The Ottawa Senators began the NHL playoffs this year in Montreal last night against the Montreal Canadiens, and won the game by a score of 4-2, taking the lead in the series 1 game to none.
The hero for Ottawa last night was definitely Craig Anderson, who stopped 48 of 50 Montreal shots, but the loss by Montreal can partially be blamed on goaltender Cary Price, who let in two weak goals among the 4 scored by Ottawa on 31 shots at the net. That said, the game was actually much closer than that on the whole, given that Montreal outshot Ottawa 27-7 during that messy second period with the Gryba-Eller incident (see below). So the shots were actually pretty close during the game, other than the second period.
Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson also had terrific games, but the real outstanding part of Ottawa's game was the penalty killing. Good all year, it had to shine last night when Montreal had a 5-minute penalty after Eric Gryba's hit on Lars Eller that left the Montreal forward bleeding copiously from his head and lying on the ice, and then had to kill off a 1:24 second 2-man disadvantage as well.
Insofar as the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller, I have to say that I don't think it was a deliberate attempt to injure, as to be honest, Raphael Diaz sent what is called a suicide pass up the middle of the ice to Eller, who wasn't expecting Gryba's hit as his head was somewhat down while he was taking the pass, and he obviously didn't know that Gryba was coming. Eller was taken off the ice on a stretcher, though I understand that he was awake and lucid later on, and taken to hospital for treatment of his injuries. Where Eric Gryba is concerned, I feel sorry for the kid somewhat in terms of what happened, though I don't condone the hit to Lars Eller (even if I feel that Eller put himself in a compromised position due to Diaz's suicide pass. I don't know what he [Gryba] was thinking at the time of the hit. Hopefully, Gryba contacted Eller to apologise for the hit and to see how he's doing, but... Eller suffered a concussion, lost several teeth, suffered a broken nose, and some facial fractures according to the morning reports. In the meantime, we wait to see whether the NHL decides to discipline Gryba for the hit.
I think that, to be honest, the attitude of the two teams in the series have been escalated now, especially augumented by the war of words that has occurred re: the injury to Eller. One of the complaints about the series was that there's no long-standing rivalry between the two clubs because they haven't met all that often in the playoffs. I think that's all changed after last night's first game of the series, but I hope this doesn't become a "blood feud" of sorts.
When it comes down to it, I'm pleased that the Sens won the game, though I think that the series is just getting started, especially after Gryba's hit on Eller. Last night's game was somewhat physical, fast, and had a good amount of energy and feel to it. The second game between the Ottawa Senators and the Habs is tonight in Montreal, with the series shifting back to Ottawa on Sunday. It's going to be interesting to see what happens when the two teams take to the ice.