Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Ottawa Senators playoff heroes.
Ottawa Senators Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
The Ottawa Senators were playing a second-round series against the New York Rangers in 2017. The Senators had home-ice advantage, and they won their first game of the series at home. Game 2 wasn’t going as well. The Rangers were up 5-3 late in the third period. It appeared they were going to tie the series. The Senators’ third-line centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored Ottawa’s first of the game. However, Pageau’s night was just getting started.
With 3:23 left in the third period, Senators’ forward Zack Smith fired a harmless wrist shot from the blue line. Pageau skated towards the net and deflected the shot in to cut New York’s lead to one. Pageau was back on the ice two minutes later while the Senators had their goalie pulled. Kyle Turris shot the puck from the point with a minute left, and Pageau scored another deflection goal to tie the game. This was Pageau’s second career playoff hat trick. He scored one as a rookie four-years prior against the Montreal Canadiens.
Three minutes into double overtime, Pageau burst down on a two-on-one with Tommy Wingels. Pageau ripped a wrist shot top-corner to win the game and put the Senators up 2-0 in the series.
The Senators moved on to defeat the Rangers to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals but lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. Jean-Gabriel Pageau remained for the Senators for two and a half more years. During that time, the Senators went into a rebuild. Last season, he moved up to being Ottawa’s top centre, and took advantage of his increased role and scored 40 points in 60 games.
The Senators traded Pageau to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline, where Pageau enjoyed another long playoff run. The Islanders made it to the Conference Finals but lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, Tampa Bay Lightning. Pageau had 11 points in 22 playoff games. He will remain with the Islanders because he signed a six-year contract worth $5 million a season with them.
Before the Moment
The second Ottawa Senators playoff hero takes place during the same 2017 playoff run. However, this story starts a few years earlier. On October 14, 2015, Clarke MacArthur slipped and hit the side of his head on the ice. He suffered his third concussion in eight months, and he didn’t play for the rest of the season. In training camp to start the 2016-17 season, MacArthur got hit in a scrimmage by Patrick Sieloff and suffered yet another concussion. In January 2017, he didn’t pass the NHL’s baseline concussion test and was announced he wouldn’t play that season. MacArthur contemplated retirement. However, he kept working out, and by April 4th, he was cleared to play and played in Ottawa’s last four games of the regular season.
Ottawa played in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins, and MacArthur scored his first goal in two years in Game 2.
By Game 6, Ottawa was up 3-2 in their series against Boston. The game went into overtime. In the overtime, David Pastrnak hauled down MacArthur, giving the Senators a power play. On the man advantage, Bobby Ryan had the puck at the side of the net. He quickly passed the puck to MacArthur in the slot, who shot and scored the series-winning goal.
After the Moment
The Senators marched on in the playoffs. They defeated the New York Rangers in the second round. That is where the Senators needed Pageau’s heroics. They faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round and advanced as far as possible without winning the series. They lost in Game 7 in double overtime. MacArthur finished the playoffs scoring three goals, six assists for nine points in 19 games.
Sadly, that was the end of Clarke MacArthur‘s career. He failed his medical test at training camp the following season and never played another game. In June of 2019, MacArthur the Senators hired MacArthur as a member of their developmental staff.
Before the Moment
Ottawa was enjoying their best season in the team’s 10-year history in 2002-03. With 52 wins and 113 points, the Senators captured the franchise’s only President’s Trophy as the best team in the regular season. They carried that momentum into the playoffs and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, taking on the New Jersey Devils. The Senators won the first game of the series but then lost three straight, falling 3-1. The Senators only scored three goals in the three games they lost to New Jersey and needed some offence.
The Senators inserted 19-year-old rookie Jason Spezza into the line-up in Game 5. Spezza was a highly touted young player. He was drafted second overall by Ottawa in 2001 and scored 21 points in 33 games that season. However, Spezza didn’t play up until that point in the playoffs. The do or die Game 5 was Spezza’s first NHL playoff game.
The Senators and Devils traded goals in the first period. The second period was scoreless, setting up a pivotal third period.
The crowd was excited to see what Spezza could do. According to the book Ottawa Senators: Great Stories from The NHL’s First Dynasty, written by Chris Robinson, the crowd cheered every time Spezza touched the puck. He didn’t disappoint them.
Eight minutes into the third period, Martin Havlat jammed the puck past Martin Brodeur to give the Senators the lead. Spezza got an assist on the goal and his first playoff point. Five minutes later, he tipped a shot from Chris Phillips past Brodeur to put the Senators up 3-1 with 7:32 left in the period. The Senators hung on to their lead and stayed alive.
After the Moment
The Senators played Game 6 in New Jersey, and another unlikely Ottawa Senators playoff hero emerged. Chris Phillips scored the overtime goal to force a Game 7. Phillips was a top-four defensive defenceman but only scored three goals that season. The series completed a hat trick of unlikely heroes in Game 7. Unfortunately, for Ottawa, it was a Devil this time. Jeff Friesen scored the series-winning goal with under three minutes left in the third period to end Ottawa’s season. The Devils moved on to win the Stanley Cup.
Spezza became one of the greatest players in Senators’ history. Four years later, in 2007, he scored 22 points in 20 playoff games, and the Senators went to their only Stanley Cup Final that year but lost to the Anaheim Ducks.
In 2013 Daniel Alfredsson left the Senators, and Spezza became the captain. However, that lasted one season, and Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars. He played the sixth-most games in franchise history (686) and scored the second-most points (687). Jason Spezza currently plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.