Monday, April 03, 2006

Sens Game Report - ATL@OTT - 4.3.06

That’s how you win a debate.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 6-4
Ottawa goals: Heatley (44) on a one-timer from just inside the blue line, Spezza (19, pp) walking in down low on the 5-on-3, Eaves (17, pp), same powerplay on a naughty little setup pass from Meszaros, Heatley (45, pp) banking in a shot of Lehtonen on the 5-on-3, Smolinski (16, GWG) on a 2-on-1 with Schaefer roofs it over a fallen Lehtonen to open the third, McGrattan (2, Pizza) on a tidy backhander over Lehtonen on the odd man rush.
Making Sens(e): Emery, Heatley, Neil, Smolinski, Pothier, Meszaros, Spezza, etc.
Not much Sens(e): Vermette (wasn’t bad, but took a stupid double-minor)
It was over when: After going up 4-2, we killed off Vermette’s double-minor to close out the second period and had much shots during that span than Atlanta.
It was definitely over when: McGrattan iced it and put us up by four – even after Atlanta put up a pair in the third, a comeback was never an option for the Thrashers.
Message in a Molson bottle: Three straight games where we play defensively sound – this time some of our shots made it through. Special teams determined the outcome (each team with three PP goals) and we continue to show that depth wins hockey games in April.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Name that Senator
Who are these guys? The team we iced tonight resembled Margaret Phelps’ spring training roster for the Indians in Major League – “this guy here is dead!.....Cross him off, then.” Anyway, the Filip Novak Era, the Brad Norton Experiment, and the Rebirth of Denis Hamel are all taking leaps forward as our injury list grows larger than the Baton Rouge list of rib sauces. This was our first captain-less game as Alfie wisely took his flu-like symptoms out of the building before it infected the rest of the locker room. In the meantime, we continue to find ways to win with solid backchecking, tight attacks, and great goaltending. The difference between Jason Spezza of 2006 and the Jason Spezza of 2003 (for instance) is that he understands the difference between an October game and an April game. The game has tightened up and there is additional responsibility on each and every man out there. This statement is only multiplied when considering we have many more All-Stars out of the lineup than we do in it! Oh, and by the way, Arnason was ploughed over by Exelby and needed help getting off the ice. Can’t wait to see the ever-powerful line of Martins/McGrattan/Hamel on Wednesday! Feels like an expansion year.

“How to score a powerplay goal,” by Bryan Murray. Foreward by Dany Heatley
I’ve been nervous about making this statement seeing as how I have never scored an NHL goal, but here goes it: We must score a goal on 100% of the 5-on-3’s we are given. Not 50% or 75%, but every single one of them. There is no excuse not to score with this much of an advantage and to be honest, I’m visibly disgusted if we don’t put one in. We did it twice against New York last week and we did it twice tonight. Ahh, I will sleep well tonight. Coach Murray has the fundamentals in check on the PP right now – 5 on 4’s are about getting traffic in front and setting up the point shot, while 5 on 3’s are about getting the puck down low to Spezza and letting him will the puck into the net with a shot, pass to Heatley, or setup pass to a pinching defencemen. What makes this all work is that the team buys into it and executes well. Scoring three powerplay goals usually leads to a win – it did tonight for us and didn’t work tonight for Atlanta. Heatley looks so comfortable wearing the third ‘A’ tonight, too, and showed us some great leadership – this is why we traded for him, people. On a side note, I’ve painted Heatley with the title of The Future of Canadian Hockey and given that status, I’d love to see him in Ottawa for years to come.

Spezza vs. Kovalchuk – I’ll take the Spezz Dispenser
Geoff, are you nuts? Yes. But that’s neither here nor there. What is important, my friends, is the different environments in which they have developed. For the sake of argument, consider that Atlanta is still in the playoff hunt. Kovalchuk and the Thrashers have never EVER played a meaningful game (of hockey) in April and it is a glaring flaw. Spezza has been a part of enough playoff drives and playoff games to understand what is at stake. Make no mistake, Kovalchuk is an incredible player and definitely one of the three most talented players in the NHL. But as the Thrashers broadcaster perfectly described after Ilya took a stupid retaliation penalty on Neil’s wrist, “Kovalchuk is looking like a 22-year old that has never played a crucial game down the final stretch.” He can break a game open, but he gets frustrated easily. As Muck Muck said after the 2003 run to the Conference Final, you have to lose the big games before you can win them. You have to understand how terrible it felt to be on the wrong end of a Conference Final Game 7 to know and to play hard enough to never let it happen again. Spezza knows that feeling, Kovalchuk hasn’t even considered its existence. I repeat: I’ll take the Spezz Dispenser.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Ray Emery is the goaltender of the future. The way he has played since March 1st, are we sure he isn’t the goaltender of the present? I don’t think it has reached the point of controversy (although my blogging counterpart disagrees), I will definitely agree that it is worth the debate.
2. Hoping Arnason is okay and can come back soon. On that note, can anyone remember the last time a deadline trade of substance actually paid major dividends?
3. What was Vermette thinking late in the second period when he hauled down Slava Kozlov in the Atlanta end and in the ensuing delayed penalty time, he hauls down Kozlov again the Ottawa zone? I guess he was thinking that we should just burn off a couple of penalties and the momentum would be enough to carry us through the third. Great thinking, Vermie.
4. Eleven 20-goal scorers update: Smoke is four away, Spezza one away, Eaves three away, and late blooming McGrattan a mere eighteen away. C’mon guys, make me a hero!
5. I don’t like Bob Hartley. Neither does Pat Quinn. My similarities with the soon to be unemployed coach end there.
6. The ‘A’ was sported by Smolinski, Pothier, and Heatley tonight, and they all played like it. If Alfie isn’t healthy in two days, I’m starting a petition to let Smoke wear the ‘C’ as he steps up when he needs to. I flip flop on Smolinski, don’t I?
7. My uninformed injury update with anticipated return times: Hasek – start of the playoffs, Havlat – late next week, Fisher – Saturday, Chara – Saturday, Redden – no guess, Phillips – Round 2 (he is working on hailing a cab in the meantime), Alfie – whenever he finishes his matzah ball soup and gets healthy.
8. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

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