As the clock inched towards the dawn of a new year, the Ottawa Senators gave their faithful a present wrapped in a victory on the ice. The atmosphere at the Canadian Tire Centre was festive, almost electric with anticipation, and the Senators did not disappoint—dispatching the Buffalo Sabres with a convincing 5-1 triumph.
From the very onset, the Senators brought a vigor that had been sporadically missing in prior outings, embodying a resolution to end the year on a high note. Yet, the affair wasn’t entirely devoid of the Senators’ habitual hiccups; lapses in concentration led to turnovers and near misses that have been all too familiar echoes this season. Despite this, there was an undeniable resilience and coherence that strengthened as the game progressed.
Coach Jacques Martin expressed contentment with the overall performance. “I thought we played a pretty good game,” he offered in a post-game reflection. Where his contentment truly lay was with the unsung heroes—lines three and four—who provided a sturdy backbone to the Senators’ strategic play and offensive assaults, he noted. Their contributions had not gone unnoticed nor unrewarded.
One intriguing tactical move saw the culled defender Erik Brannstrom reassigned—an offensive operative in the quartet line. He adapted to his temporary role as a left wing with an aplomb that impressed: an assist and plus-2 rating stamped his temporary transition with success. “He’d never played forward [in the NHL] so it was a bit of a shock [Sunday morning] when I talked to him about it,” Martin recalled. Brannstrom, despite the novelty, made a sacrifice for team strategy that paid dividends.
Between the posts, Senators goalie Anton Forsberg was a bulwark; 45 out of 46 shots were stonewalled. Forsberg attributed his deft handling to the team’s masterful management of the Sabres’ spatial strategies—keeping adversaries at bay and not obstructing his sightlines led to those “clean” saves.
Thomas Chabot, returning from a protracted recovery, surged back into the fold with a brace of assists though he admitted to the rust that needed shedding. Even so, his eyes remained squarely on the prize. “We got the win—that’s all that matters,” Chabot beamed.
The Senators’ lead could have been grander were it not for Buffalo’s Tage Thompson finding the net shortly before the first intermission. Nevertheless, the Senators continued to power through, showcasing why hockey is as much a display of skill as it is of strategy and will.
As goals from Jakob Chychrun and Zack MacEwen rattled the Sabres, Ridly Greig’s deft maneuvers delineated the skill that the Senators possess when they harness their collective strength. Dominik Kubalik, Mark Kastelic, and Artem Zub all found the net, each goal a testament to the Senators’ determination to not let this year quietly wane.
The game bore its share of drama—a Parker Kelly goal disallowed after a video review for offside, a near-miss from Brannstrom as time ebbed away. But when the final horn sounded, it was clear. This night belonged to Ottawa.
On the night of reckonings and resolutions, the Senators not only heralded a win but also the heralded appointment of Steve Staios as the president of hockey operations, a move promising stability and future successes.
As the fans bid farewell to the departing year, standing under the glow of the rink’s bright lights, they witnessed a team that, much like the turning of the year, suggested better things on the horizon. Now, with eyes set on the road stretching out before them, the Senators skate onward into 2024.