Finally, the Butler does it

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 PM ET

EDMONTON - The Butler did it.

Okay, I had to be the first to use that line, even though I’m sure the editors who write the headlines are going to steal it for the top of this piece. 

Doesn’t matter. You all thought it. You probably also all wondered if right winger Bobby Butler was ever going to score his first NHL goal. Yeah, he’d only gone nine games, which is nothing for a Senator this season. But Butler is a sniper. He scored a bunch last season in college. He scored a bunch this season in the AHL. He just hadn’t been able to do it at the NHL level. Until Saturday, in Edmonton, on his team’s first shot. Finally.

“It feels awesome to get the win, and just to have a goal is definitely good to have,” Butler said. “It’s something off my back. Now you just play.”

Butler had plenty of chances in his first nine games for Ottawa. He’d been robbed blind. He hit posts. He shot inches wide of empty sides. He even had one disallowed. Surely, he had started doubting himself.

But after getting that first one, his play exuded confidence. A pin-point pass up the middle to Jason Spezza. Smart decisions in the offensive zone. Good play inside his own blue line. Another couple of chances to score, only  to be robbed by Nikolai Khabibulin.

“I put that in, and after that, I felt I was ready to go,” said Butler.  “I felt more comfortable.”

He must have lay awake at nights thinking about what it would look like, you figure.

The way he scored was by coming off the left-wing boards, making a quick move on Oilers defenceman Theo Peckham and taking a shot that beat Khabibulin on the stick side. By the replay, it appeared as though he wasn’t even looking at the net when he pulled the trigger. Maybe he wasn’t. Snipers don’t always have to.

“I pictured something coming down the right side, but I’ll take anything,” said Butler. “I’m just lucky it went in and we won the game.

Where will the puck go?

“I’m sure my dad will love it,” he said. “But nothing (planned for it) right now.”

He’ll get others, and soon, if he stays on what is now the team’s new first line, with Spezza and Milan Michalek.

Is he good enough to play such a prominent position on this rebuilding team? For another game? For a week? For the rest of the season? Beyond?

“He’s a guy that skates real well,” said Spezza. “He seems to have a knack for the net. He gets scoring chances.

“I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he’ll get, and probably get even better. It’s hard to say now what kind of capacity he has, but I think he’s going to be a good energy guy, that’s for sure.

“Me and Milo found each other well (Saturday), and Butzie got in the seams. You’d like to think we can work together a little bit here and get some feel for each other.”

Yes, it seems to be a line that has all the ingredients for success. The playmaker, the big strong guy with the wheels, and the speedy sniper.

But for him to keep his spot on the top line, the new guy is going to have to score.

Quick hits

Alex Kovalev’s first-period goal was under review, although those of us watching the replay in the press box couldn’t understand why. “They’re just looking at it because they can’t believe it went in,” quipped one Edmonton columnist ... Nick Foligno started the rush that led to Kovalev’s marker by getting the puck back after his second straight defensive zone giveaway and, seconds later, creating some havoc in front of Khabibulin. Dad Mike, in town as his Ducks are up next on the Oilers’ schedule, would have been a lot more impressed with the last part of his son’s shift than the first.

Stops and starts

In case you missed it, Bryan Murray added the name Jason Spezza to his list of “untouchables” in a second-intermission interview with CBC’s Mark Lee. At first, the list included only two names — Spezza and Erik Karlsson — before Murray added: “Daniel Alfredsson is a fixture. I don’t even have to  mention his name. He’s not going anywhere.” ... The big Jim Vandermeer hit on Ryan Shannon directly in front of the Senators’ bench figured to trigger one of the huge line brawls that are so trendy in the NHL these days — considering Shannon was nowhere near the puck when he was smoked. But nobody on the ice wanted any part of the Oiler defenceman.

Old buddies

Trading partners Bryan Murray and David Poile have been friends for almost 30 years, going back to when the former was the Capitals coach and the latter was the GM. Poile didn’t hire Murray, but he eventually had to fire him. When Murray was promoted from Hershey to be the Washington bench boss, he was given the job over a person the Capitals had all lined up for it — one Donald S. Cherry.

Things I think I think

All hell nearly broke loose in the second, when Nikolai Khabibulin pitchforked Chris Neil, then punched him in the back of the head to ignite what became a 5-on-4 scrum in favour of the Oilers. Liked that Brian Elliott raced from his crease to centre ice, just to make sure he wasn’t needed to even things up. “I was coming to the bench for the delayed penalty call, and I just kind of stopped and was watching to see if anything happened,” said Elliott. “There’s been a lot of goalie fights, so I had to be ready.” ... Do you think Robin Lehner would have stopped at centre ice? The hunch here: Nope ... With all the improvements he has made to his game, Jason Spezza still has to eliminate the type of blind backhand pass he made through the Senators’ defensive zone slot in the first period. He was just lucky no Oiler was close enough to intercept ... Is it just me, or did things start to turn sour in Ottawa when the Senators gassed the Kiss-Cam and moved the very popular “Goodies” from their usual, first-intermission time slot?

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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