend Zdeno Chara. The Senators will follow in the Leafs footsteps with a Saturday night game in Boston. Maybe they will follow the Leafs example and pick up a win but the laziest team in the NHL won't like the hard work it will take
(This post was written by Pension Plan Puppets. His second entry in the search for a new BoO Leaf member.)