Saturday night's 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens was undoubtedly the Ottawa Senators' most important win of the season so far.
Put all the 'Alex Kovalev returns to Montreal' storylines to the side for one moment (they never mattered much anyway) and let's look at the stats and players behind the victory.
This was the Senators first win over a team that qualified for the playoffs last season. Losses to Pittsburgh and New York kept the Sens out of the playoff picture for the moment, but this win will boost the expectations of players and observers slightly. Where do the Sens fit into the Eastern Conference rankings now? Let's wait and see if they can beat New Jersey or Philadelphia in early November.
The Senators swept the game's three stars, and with good cause. The first star was Pascal Leclaire. In the first intermission, Daniel Alfredsson commented to CBC that there was a large shift in team mentality with Chuck in net, and this game was a perfect example. When the Sens were holding on to a 2-1 lead through most of the second and third periods, Leclaire was never panicked and extremely consistent.
(FACT: Pascal Leclaire only wears goalie equipment because he would get too many shutouts if he played naked. He doesn't want to make other players look silly.)
The Senators' third and fourth lines are playing waaaaaay above expectations. This used to be a one-line team. Now we're got four. That's quite a turn-around. Credit to Cory Clouston and Bryan Murray (You gotta give it when it's due).
Did I mention Alfredsson? Of course I did. He leads the team with nine points in seven games. He doesn't get older, he just gets better. (Guess who's second and third in team scoring? Mike Fisher and Jarkko Ruutu!)
Of course, those points from Kovalev didn't hurt at all. That's what he was brought in to do. Put the Sens over the top in games that could have gone either way. That added offensive talent, combined with solid goaltending from Chuck, is all the Sens need to win these middling games on most nights.
Cory Clouston's thoughts on the game.
Alfredsson's post-game comments.
Kovalev's post-game comments.
(Courtesy whatever wonderful human being updates the Senators Twitter account.)