TORONTO - Christoph Schubert's two-goal effort Monday night illustrated just how deep the Ottawa Senators are in talent.
The 25-year-old German is used mainly as a defenceman or as a third-line checker. He's been one of the supporting actors while leaders such as Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley have piled up the scoring points. Yet, there he was skating and scoring like an all-star in a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs that kept Ottawa undefeated in pre-season play at 4-0-0.
A power-play goal by Patrick Eaves 53 seconds into overtime ended it. Heatley scored the other Senators goal.
Schubert is big, has a great shot, competes with intensity and with two seasons under his belt now he's got the necessary experience to become a significant contributor for the Senators.
"It's always easier if you have a good team behind you," Schubert said. "It's a nice accomplishment for myself and I'm happy right now."
The time is right for Schubert to have a breakout season.
He arrived as a defenceman after being drafted 127th overall by Ottawa in 2001 and spent three years with the Binghamton, N.Y., AHL farm team improving his game. The six-foot-three, 229-pounder was manning the blue-lines for John Paddock on this night. It is the position he wants to play when the games begin for real next Wednesday night against the Leafs.
"I'm a natural defenceman," he said. "The last two years I was helping out up front.
"We had success but I want to go back to my position. We have a pretty strong D-corp back there though and I have to crack into it. It's a challenge for me. It makes me work hard, trying to get into the top six.
"I talked to John Paddock already and we're going to sit down again and have a little chat and we're going to see what's going to happen."
Schubert scored only eight goals last season but he's beginning to assert himself and the Senators couldn't be happier with his progress.
"I feel safer every time I go on the ice," he said. "I've matured the last two years.
"I stepped up a couple more levels, improved my game, improved my skating, and I'll keep working. I want to make the top six now and we'll go from there."
The Senators made it to the Stanley Cup final last spring and are deemed Canada's best bet for a lengthy run again next spring.
"Everybody knew what the message was when we came to camp," said Schubert. "We all want to win the Stanley Cup.
"We were close last season and I think that's why management didn't make big changes. We're such a young team with such fast skaters, and such a smart team, they wanted to keep the guys together because we proved already we could play in the finals. We want to improve all the way to the end (of the season) so we can win the Cup."
Mats Sundin, John Pohl and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored for the Leafs (2-1-2).
Toronto outshot Ottawa 38-32. Martin Gerber earned the goaltending win and Andrew Raycroft took the loss.
After Sundin opened the scoring on the game's first shot, Schubert tied it with a slap shot from the circle to Raycroft's right. The puck sailed over the kneeling goalie's left shoulder. Heatley made it 2-1 in the 12th minute, and Schubert put Ottawa up 3-1 at 10:35 of the second when he whipped a wrist shot from the circle to the left of Raycroft that caught the far side of the net. Goals by Pohl at 12:37 of the second and by Ponikarovsky at 11:10 of the third forced sudden death.
Eaves ended it in overtime with Hal Gill in the penalty box for tripping. Spezza stickhandled around Pavel Kubina on the left wing and slid a cross-crease pass to Eaves, who held off Bryan McCabe and shovelled the puck past Raycroft.
"That's the kind of stuff you work on as a kid," Spezza said of mesmerizing Kubina. "When you get older, it kind of comes instinctively."
Spezza said that "anything other than winning the Cup will be looked on as a disappointment."
"We know that," he added. "We're used to playing under the pressure.
"We just have to make sure we build as a team and have a good start to the season."
As for the Leafs, they have a long way to go to overtake the Senators.
The defensive lapses that hurt them last season continue.
Sundin and Jason Blake have yet to develop a chemistry skating together on the first line.
"They were just okay," coach Paul Maurice said of their level of impact Monday night.
He tried Alex Steen with the two multimillionaires, but he eventually dropped Steen to the second line and put Ponikarovsky on the top unit.
On the play of Raycroft, Maurice offered that "he probably would like to have three (shots for goals) back."
Notes: On power plays, Ottawa was 1-for-7 and Toronto was 0-for-5 . . . Nathan Perrott pounded Ottawa's Danny Bois to the ice in a second-period fight. . . . Among Senators skaters sitting out were Alfredsson, Wade Redden and Mike Fisher. . . . Darcy Tucker, Chad Kilger and Nik Antropov were among Leafs who didn't play. . . . In eight meetings during 2006-2007, Ottawa won four times in regulation and once in overtime, while Toronto won three in regulation. . . . The Leafs are at home Wednesday against Buffalo and Friday against Detroit, and they wrap up the pre-season at Detroit on Saturday.