The much-anticipated first game between the Senators and former captain Daniel Alfredsson was dominated by current captain Jason Spezza as the Sens routed the Red Wings 6-1. That’s not an indictment of Alfredsson’s new teammates – but it is an indication that, by season’s end, Ottawa could wind up being a better team than Detroit.
All the attention prior to the game was on the interplay between Alfredsson’s now-severed professional relationship with Spezza & Co.. However, the Swede was a virtual non-factor (two shots, two hits, 16:12 minutes of ice time, and a tripping penalty). By contrast, Spezza was a force, scoring twice and, like the rest of his teammates, looking like he wanted to send a direct message to the franchise’s ex-leader. You did just about everything right when you were in Ottawa, Alfie, but you might have made the biggest mistake of your life in leaving.
It had to be a little more special for the Sens that winger Bobby Ryan, who ostensibly replaced Alfredsson on Ottawa’s payroll, scored the third goal of the night that chased Wings goalie Jimmy Howard from the net at 14:14 of the first period. Ryan also added the game’s final goal to complete the beating and Craig Anderson stopped 31 of the 32 pucks fired at him. I’d normally call them shots on net, but that gives too much credit to a Wings squad that was listless to put it charitably, and zombiesque to put it non-charitably.
That said, although the Senators couldn’t have imagined a better way to exorcise an icon’s ghost, I wouldn’t put it past the Red Wings to flip the script when Alfredsson returns to Ottawa for the first time Dec. 1., nor would I be shocked to see the Wings go further in the playoffs. They have more salary cap flexibility than the Senators, who are bound by owner Eugene Melnyk’s internal budget. They’ve made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons. They employ many top talents who understand the Stanley Cup winner isn’t crowned in October.
It’s understandable why Alfredsson could see Detroit as the team to get him an NHL championship ring. It's also true the Senators have struggled early in the season, posting only three wins in their first eight games prior to Wednesday. But for one night, the Senators showed they had the speed, skill and balance to rebut Alfredsson’s opinion. They looked younger, more engaged – forcing the Wings into 14 turnovers while committing only seven themselves – and far more confident.
They looked ready to make the Alfredsson debate a very interesting one indeed.