Congratulations, Cory Clouston! Your new strategy for the Ottawa Senators is not only funner to watch, but it also works--and the proof is in the pudding. The pudding being Saturday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres, in which--after a bit of a third-period scare--the Senators prevailed after actually scoring a few times in a shootout. That's something new.
Although Nick Foligno is prone to taking the odd penalty in his youthful anxiety, it's a lot of fun to watch. Especially when he plays as well as he has in the last couple of games, including tonight's showing where he tipped a powerplay goal behind Sabres goaler Ryan Miller. It gave the Sens the 1-0 lead.
Antoine Vermette gave Ottawa a two-goal cushion when he blasted a snapper past Miller in the second period. Good decision not to pass to Chris Neil in the two-on-one, too. There was some controversy after the referee waved off the goal initially and play went on, but it was all sorted out pretty guickly after the next whistle. I'm not really sure how that puck could possibly have bounced out of the net as it did after the shot, but I'll cut the referee some slack--thing happen pretty quickly on the ice.
Then two defensive gaffes, and two Buffalo goals to tie the game. First some miscommunication between Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov left Adam Mair completely alone in front to tip the puck past Brian Elliott, and then Phillips overcommitted on the penalty-kill to allow Drew Stafford to breeze by him and tuck the puck past Elliott, too.
But this Clouston-coached Senators team is different. Too aggressive to sit back on their heels and think about having lost the lead, the Sens kept up their offensive pressure. In the end, the Senators outshot the Sabres 42-30. But Ottawa could still only get two past Miller in regulation, and none in overtime.
The conversation regarding shootout choices will, inevitably, continue. Tonight he started with Jason Spezza, Jarkko Ruutu, and Daniel Alfredsson--the latter two scored to get the shootout into extra shooters. And, unconventionally, Mike Fisher was next, and the guy not only hit the net, but he actually scored. It was surprising and totally unexpected, but it worked.
If you're wondering why Dany Heatley wasn't chosen, I don't think it's just because he has been terrible in shootouts; He also had a pretty bad game. He's obviously frustrated, and could have easily taken a couple of stupid penalties if the refs wanted to hit him with them. His goals will come, but he needs to work harder until they do.
Coach's Corner review: Did anyone else notice Don Cherry getting Hungarian-born Dracula star Bela Lugosi confused with the former Soviet bloc country Belarus? I think he was discussing Maple Leafs' player and Belarus native Mikhail Grabovski, but then he started ranting about Lugosi and showed a clip of Alexander Semin playing the drums on Marc Staal. Cherry's scattered train of thought used to be funny, but it's starting to get a bit confusing.