Friday, February 03, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa at Pittsburgh - Feb 2, 2006

Good morning. This is your wake up call…

photo credit: Pittsubrgh Penguins

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 7-2
Ottawa goals: Vermette shorthanded putting in the garbage, Fisher shorthanded on a wrister 5-hole, Chara on the powerplay alone in front, Volchenkov hitting in a rebound to start the third, Alfie on the powerplay bank shot, Heatley on the powerplay on a setup from Spezza, and Alfie shorthanded on the breakaway while drawing a hooking penalty. Pfffffffff.
Making Sens(e): Alfie, Heatley, Redden, Chara, Phillips, Spezza. That’s more like it, eh?
Not much Sens(e): Smolinski, Schubert before being KO’d
It was over when: Someone came up to us when we were trailing 2-0 after 30 minutes and whispered in our ear, “you’re playing the *@#$%^&ing Penguins.”
It was definitely over when: We scored seven unanswered goals.
Message in a Molson bottle: Hey, it only took playing asleep for another 32 minutes before we remembered that we are supposed to win these games. Last half of the game showed us again how dominating we can be when we choose to do so.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Remember that time when we were good?
Well, we showed signs of it again tonight. The good news is that we put up another converted touchdown and that typically wins games. The bad news is that it still took an embarrassing 32 minutes until we began to play our style of game. There is plenty of reason to be happy with the offence and the defence and the goaltending, but I still think it is a minor cause for concern that we can play lackadaisical for so long – the better part of 8 periods! The next games leading to the Olympic Break will tell us a lot about how we respond to a span of poor play. Will we keep the pressure up and dominate the games before the break? Stay tuned. But back to the second half of tonight’s game – so much fun to watch when this team is clicking. I’ll start feeling better when we can start doing that to the premier teams of the league instead of just the Toronto’s and the Pittsburgh’s of the conference.

Special teams are special
Here’s a funny quote from the Penguins broadcasters as we began killing off Schuby’s holding penalty: “The Penguins have a chance to put this game away. But, the last thing they want to do right now is give up a shorthanded goal to the team that leads the NHL with 14 of them.” That was like a jinx. Vermette and Fisher both scored shorties on the same penalty kill and while the score became 2-2, most people following the game realized that it was all of a sudden headed to a blowout. We ended the night with three shorthanded goals and three powerplay goals – a nice change from our past two contests. Don’t kid yourselves – special teams win hockey games, so the fact that we had 6 goals on special teams is a strong sign that we’ll have a positive result in the game. I love watching us kill a penalty against an inferior opponent. They seem to be playing more defence than we do since we rarely dump a puck without first looking for a streaker – and I’m not talking about that ugly Golden Palace Casino guy.

Chara took a good ribbing and cleaned up his act…with a wetnap.
My personal highlight of the night was our defensive play in the third period. We crashed our own net like we were protecting a small child. On a side note, Bochenski wasn’t there. Anyway, the few Pittsburgh shots that did get through in the second half of the game were either blocked or cleared out immediately, even if Hasek was still out of position and out of the play. This simply didn’t happen in our previous two games. So I give kudos to the defensive work of Zdeno and Phillips, as well as the rest of the group. Their performance was a night and day difference over the course of the game and we finally showed why we have the fewest goals allowed in the league. I again ask, though, what were we doing in the first half of the game? Luckily we were playing the worst team in the conference and they didn’t manage to score more than two. But we need to see that sense of urgency and play like the best defencemen in the league for 60 minutes a game.

The Loblaws Express Lane
- Top two lines were restored tonight and I loved it. The way I see it, it is very rare that a team can completely shut down our top line. When that does happen, we’ve got a solid enough second line that we can sneak out a few goals. Pizza and Fishing lines should remain untouched.
- Smolinski is in some trouble. For the umpteenth time he fanned on an open net. It isn’t as noticeable when we put up a 7-spot, but I’m starting to realize that he has earned every single one of his 11 minutes of ice time…and nothing more. Calling Marc Savard, come in, Mr. Savard, do you read me? You are needed in Ottawa by March 9th. Come on home, little buddy.
- There is an old Chinese proverb that translates to: a team that scores seven unanswered goals usually wins the game.
- Who’s this clown by the name of Guillame Lefevre, a pointless rookie, that went after Redden in the dying minutes of the game? Sending a message before these teams play in Ottawa on Monday? The message is clear, little fella, go after a tough guy, not the Olympic defenceman. Where’s McSorley when you need him, eh?
- Important win tonight at the expense of Emery’s self-confidence. He was expected to start until Coach Murray decided we needed a win badly and that was no guarantee with Sugar Ray in there. That’s fine with me – the team’s success must come before one person’s own psyche. If Emery can’t handle the adversity of an entire city calling for his demise, then perhaps the Spelling Bee is taking contestants in that age group. I like the kid a lot, but it’s game time, baby – where’s your head at? I would guess he’ll get a crack at Pitt on Monday night after Dom tries to slow down Buffalo again.

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.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Weight is Over

TSN reports that Doug Weight has been sent to Carolina for a series of 4th line players, a first rounf pick and two fourth round picks. Nashville, Calgary and Ottawa are all said to have been in on the bidding.

A week ago I though Weight would surely have been in a Senators uniform by March 9th - boy was I wrong. Im also pleased that the sens didnt pull the trigger. Weight, 35, is still owed about 2 million dollars on his contract and has made it clear that he will be re-signing with the Blues this summer. It would have been nice to see him in a Sens uni but the price was too high - especially the way the Sens draft. I have also heard that Melnyk has already decided that the Sens will not be spending any more money this year. I have a hard time beliving this one seeing as the source is the original whale himself - Wilber Watters.

Expect to see two moves from the Sens in coming weeks - I would be shocked if they do not take a run at Barnaby and I have a sneaking suspition that they still want a solid second line centre (Sorry Smoke).