The Balance in the Bank:
Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-2
Ottawa goals: Schaefer (18) on a rebound of Smolinski’s shot, Chara (13) on a 5-on-3 banging in Heatley’s junk, Smolinski (15) on an awesome and fast 2-on-1 feed from Schaefer, Kelly (7) racing after the loose puck to put in the empty netter.
Making Sens(e): Smolinski, Schaefer
Not much Sens(e): Arnason, Emery (sort of)
It was over when: Smolinski’s goal mid-second gave us that 3-spot that we just will not relinquish.
It was definitely over when: Kelly popped in the empty-netter, obviously.
Message in a Molson bottle: Awesome game – out-shooting our rival 49-22 (22-3 in the first) and just dominating in all facets in the game showed that we are definitely the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo players said they just played very poorly, but don’t let that take away from the fact that we are simply a much better team. BBQ Ribs for everyone!
Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260318014
Grab a Timmy’s double-double and listen to what really happened:
Dr. Smolinski and Mr. Hyde
Bryan Smolinski, who are you? One night he floats around the neutral zone for 12-15 minutes causing more harm than good, and the next night he can be our best player on the ice. Smoke filled in more than admirably for the wounded Fish and showed that he can be as fast as he needs to be. His goal came as he simply took off around McKee and was open for Schaefer’s perfect pass. He also skated harder and played smarter than he has for most of the season. So we’ve seen Smoke play well filling in for Spezza in January and we’ve seen him play well filling in for Fisher. Why, then, has he been tagged as a third-line centre for the better part of the season? If he played 82 games like he did in this Buffalo game, then…we’d still be the highest scoring team in the NHL and tops in the conference. Let’s see a few weeks of this kind of play and Smoke will make Ottawa fans fall in love all over again (or for the first time for some).
We already know that Antoine Vermette is the fastest player on our active roster. And we know that Martin Havlat might take that title when he returns. And we also know that Mike Fisher has some of the best speed on the team, too. But to see Schaefer and Smolinski turn a 2-on-2 into a 2-on-0 for our third goal was just ridiculous. The fourth goal, by Kelly into an empty net in the dying seconds, was also a result of having amazing breakaway speed. Buffalo is known to be on the fastest teams in the league and that had led them to the 8-game winning streak they took into Ottawa – but we’re faster. I am completely comfortable playing a speed game in the playoffs with the lineup that we put on the ice. It has been known to lead to goals.
Who’s Line is it, anyway?
Don’t try and follow the linemates throughout the game and into the next match because they change more often than you can write them down. Eaves was still up with Heaters and Spezz Dispenser and did a great job of keeping up – it’s nice to see the two superstars have grit on their line to crash the net. Alfredsson played with Arnason and Vermette and were inconsequential at even strength. Smoke centered the Fishing line in Mike’s absence. And the scrubs of Kelly, Varada, and Schubert were the remaining checkers. It is always interesting to follow how the coach sorts out his icetime – Arnason doesn’t play on the special teams but Alfredsson is on the first PP unit and the third SH unit while Vermette is the first penalty killer out there with Kelly and has seen time on the second PP unit. It is apparent that Coach Murray is still feeling out what kind of role Arnason will play on this team, and it makes it even more difficult to figure it out when Havlat and Fisher are out. I have pulled a 180-degree turn from the fall and I now think Vermette is the X-factor out there. Do you keep him on the 4th line of a healthy team or should he play opposite Havlat and let Arnason be the two-way centre to send them in on odd-man rushes? Time will tell – buy your playoff tickets today.
Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. McGrattan hasn’t played in a while.
2. Emery wasn’t too sharp, but the Rayzer was good enough to hold our lead. The first Sabres goal was too Lalimey and he let a few rebounds sit too long. Besides that, he has been one of our best players since the Olympics so I should just shut my mouth.
3. Arnason was one of three Sens with less than 10 minutes of ice time (Varada and Schubert) – I hope he isn’t in Murray’s doghouse here. On the other hand, it makes Muck Muck look like a genius bringing in a centre for depth as Fish is out for a couple of weeks.
4. 5-on-3’s aren’t really fair when we sit the big guy in front of the net and Heatley, Alfie, Spezza, and Redden just taunt and torture the opposing penalty killers.
5. 49 shots usually wins you the game. It did here.
6. We are now 40-0-0 when scoring four or more goals. As impressive is that we have scored four or more goals in 40 of 66 games to this point.
7. Don’t forget to check this site daily – http://www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com/.
Sunday at New Jersey, 7:30pm
Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30pm