Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa at New Jersey - February 1, 2006

Sens Game Report
Ottawa at New Jersey
Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

(photo from Bill Kostroun AP)

Deeeee-fence, clap clap clap, deeeeee-fence, clap, clap, clap.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: New Jersey wins 5-3
Ottawa Goals: Heatley on a nice feed from Spezz Dispenser, Vermette on a hard-working play from McGrattan, and Eaves banging it through Brodeur’s legs off the wing.
Making Sens: Heatley, Vermette,
No Sens: Alfie, Spezza, Neil, the entire defensive group
It was over when: New Jersey popped in three first period goals all on terrible defensive work.
It was definitely over when: the Devils thwarted any comeback by scoring a fifth goal in the third period to put it out of reach again.
Message in a Molson Bottle: Sloppy defence early and we never recovered – a team more or less out of synch with each other on all fronts rarely comes back from a 3-goal deficit.
Courtesy Boxscore:

Grab a Timmy’s double-double and listen to what really happened:

What happens when your captain stinks?
In a Coles’ notes version, you lose. Hate to say it, but Alfie was not himself tonight – he wasn’t an overpowering and energetic game-changer. I fully understand it is hard to do that on a nightly basis, but oh is it noticeable when he has an off-night. It seems to have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. And I must also point out that an off-night for Alfredsson in terms of skill and accomplishments would still match up with a pretty good night for other players even on our own team. But at no point in the 60 minutes of this game did he lead a solid charge, calm the puck down in our own zone, or stickhandle his way through a trap. I use those examples because they were all represent moments in the game where he did the opposite. His puck control wasn’t Alfie-esque and it completely limited what his line (with Smolinski and Fisher tonight) could accomplish. Let me add this now so I don’t have to have a section later – I hated the lines tonight. Fisher was with Alfie and Smolinski while Shaefer took the left side of Spezza and Heatley. I know it is important to mix things up and keep it fresh, but we will never EVER be as good of a team as when the Pizza Line and the Fishing Line are in tact and working through any funks as a unit. Too much chemistry has been built there to take a chance on other combos. I think Alfredsson even took turns on all four lines tonight to try and jumpstart an offence that was at certain times anemic. Bottom line here: our team’s success depends a lot on how Alfie performs. No pressure, buddy, just don’t make guarantees this time around.

Hey Zdeno? Shane Hnidy called - he wants his defensive incompetence back.
Ouch. Snap. I’m honestly too rattled to add any comic relief to this topic other than that I’d like to hit Chara over the head with a rack of Baton Rouge ribs and get him back on his game. There is no great scenery around the Meadowlands and there wasn’t much of a crowd there, so I don’t know what the big guy could have been looking at throughout the entire first period, but he was awful. The first goal, if you haven’t seen it, involved him opting for a saucer pass to a wide open Phillips in the other defensive corner. The puck obviously flew by Philly and soon after was in our net. Let me point out that there were times when Chara used his body and threw people into another time zone, but he was definitely a full 2-3 steps behind the play the entire night. His linemate actually had a very solid night and might quietly make a case for Team Canada’s taxi squad at the rate the current defencemen are dropping. Chara was just plain lazy tonight, in my opinion, and it led to goals. He is one of the leaders of this team and he simply has not led by example this week. I hold a similar standard for him than I do for Alfie – these guys are the best in the world and I think it is only fair to point out their poor moments so long as we also point out their stronger moments. That's fair. Tonight, we can focus more on the poor moments.

Chris Neil – once on pace for 50 goals this season
That sounds funny now doesn’t it? Neiler started off like he might challenge Gretzky’s 50 in 39, but has since returned to form of being pretty unproductive and stepping in with an untimely penalty to ensure no chance of a momentum swing in our favour. #25’s play tonight was borderline ridiculous – he didn’t hit, he didn’t stickhandle, and he didn’t get to the right position in time to take a pass. I continue to knock Tie Domi for being neither a fighter nor a scorer. I desperately hope that our equivalent isn’t headed towards a similar fate. Truth be told, we just haven’t been scoring ugly goals lately. Yes, we’ve gotten bounces in our favour in the past few weeks, but at the start of the year, Neil could stand out front of the net and either tip a shot or pick up a rebound. That just isn’t close to happening anymore and Neil played on the third line tonight during Murray’s failed experiment with the line shakeup. We don’t expect him to play like Fisher, and we don’t expect him to do the things Shaefer does, but that is why their line always clicked – Neil can muck it up, Shaefer is a boards guy to an extreme, and Fisher is the goal scorer. Granted they didn’t play together tonight, Neil has been headed towards his own negative section here for a few games now. Snap out of it ASAP.

Uh, I was under the impression there would be no math in the debate…
Here’s some numbers to hammer through at your local water cooler or your local watering hole, whatever time of day you read this.
- NJ had 26 takeaways to our three. What is the difference between a takeaway and a giveaway? Who cares - they both wind up behind your goalie, right?
- The only guys that had less ice time than Smolinski (once our top line center) were McGrattan and Eaves (Varada and Smoke were right around 11:05). I’m under the impression that Smolinski may have been benched early, but I hope that I’m wrong – he was also our best faceoff guy tonight. Also, the only punishment dished out by Murray tonight should have been on Spezza for assisting on New Jersey’s third goal with arguably one of the most pathetic giveaways we’ve seen all year. Hey kid, when Muckler says you have to develop maturity on the ice and work on your defensive play, you should probably listen – he has five more Cup rings than you do and could probably eat you in one sitting. Zdeno could also eat you if he covered you in barbecue sauce and put on his Baton Rouge bib. Ahhh, I must have cheered up a bit…but seriously, Spezza, leave the Junior B spins behind, kiddo, especially in your own end.

One more thing
About the trade deadline – I’m starting to believe that apart from our glaring inconsistencies of late, we are still the team to beat in the postseason if we can get one guy back. If Martin Havlat can return in April and get a couple of games in before the playoffs, then he will arguably be the best deadline-type pickup we can get. Since he will have been out for 4 months, his return will be identical to making a major trade at the March 9th deadline – and it won’t cost us a thing. So please keep that in mind when you curse the organization when Jokinen goes to Calgary next month because we don’t want to give up Vermette and Volchenkov to get him.

Games Ahead
Thursday night in Pittsburgh, likely a good chance for Emery to get his head out of whoever’s arse it must be in lately.
Saturday at Buffalo.
Hosting the Penguins again next Monday. Four games next week before Torino or Turin or whatever city that is at the top of the boot country.

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