While all you hockey fans anxiously wait for Don Cherry’s latest colourful comment — and suit — during the first intermission in the Battle of Ontario Saturday, here’s a quick thought about what lies ahead for the Senators in the next two weeks.
Starting Monday, the Senators will fly 5,671 kilometres in 12 days, embarking on a six-day road trip while the women’s world hockey championship takes over Scotiabank Place. The Senators will then come home to rest for a day, before going right back on the road — another 1,008 kilometre round trip to Boston — to complete the road stretch.
Enjoy your Easter weekend everyone. And beware: There are a few more numbers to digest below.
A POSTER CHILD IS WORTH A THOUSAND PROSPECTS
Flames general manager Jay Feaster has done a favour for Senators GM Bryan Murray, who sees the backlash in Calgary for dealing away the face of the franchise for a relative pittance. It’s something to keep in mind if the Daniel Alfredsson trade question resurfaces (yes, I do believe the Senators captain will play another season). The Flames received a laughable return for Iginla, but regardless of what came back, it’s impossible to win a deal like that. To Calgarians, Iginla was Mr. Hockey, a community fixture as well as a national hero, connecting one generation of hockey fans to the next. In Pittsburgh, he’s a really good hockey player.
MURRAY’S TRADING MOOD
The way Bryan Murray was talking Friday, it appears as if both Jared Cowen and Milan Michalek have a shot at returning from their injuries before the end of the season, while Jason Spezza is doubtful. It’s possible the Senators could go after a centre before Wednesday’s trade deadline — Rockland’s Derek Roy (Dallas), Gatineau’s Derick Brassard (Columbus), Matt Cullen (Minnesota) and Mike Ribeiro (Washington) might be in play — but Murray said Friday that, “at the moment, we’re not going to be driven by the fact one player is out.”
DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT
Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad are long shots to win the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, but considering there’s no runaway favourite, the young Swedes could receive some consideration if they stay on their current rolls. Silfverberg has two goals and two assists in his past four games and has eight goals and six assists in 33 games. Zibanejad has four assists in his past three games and has six goals and eight assists in 27 games. Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, Tampa’s Cory Conacher, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin and Edmonton’s Justin Schultz are among the rookie front-runners. Don’t count out Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis, either.
TWO IS THE UGLIEST NUMBER IN TAMPA
When Tampa Bay defeated Buffalo 2-1 on Tuesday, it was the first time the Lightning had picked up a point this season when scoring two or fewer goals in a game. They had previously gone 0-12-0. So, why do I bring that up? The Senators have gone 5-7-5 when scoring two or fewer goals in regulation or overtime. Here’s the simple math: The Senators have earned 15 points under that scenario, the Lightning two. The Senators are comfortably in a playoff position, with 44 points. The Lightning went into Friday’s game against New Jersey with 29 points, 13th in the Eastern Conference, six points out of the playoffs.
The NHL’s class system is alive and well in Carolina. After Alexander Semin landed his eyebrow-raising five-year, $35 million deal this week, the Hurricanes have now committed $38 million per season through 2015-16 to only six players — the others are Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Cam Ward. So, if you’re a decent third or fourth liner willing to play for the league minimum, GM Jim Rutherford is ready to take your agent’s call. Carolina is also committed to $58 million in salaries for next season, when the salary cap is $64.3. Is it any wonder why Jussi Jokinen — who has a salary for $3 million next season — was available on waivers?
There’s nothing particularly new about the relative weakness of the NHL’s SouthLeast Division, but the current state of affairs puts a new twist on the Battle of Ontario. The Winnipeg Jets own the third seed in the Eastern Conference because they’re tops in their division — even though the Jets’ point total was the same as seventh-placed New Jersey before Friday’s games. Based on the current standings, Winnipeg and sixth-placed Toronto would meet in the first round of the playoffs. The fifth-placed Senators would be up against fourth-placed Boston. Most hockey observers would consider Winnipeg a less dangerous opponent than Boston. Now consider this: Heading into Saturday’s game, the Senators lead the Maple Leafs by only two points. I’m not suggesting a team will purposely throw games down the stretch, but if a few star players on Toronto and Ottawa sit out to rest nagging injuries as the regular season winds down … well, it might make for some interesting speculation.
SPEAKING OF ALL-CANADIAN MATCH-UPS
There’s a distinct possibility of two all-Canadian Eastern Conference matchups in the opening round: Some combination of series involving the Senators, Jets, Leafs and Canadiens. For those of you who care about which network calls the games, CBC owns the right to choose the first two series. TSN gets the third option, CBC the fourth and the networks rotate from there. It seems like a no-brainer that CBC would pick up the two Eastern Canadian series automatically, but where would that leave Vancouver?
MEMORIES TO TAKE TO THE GRAVE
Good on the Phoenix Coyotes to score five goals in the first 8:26, and six goals in the first period, during Thursday’s 7-4 win over Nashville. Hopefully, they can use the highlights to sell the NHL game in their new home in Seattle or Kansas City.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS ON GERMANY?
I’m a passionate supporter of girls and women’s hockey and I have little doubt the city will embrace the women’s worlds. At the same time, what the women’s game needs most is a colossal upset, with either Canada or the United States losing a pivotal game to another country. Think about it this way: If everyone already knew who would be in the NCAA championship game before it started, would March Madness be a cultural phenomenon in the United States?
WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN
Oh, yes, we will. Anyone else recall the countless fans who said they would boycott anything and everything about the NHL during the lockout? In case you missed the Financial Post story Friday, the return of the NHL helped add $441 million to the Canadian arts, entertainment and recreation sectors of the Canadian economy in January, according to Statistics Canada. Next month, I’m hoping to see a Statistics Canada report on the lost workplace productivity during trade deadline day.