photo from Getty Images and tsn.ca
Must win the must-wins
The Balance in the Bank:
Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-2
Ottawa goals: Eaves (13) banging in a rebound, Redden (10) with a floater from the point, Spezza (17) sent in alone by Heatley, Neil (13) banging in front on the PP, Heatley (37) on a 2-on-1 pass from Spezza.
Making Sens(e): Spezza, Heatley, Eaves, Emery
Not much Sens(e): Alfredsson (one bad shift), Redden, Chara, Kelly
It was over when: Ottawa ended their 0-for-17 powerplay streak with Redden’s goal, thus eliminating our final flaw.
It was definitely over when: Neil put in the 4th goal, making us now 38-0 when scoring four.
Message in a Molson bottle: Solid game beating up on a fast team with nothing to lose. Ended the five game road trip on a high note and won a game that we had to win.
Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260312023
Grab a Timmy’s double-double and listen to what really happened:
Why did Washington score twice?
I don’t want to pick on our players here, but each of the opponent’s two goals came from lousy defensive work from our top blueliners. The first goal was on a sharp pass from Zubrus across the crease to a wide open Chris Clark, with Redden completely out of position. The second goal, a soft one from the point, should never have been possible had Chara not gotten frustrated after Ovechkin knocked him over. It was as if his pride was hurt or his ribs were served cold and he just started hitting anything near him, leaving his post at the net and as a result, a shooting lane. These are our best players and we always notice when something goes wrong, so for every poor play like this, they make 20 great outlet passes or breakups that we DON’T talk about. But I’ve never seen Chara get that careless or Redden be so out of position. I just wanted to let you know this in case you were wondering why Washington scored two, that’s all.
Raymond – Distinguished Goaltender Emery-tus
Another solid effort from the Emery this afternoon. Muckler and Murray are right – he gets better and better the more he plays. In fact, his coverage post to post is the best it has been all year. His positioning in January was atrocious, but he is now square to the shooters and rarely does a rebound pop to exactly the wrong place like it had been. During his slump, people forgot about how this was the same kid that had just set the record for consecutive wins to start a season. Now that he has been terrific since the break, people have forgotten that they were demanding Muckler find a suitable replacement for the stretch run. Keeping this nucleus in tact over the next few years will allow Emery to shine and become a #1 goaltender in the NHL. His confidence grows with each win, something that other young goalies never have had a chance to do (Marc-Andre Fleury, Rick DiPietro, etc). We are all still waiting to hear when Hasek will be back (maybe in a week, maybe more), but we are once again comfortable with the temp taking his place.
Dany On Fire-ley
Heaters and Spezz Dispenser are officially linemates again. Each with 3-point nights, they looked as magical as ever this afternoon. Maybe I blinked for a second, but I also have seen Spezza make any ridiculously bad passes or turnovers lately, either. Smart, tight hockey equals strong, well-deserved wins. Murray told the entire team that they need to play more in their own end during this stretch run and that is exactly what we are doing. Spezza and Heatley have gotten that chemistry once again and if they can just keep it for, say, another 40-45 games (I’ll save you the math, it would mean winning the Cup) then I’ll be happy. Eaves had his turn on the top line this afternoon and fit in well. He is fast enough to skate with them and gritty enough to get the pucks out of the corner for them, but I just don’t think he has that amazing scoring ability that the other two are used to having with #11 up there. It didn’t hold them back at all, but in my mind there is only one Pizza Line. Does anyone have an issue with Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson, Smolinski/Arnason/Havlat, Schaefer/Fisher/Neil, and Vermette/Kelly/Eaves? Varada, McGrattan, and Schubert will get their turn if someone goes down, but those four lines of forwards look pretty sweet to me. Summing up, Heatley and Spezza are great again and I can only laugh at the thought of what Alfie would do as the third up there.
Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Ovechkin held without a point. Great job on the matchups by Chara, Phillips, and Coach Murray. Hard to keep that up on the road without the last change.
2. Go figure – Neil goes back on the powerplay and scores one and screens on the other. Our 0-for-17 powerplay draught ends when Neil is back out there.
3. Speaking of the PP, Arnie saw some time on the second unit but really didn’t have a great game. My hope is that now that he is out of the spotlight, he can work on his game and become a cross between Smolinski and Fisher – the poise of Smolinski with the desire of Fisher, and the natural talent of himself. That would make a great second line center for a long time here. FYI – he is a RFA this summer. I hope we can get him for a few years and help him develop properly.
4. Did you know that Meszaros is one of the five youngest players in the NHL? Not bad for the runaway plus/minus leader.
5. Schaefer left the game in the second. Not sure why.
6. Vermette was minus-2 with two giveaways. One game mulligan.
7. Arnason took almost all of the draws for the second line this time. I guess that makes it official that Smoke will play the left side so long as that line is together.
8. It was Fisher and Schaefer that didn’t see powerplay ice time today. Weird. I guess that was why Neil was OFF the PP for so long, allowing these two to man the second unit.
9. Don’t forget to check this site daily – http://www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com/.
Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30pm
Thursday at Boston, 7:00pm
Saturday vs. Buffalo, 7:00pm.
TB and Boston are in freefall and Buffalo is on our tail, so let’s shoot for three here.