A lesson on how to protect a one-goal lead
Photo: sports.yahoo.com/nhl (AP PHOTO/CP, Jonathan Hayward)
The Balance in the Bank:
Final Score: Buffalo wins 2-1
Ottawa goals: Phillips (2) on a weak wrist shot from the point
Making Sens(e): Nobody. Fine, Spezza a bit, but not always
Not much Sens(e): Emery, Alfredsson with a capital C, Heatley, Schaefer
It was over when: Phillips became the latest Senator to turn the puck over, this time allowing Hecht to go in alone and beat Emery with a weak move on a clearly rattled goaltender.
It was definitely over when: Alfredsson chose to not take the team on his back and showed zero sense of urgency in the dying minutes, instead hoping Spezza would do everything himself.
Message in a Molson bottle: Disregard the fact that we totally outshot the Sabres tonight, because that isn’t the storyline. What is really becoming apparent here, is that we might be able to throw our bodies around a little bit but we still can’t seem to find a way to elevate our games to the caliber of our playoff opponents. Lots of scoring chances don’t mean a thing when you lose two games and then go to Buffalo to try and find a way to extend the season. Make no mistake, some players haven’t earned their playoff stripes yet and as a result, the Ottawa clock is ticking.
1st Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/boxscore?gid=2006050814
2nd Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260508014
Grab a Timmy’s double-double and listen to what really happened:
1st Period – Hotel Captaincy. Yes, we have vacany
Well, he’ll still have the title on Wednesday, but I’m officially jumping off the Daniel Alfredsson bandwagon. Frankly, it makes me borderline nauseous when I see him coasting up the ice in the dying minutes and making a flaky saucer pass that gets broken up in the neutral zone. For a guy who learned the NHL in a trapping system, you’d figure the guy might have an idea of how to get past it. If you figured that, then you’d be wrong, just like me. Whether Alfie is coughing up the puck as the last man out of the zone on the breakaway or shooting it two feet above a half open net, our beloved hero seems to believe that all we ask of him is to play like he did in the regular season. It is because of this mindset that you won’t find him putting home a single game winner in this and past editions of our postseason perils. By no means do I think our season is over, but by no means do I think our captain has done a single thing to extend it. A caller on the sports radio today thought that maybe Alfie has been hurt this playoffs and that is why we don’t see him much – if only we could believe this story. There is a reason why Derian Hatcher (an American) is the only non-Canadian to EVER captain a Stanley Cup champion. I don’t mind saying that Alfie has Wednesday and Thursday in Buffalo to prove to our no nonsense owner in Barbados that he does in fact want to lead this team in the future. There’s no time like the present, oh captain. Besides the empty-netter you scored in the first game against Tampa, you really have just one goal in your past twenty postseason games. I want you to be a Senator for life, now you just show me you want the same. Breaking up attacks in the neutral zone won’t cut it anymore. For those of you that think I’m out to lunch on this one, take a second and really think this one over, because I guarantee to you that John Muckler is.
2nd Period – The Big Save
In 1997, a puck went through Ron Tugnutt’s glove and trickled far too slowly through the crease and into our net as we lost out first ever playoff series in seven games to the Sabres. In 2003, New Jersey broke out and scored past Patrick Lalime in the second to last minute of the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final, holding us a game away from the fourth round. In 2004, Joe Nieuwendyk ended Lalime’s career in Ottawa by floating in a pair of first period goals in another seventh game that wasn’t meant to be. Our solution, brought to us from the great John Muckler, is now roaming around a training room for a third month and doing it to a third team. The alternative is Ray Emery, who played well enough to get by an inferior Tampa team that didn’t was probably the worst of the sixteen playoff teams. But here in the second round is a scene that the faithful in Hockey Country have become all too familiar with – goaltending shortcomings. I’ll be the first to say that these goals aren’t possible without Junior B turnovers by supposed NHL-caliber players. But I’ll follow that up immediately by pointing out that we’ve never had a goalie in the playoffs that can BAIL US OUT from these giveaways. Ray Emery was hung out to dry twice tonight – and he looked absolutely terrible both times. He may look calm and collected when he shows up, but if he really is carrying as much swagger as when he won his twelfth game in March, then he either has the mental toughness of a rhino or the mental memory of a housefly. I just hope that he has one or the other and he finds it in his talent to finally help this franchise with the big save. That is something we the emotionally over-attached in Ottawa have never seen.
3rd Period – Now what, genius?
Sure, I can sit here and point out who didn’t do their job while I tune in from a couch. Sure, I’ve come up on the complete opposite end of every single prediction I’ve made this calendar year. And sure, my expectations are said by some to be out of control at times. But that is neither here nor there, because all that matters now is what our coach can come up with for what will be the biggest 30 hours in the history of this franchise. For starters, the Pizza Line MUST be reunited. I’ve torn Alfie apart just two paragraphs ago, but he must now be given ample opportunity to take over this series with our other two top players. Second, it appears that Volchy is out after his body hit the boards and his noggin continued down the hallway on the half hit on Gaustad. That means that Schubie-Doo will be back on the blue line. He needs to play smart and use his 102 mph slapshot because it is apparent that the physical game didn’t win us the game. On that very note, I think it is time to try something new and put Arnason in for Varada. Vaclav was one of our more exciting players tonight, but gone is the need for the big hit and here is the need for the big goal. What better time for Arnie to show that he is worth a second look then by scoring in Buffalo? This one is a stretch, but our coach is a smart guy and knows that we have to have some sort of shakeup to knock this team off its underachieving course this round. And last but not least (and nearly impossible), imagine the shock in Buffalo if #39 skated out there in the pregame warmup? My thought process is that if your career is over (he’ll be 43 next year and unemployed), why not waste your groin/adductor in saving the season of your team? Go down and make a few incredible saves so that our team gets that fire in its eye to win a couple of games across the Falls. But since that won’t happen, does Murray consider that major shakeup of putting Morrison out there? Thus far, it has worked for Carolina and Anaheim, who both lead their series 2-0.
Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Outshot the Sabres 44-17, including 32-8 in the last two periods – can you guess who the first star was?
2. Eaves led the team with six shots on goal, most of them as he was banging away on scrambles in front of the net. Can you guess how many went in? Enough with the questions – here’s a fact: going 0-for-7 on the powerplay won’t pose well in your attempts to win a hockey game.
3. Hey Rayzor, Jason Giambi just called and he wants his slugging percentage back. No, wait, disregard that call, he just noticed your save percentage in this series.
4. Hey Alfie, Dora the Explorer just called. She wants her stupid little monkey back for her tour but he seems to have attached himself firmly on your back. Can you get him off and return him to Dora? Thanks.
5. Hey Chara, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters just called and said that he can turn around faster than you after watching you get burned on the outside yet again. And Baton Rouge called and said someone just ate your ribs because you didn’t get back there fast enough. It’s gotta stop, eh?
6. Hey Chara, Glen Kulka called and said he liked your form when you went down into a completely ineffective three-point stance in trying to break up the Dupont/Briere two-on-one in the second period.
7. Hey Chara, Darcy Tucker called and said you could have used one of his patented dive moves to break up that play. But I guess since we all hate him, you chose the football move instead. Fair enough.
8. Hey Senators, Phil Mickelson just called and he said part of the role of being the lovable loser is that you eventually win the whole thing. He suggests you watch a tape of the 2004 Masters to learn more because winning is a hell of a lot more fun than always losing.
9. Hey Geoff, Dennis Miller just called and he said your random references are weak and not very funny. If they’re going to be lame, at least make them so obscure that people don’t even know who you’re referencing, he adds. In the meantime, we need to dig down and win a pair. As I said with absolutely no exaggeration, Wednesday at 7pm is the beginning of the biggest 30 hours in the history of this franchise.
10. Don’t forget to check this site daily – http://www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com/.
Wednesday in Buffalo
Thursday in Buffalo
Saturday in Ottawa
Monday in Buffalo
Wednesday in Ottawa