It was only 18 months ago that Clarke MacArthur’s career had seemingly met a certain end. With the prospects of him returning to hockey a longshot at best, the Ottawa Senators reluctantly accepted the fact their future plans would more than likely not include him.
But then, in early April – after the medical staff had shut him down for the season just a few months prior – MacArthur’s long, treacherous road to recovery finally had hope for a happy ending. Prior to their April 4 game against the Detroit Red Wings, an elated Pierre Dorion announced MacArthur would make his season debut for the Sens, thus beginning the attempt to resurrect his career.
Considering he would be in game action for the first time since Oct. 2015, no one really knew what to expect from him after such a long layoff. Would he be hesitant? Would he try too hard? But he entered the lineup without issue and, despite going pointless in the regular season, provided an immediate and noticeable lift to his teammates that has carried into the postseason.
Booting the Bruins
While Derick Brassard led the Sens in points with eight, and Erik Karlsson was being his usual phenomenal self, MacArthur had a memorable series of his own en route to helping the Sens eliminate the Bruins. Sure, he scored just two goals, but they were arguably two of the most important goals of the series.
MacArthur was the hero of Game 6, sending the Bruins packing on a power-play that started and ended with his hard work. It began with a drive to the net in overtime, during which he forced David Pastrnak into taking a holding penalty, and ended with MacArthur taking advantage of a loose puck that found its way onto his stick for the power-play game-winner.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 23, 2017
Earlier in the series, in Game 2, the Senators needed a big-time energy boost as they trailed 1-0 in the second period at home. Enter MacArthur, who notched his first goal in almost two years. On a play eerily similar to the above mentioned, Bobby Ryan found MacArthur perched in the slot, who one-timed the puck top corner to draw the game even and send the crowd into a frenzy.
But maybe the most impressive part about MacArthur’s return is that he hasn’t looked out of place despite only being in the lineup for a few weeks. He’s averaging 14:13 of ice time per game (18.5 shifts) in the postseason, has helped Ottawa’s struggling power-play with two goals on the man advantage and hasn’t been afraid to throw the body with seven hits.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
As mentioned, the Senators as a whole have benefited from MacArthur’s return to the lineup, but in assuming his old mantle as part of the top-six his linemates have also seen a jump in their play. MacArthur was originally supposed to form a trio with Brassard and Bobby Ryan – in hopes the latter would regain his old form – but that idea was grounded before it even had a chance to take off.
The playoffs, however, have given the threesome another opportunity to team up and it has paid off in ways not even Guy Boucher could have predicted. Brassard, as mentioned, has eight points (two goals) in six games, while Ryan has exorcised the ghosts of seasons past with a four-goal, seven-point performance against the Bruins (including two game-winners).
That an improvement in Dion Phaneuf’s play has coincided with the return of his good pal MacArthur to the lineup should make Sens fans optimistic. Despite finishing the regular season on a nine-game pointless streak, he had six shots in the final three games (i.e. with MacArthur in the lineup) which were just one shot fewer than the five games prior to that stretch.
He has also come alive in the playoffs with three points (albeit, all of them coming in Game 2 of the series) including the overtime winner in that game. Beyond his offensive contributions, Phaneuf has been a horse for the Senators – he’s averaging the second most minutes (25:42), tied for most shifts (34.8), has thrown 13 hits and blocked 10 shots.
It’s probably a stretch to make a direct correlation between MacArthur’s return to the lineup and Phaneuf’s suddenly inspired play (that may have something to do with the latter never playing in round two of the playoffs). But it also could have a lot to do with seeing MacArthur attempt and fail to make his way back into the lineup on numerous occasions.
Clarke MacArthur – The Long Road Back
For as good as his life is now as an overtime hero and with the Hollywood script still being written, the past 1.5 years have been anything but for MacArthur. Having sustained multiple concussions and suffered through almost as many failed recovery attempts in the past year-and-a-half, the road to this point has been long and arduous for MacArthur, making his return even more impressive.
Clarke MacArthur's last goal? Game 3 of the 2015 First Round.
— NHL (@NHL) April 16, 2017
The idea of ever playing again at one point seemed such a stretch to Clarke MacArthur that he actually contemplated retirement – even taking a trip to Florida for a week to get away from the rink and put himself in a retired state of mind. But, as he told Postmedia, he wasn’t able to kick the urge to play again and decided to take another shot at getting back in the lineup.
Fortunately, this comeback was the one that finally succeeded for MacArthur, and after so much heartache and despair he was able to come back to the game he loves so much. The story isn’t over yet, with the Senators set to take on the New York Rangers in round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it’s already the most intriguing narrative of the postseason, if not one of.