This past season was definitely full of ups and downs for the Ottawa Senators. There were so many incredible moments for Sens fans to reminisce on. Whether it be Claude Giroux’s 1000th point, the comeback win against the Rangers or the manhandling of the leafs on the road Sens fans made special memories this year. However, I feel that there is one memory that stands alone, ahead of the competition. I am talking of course about the two game home stand against the Detroit Red Wings during the teams post-season pushes.
Game one of the two game home stand took place on February 27th 2023, the teams were both in the battle for the final wild card spot in the east. As everyone knows, inter-divisional games have a much larger level of significance on the standings compared to playing teams outside the division. With this in mind, as well as knowing both teams were in the mix, fans were given the perfect storm that was sure to provide an energy filled war on the ice.
The Senators began the game on the wrong foot as the Red Wings Bertuzzi scored the games opening goal with 8:12 left in the first period. This didn’t stop the Senators from pressing for offence, but former Sens goalie Magnus Hellberg was able to weather the storm as the Red Wings took a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission. Early into the second period, the Senators earned a penalty and with 16:19 remaining, Jake Sanderson fired home a goal from the blue line to tie the game at one. Not long after this the Red Wings earned a power play of their own and David Perron was able to fire home a wrist shot to give Detroit the lead once again with just under 15 minutes remaining. Later in the period with just over 7 minutes remaining the Senators were on the power play once again and Drake Batherson scored on a beautiful curl and drag shot to even the game once again. Just a couple of minutes later, the Senators were able to catch the Detroit defenders sleeping and Claude Giroux was sprung on a breakaway. Giroux had drawn a penalty after being hooked from behind, but the puck managed to sneak between the legs of Hellberg giving the Sens their first lead of the night. Not long after this goal, Brady Tkachuk was able to snap home a partial breakaway to give the Sens the 4-2 lead with a couple of minutes remaining in the second period. By this point, the Senators were all over the Red Wings and the dam was beginning to break. Less then one minute into the third period, Chabot was able to get around his defender and sniped a shot short side on Hellberg to give the Sens a 5-2 lead. Tim Stützle was able to cap off the night after beating Hellberg to make the game 6-2.
Lost in the scoring summary was the, “extra-curricular’s” of the game. In the second period the game really began to heat up. There was a playoff feel to the game and you could sense the tension slowly building between the two teams. Temperatures boiled over when in the dying seconds of the second period, Pius Suter fired a shot from his own end which ignited a scrum between the two teams. After being split apart, Brady Tkachuk made his way over to the Red Wings bench where he is quoted as saying “who wants it? Who f*** wants it?” This was met by a surprising reaction from the Red Wings, no reaction to be exact. Not a single player on the Red Wings answered to Tkachuk and that carried over into the third period as Detroit showed little to no pushback against the Sens. In a game of this magnitude, you would expect some fight back from the players, however in this game Tkachuk simply dominated the Red Wings roster and intimidated them into submission. What could possibly be better than watching two teams with high stakes and boiling temperatures fight it out in the third? How about watching it all again the next day.
Game two was met with anticipation from fans of both the Senators and the Red Wings. The hours leading up to the game felt like forever after seeing what had transpired the night before. Everybody knew that the game was going to be intense, the teams were expected to carry over the bad blood from game one which set the scene to be an incredible spectacle of hockey. The game began on the wrong foot for the Senators once again as Dominik Kubalik fired home a shot from the circle to make it 1-0 Red Wings just under 4 minutes into the game. However, right after the goal, the rough stuff started as a scrum ensued as Travis Hamonic gave Kubalik a shot after the goal had been scored. This scrum set the tone for the game, and both players and fans were buckling up for what would be a bumpy ride. About twenty seconds later (yes 20 seconds) Tim Stutzle was taken down on a breakaway and run into the boards by Filip Hronek. A scrum then ensued once again and resulted in a fight between Tyler Bertuzzi and Artem Zub, lost in the mayhem was the call that gave Tim Stutzle a penalty shot. Stutzle made a couple of head fakes before burying the shot against Ville Husso to even the game at 1. Moments later, the Senators were shorthanded and after an errant pass from Hronek Austin Watson was home free and made a beautiful move to score against Husso making it a 2-1 Senators lead. With about 5 minutes remaining in the first it was Austin Watson once again who was able to pot home a Derrick Brassard setup to give the Sens the two goal lead. Just 30 seconds later it was Alex DeBrincat who was able to rip a shot top-shelf and the Senators were beginning to run away with the crucial game. About halfway through the second period, it was Claude Giroux floating a weak shot home from the blue line making it 5-1 Ottawa, the game was officially turning into a blowout. Finally it was the captain tipping home a Giroux slapshot to make the game 6-1 which ended up being the final score. After the 6-1 goal, Tkachuk was seen flexing on Jake Walman after the two had been chirping with each other from the previous game. This was the cherry on top of what was a dominant Ottawa win.
This two game series as discussed was an incredibly important couple of days for both teams. Which is why it was surprising to see the Detroit Red Wings show such a miniscule amount of resilience and intensity when they faced adversity. Think back to Tkachuk challenging the entire Red Wings bench yelling “who wants it?” The fact the Red Wings had no response had to of been concerning to both the coaching staff and management. Tkachuk simply had his way with the Red Wings and enforced his will onto his opponent. Even when taunting Walman on a 6-1 meaningless goal, the Red Wings did nothing. They had no answer and no fight in them to try to save their integrity. Shortly after, the Red Wings traded Hronek to the Canucks, it may be coincidence but it appears likely that Brady Tkachuk and the Ottawa Senators had in a span of two days changed the trajectory of the Detroit Red Wings for the 2022/2023 season. From being competitive looking to earn the final wildcard spot, to selling a large piece of their team, the Red Wings management saw the team was not built to compete, not built to win when it mattered most and not built to out work a captain named Brady Tkachuk.