That son of a bitch Brady Tkachuk—when you first mention someone in a blog, it’s recommended that you use their full name—helped his last-place Ottawa Senators take down the Montreal Canadiens yet again on Tuesday night, scoring two goals and causing one bloodied nose as part of a 5-4 shootout win. It was Ottawa’s second victory in a row over the Habs, and it was apparently emphatic enough that this morning, Montreal announced that they had kicked head coach Claude Julien out the door. That makes him just another in a long line of enemies for the 21-year-old out of BU.
If you’re not super familiar with this particular Tkachuk boy, here’s the best way I can describe him to you: He’s one of three dozen players in the NHL who’s scored at least eight goals on the year. Of those 35 other guys, only one of them has more than half of the penalty minutes that Tkachuk’s been hit with in 21 games this year, and none of them come within single digits of Brady’s half-hour spent in the sin bin. The Sens’ number-one weapon has been singularly infuriating on the ice as both scorer and a goon in a way that not even his notorious older brother Matthew has been able to match.
Not that it’s helped his woeful team all that much against anybody but Julien. Ottawa now has three wins on the year in four games against the Habs, which is as much as they’ve earned in 17 total games against every other team in the Canadian division. Tkachuk wasn’t an enormous factor when they met for two earlier this month, but along with whoever in Toronto decided that this was goalie interference during a late replay review, he was the MVP of this mini series and earned perhaps a modicum of revenge against the franchise who passed on him to take Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the 2018 draft.
First, let’s do Sunday’s game. Tkachuk helped send it to overtime with the score tied 2-2 with a gritty assist on a bizarre third-period goal, but his shining moment arrived in 3-on-3 play. While trying to set up a one-timer that would end it, Brady accidentally passed it to himself off the skate of a defender. This turned out to be a fortuitous change of plans for the Sens, as Tkachuk got the puck returned to him while in perfect position for a shot and a goal.
And then keep it rolling, because Tuesday was just as kind to Brady and the boys, though he himself could have been a lot nicer to Habs defender Ben Chiarot. Maybe it was payback for Chiarot’s crosscheck to Tim Stützle’s head earlier this month. Maybe Tkachuk just enjoys being a dick to any and all targets. But either way, these two got into a first-period brawl right in front of the camera in the corner, and it continued even after they both hit the ice. And when the zebras were finally able to separate the pair of pugilists, it was Chiarot who looked the worse for wear.
Tkachuk didn’t escape damage-free. He noted afterwards that he had a couple teeth chipped in the encounter—a new experience for him that he seemed downright psyched about. But a nice little bonus to his badass wounds is the fact that he scored two goals, including the one halfway through the third that knotted things up until the shootout. The first came early on when he finished a smooth little point-blank power play opportunity. The second was a bit of puck luck—at that angle, Jake Allen should have had it—but it also came from some impressive skating that allowed Tkachuk to enter the zone from out wide and then maneuver his way into dangerous territory.
There isn’t a whole lot of nice things you can say about the Senators this year. They’re the punching bag of the north. They have the worst goal differential of anybody in the league. And only the Red Wings can match their awful points percentage. However! They’ve been giving their tortured fanbase a few solid reasons to tune in lately, particularly since that epic comeback against the Leafs last Monday. This most recent victory makes it four wins out of their last six following a 2-12-1 start, and one of those defeats was a 2-1 nail-biter against the division leaders.
I mean, look, they’re still absolutely not going to make the playoffs this year. But over the past couple weeks the Sens’ games have become significantly less of an instant skip for viewers or an easy win for opponents than they used to be. Nobody deserves more credit for that than Brady Tkachuk, who even kicked off this somewhat-warm streak with a tipped winner in the last 10 seconds versus the Jets. Love him or hate him, as long as he makes people care about Ottawa, we all win.