Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa at Buffalo - 3.24.06

Photo: (AP Photo/David Duprey)
After further review...

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 3-1
Ottawa goals: Alfredsson (39) on a feed from Arnason who had worked hard to get in front of the net, Vermette (19) on the touch pass from McGrattan, Eaves (15) showing a mean ole wrist shot from the slot.
Making Sens(e): Alfie, Arnie, Spezza, Redden, Meszaros, Pothier, Schaefer
Not much Sens(e): Heatley, Powerplay
It was over when: A 5-minute review of Grier’s non-goal in the opening minute of third overturned the call on the ice, preserving Ottawa’s 2-1 lead. (It wasn’t a goal, by the way)
It was definitely over when: Eaves shelfed one about four minutes later to restore the two-goal lead in the third. We don’t blow two-goal leads in the third.
Message in a Molson bottle: Evenly matched game and a playoff atmosphere, this one was fun to watch. Emery did his job of keeping his team in the game and the forwards did the job of putting the puck in the net when we had the opportunity. We’re clicking right now and depth is evident with the number of injuries we have.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Report: The Filip Novak Experiment
Recently an AHL All-Star, Novak made his NHL debut last night filling in for the banged up blueliners (Chara and Volchenkov) and while his icetime was limited to less than McGrattan’s, he finished with an even plus/minus. As we have seen with most players from the hockey hotbed of Ceske Budejovice, Czechoslovakia, Novak was nervous. But the real kudos here needs to go out to the entire defensive group for filling in so well in the absence of its stars. Think about the fact that Chara grabs about 28 minutes of ice time each game and Volchenkov is a solid 5th blueliner that also sees around 12-14 minutes a game. Take that away and all of a sudden, guys like Pothier (20:40), Phillips (24:16) and Meszaros (team leading 25:18) are going to see a lot more of the ice. They were awesome. And Novak gets to see another day in the big leagues. The Filip Novak Era has officially begun in Ottawa – how long will it last? Ask Chara’s hand or Volchenkov’s head…A more important question would be to ask if Zdeno’s hand can still grip around a rack of ribs.

The Power went out
Not literally, but fundamentally. Our powerplay was atrocious, and we can’t keep writing off problems to the injuries because Fisher is on the second unit, Chara is on the second unit, Volchenkov doesn’t play on the PP, Hasek is a goalie, and Havlat hasn’t been in the lineup since the 90’s, it seems. I hope that this game’s powerplay problems were a one-time thing since we have had recent successes on the first unit by sticking the fire hydrant out in front of the net. We just didn’t get it set up this time around and I wouldn’t be surprised if Buffalo had more shorthanded shots than we did powerplay shots. Every team has a different defensive setup to counter our PP, so we just know now that we need to try something new against the Sabres, who we play twice more this season.

Speed sans Keanu Reeves
These guys are fast. Both teams showed what the NHL has become and that is one of timely hitting, defensive discipline, and a ton of speed. If you look up and down Buffalo’s lineup, they don’t really have a standout star, at least by Ottawa standards (ahem, excuse me). But what has made them successful is a combination of speed and playing Toronto, who they own as much as we do. Buffalo wins games against other teams because they have solid goaltending and their speed allows them to win races to the puck and create odd man rushes. Ottawa beats Buffalo because we are just as fast they are and we are better in the other departments, too. These games will always be fun to watch because the speed of both teams kind of washes out and the result is then in the hands of secondary scoring and defence. Conclusion: I wouldn’t mind getting Buffalo in the playoffs somewhere along the line. Buffalo is pretty much locked into the dreaded 4 vs. 5 matchup now as we opened a nine-point lead on them last night.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Arnason showed great skill setting up that first goal, going straight at the two defencemen and drawing them both away from Alfie. Bad things happen when you leave Alfie alone in front with someone talented enough to pass the puck to him. And a bad thing happened, if you are Buffalo
2. I was just thinking to myself that it has been a long time since I saw a shot hit off both posts and go out. Got that taken care of last night thanks to Brian Campbell.
3. Injury update: Hasek (who knows), Havlat (meeting in Cleveland on Monday to get clearance for contact), Chara (hand might be worse than we thought and it might be a couple of weeks), Volchenkov (hopefully next week), Fisher (don’t know, but I would expect still at least a week, maybe two).
4. Kelly and Vermette killing a penalty is so fun to watch because you are almost disappointed when the decide to just clear the puck instead of trying to find a breakaway shorthanded goal. This is a luxury that other teams don’t have, so let’s not take this for granted.
5. Alfie, Arnie, and Varada were a decent line that at least kept the puck in the zone. Heatley, Spezza, and Eaves have found some chemistry, too, as Eaves is the workhorse out there buddying up to the older guys like Heatley and Spezza, who are what, 24 and 22 respectively? Can this line even get into a bar? Phillips, go hail them a cab, oh wait, that one’s been taken a by a slick young man from Kanata!
7. The radio said that the 8:00 puck drop was because they like to give a chance for Canadians to make the trip down to the Armpit of America after work on a Friday. Nice guys, those Buffalans, or Buffalites, or whatever. Wait – Buffalonians, that’s it. San Diegans.
8. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Saturday, 7:00 at Philadelphia
Tuesday, 7:30 vs. New Jersey
Thursday, 7:30 vs. NY Rangers
Next Saturday, 7:00 vs. Washington – Capitals versus Senators on a Saturday night, I wonder if that will make it on the Hockey Ni

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Breaking the Unbreakable

For those of us that remember the earlier Don Cherry Rock 'Em Sock 'Em videos, I urge you to take another peek at Volume #3. Grapes outlines what he feels to be the most impressive NHL Records around, which his number one being his own Boston Bruins 1977-78, a team that had a whopping eleven 20-goal scorers. Impressive, and seen as unbreakable. Until now. Our current version of the Ottawa Senators feature a number of players at or within reach of the 20-goal plateau with 14 games remaining. To say that it won't be easy is an understatement, but with Neil in front of the net, Havlat coming back, Arnason coming into form, and healed injuries restoring our superpowered lines, it can happen. Now you know.

In my very professional opinion, it will be done. Observe and offer your own thoughts:

1977-78 Boston Bruins
1. Peter McNab 41
2. Terry O'Reilly 29
3. Bobby Schmautz 27
4. Stan Jonathan 27
5. Jean Ratelle 25
6. Rick Middleton 25
7. Wayne Cashman 24
8. Gregg Sheppard 23
9. Brad Park 22
10. Don Marcotte 20
11. Bob Miller 20

2005-06 Ottawa Senators
1. Dany Heatley 39
2. Daniel Alfredsson 38
3. Mike Fisher 20
4. Jason Spezza 18
5. Antoine Vermette 18
6. Peter Schaefer 18
7. Bryan Smolinski 15
8. Chris Neil 15
9. Patrick Eaves 14
10. Zdeno Chara 14
11. Tyler Arnason 13
12. Wade Redden 10
13. Martin Havlat 9
14. Chris Kelly 8

Photo Credits:

An Open letter to the CBC

March 22, 2006
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
P.O. Box 500 Station A
Toronto, ON, M5W 1E6

Dear CBC,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, fans and NxNE staff, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your outstanding contribution to Ottawa Senators hockey this year. Your coverage of the Ottawa Senators has been impeccable, giving most of Canada a whopping 9 games. With your great work, there are exactly no new Ottawa Senators fans this year and now only 47 % of the country doesn’t know they are in the NHL. With all of these great strides many NxNE fans have said was "the best coverage ever."

From the exceptional educational sessions from Bob Cole and Harry Neil to the gala celebrating Tie Domi’s 1000th game, this year’s coverage exceeded even our expectations. With every Saturday night dedicated to a sub-.500 team, the coverage has grown substantially more insignificant as every week passes, both in terms of participation and support. Naturally, the success of a season’s coverage is dependent on many factors, the most significant of which is the time and effort provided by dedicated and unbiased professionals such as yourselves.

As you know, I have requested countless times that you show all Canadian teams evenly - a fair request seeing that it is tax payers money who makes the CBC possible, but of course, nothing changes. Feedback from Internet forums and verbal comments to the CBC indicates that viewers from everywhere in eastern Canada except Toronto were wholly unimpressed with the quality of games, presentation and color analysis. It is with unbridled enthusiasm that I hereby refuse to watch another CBC telecast until this bias is rectified.

Thank you again for providing a sub-par experience for fans and the industry.

Most sincerely,

Matt Williams

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sens Game Report - Pittsburgh at Ottawa - 3.21.06

Beat the bad teams

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-2
Ottawa goals: Alfredsson (38, PP) on a screened point shot, Meszaros (7, PP) also from the point, Kelly (8) on a 4-on-4 pass from Alfie after the captain was stopped on a breakaway, Neil (15, PP) tipping in Meszy’s point shot, Vermette (18, SH) sent in alone after Crosby muffed the puck on the point.
Making Sens(e): Arnason, Chara, Meszaros, Redden (except for his last shift)
Not much Sens(e): Heatley, Varada
It was over when: Meszaros answered their game-tying goal 17 seconds after with a powerplay marker.
It was definitely over when: Fans were yelling for pizza late and Cairns had racked up 40 minutes in penalties. Oh yeah, and we were playing Pittsburgh.
Message in a Molson bottle: The Senators are very good and the Penguins are very, very bad. That about does it. It wasn’t that great of a game and we definitely had lapses of laziness. No matter, we played a terrible team and allowed some younger guys to rack up a few points – we call it a race to the stick rack. On a side note, we have 100 points and are tied for first in the NHL with Detroit.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Stop Meszing around and tell me who that is.
It took 68 games, but people have finally figured out who Andrej Meszaros really is. Tonight’s game, the first Ottawa game shown on OLN in the United States all season, allowed the broadcasting panel to put Meszy on their all-rookie team. How nice. The kid responded with a very solid performance with Redds, a goal and an assist (point shot tipped by Neil) and a very interesting open ice hit on Sid the Kid. Oh yeah, he also had his first fight – which will hopefully be his last. Still leading the NHL in plus/minus, the kid deserves every bit of recognition that he gets from here on out. Let’s just hope Brian Lee can develop this fast!

Heatley, Varada, and Arnason – worst line ever
It was just ugly. Arnason actually played hands-down his best game as a Senator, but sadly his new linemates played like his old Blackhawks colleagues. Varada should not be allowed to have the puck on his stick again after the way he played tonight. Heatley is afforded a break because we all know that he takes it down a peg or two with Spezza out of the lineup (the Dispenser had a hip pointer or some other problem that nobody really understands but doesn’t want to ask for fear of embarrassment at not knowing). Heaters finished the night at minus-2 and only Varada (1) had fewer shots on goal than him (2), not counting McGrattan’s 4 shifts. The moral of the story here is that the coach is allowed to tinker with the lines when we have some key injuries and we are playing a team that really should cease to exist at this point. One more thing on the Penguins - we'd benefit a lot more from a scrimmage at the Bell Sensplex than we did from this one. Back to the Sens – let’s not fret over this disaster of a line knowing that the coach won’t let them touch the ice at the same time during play again (mainly Varada). Arnason was very strong, though, but he just didn’t have anyone to play with.

Was that defensive leadership we saw…?
First, let me finally give credit to Redden for showing some excellent signs of leadership. Redds isn’t afraid to skate up to the opposition and tell them to @#$% %$#^ !%!@#. He can muck it up with Boguniecki after the latter drilled Volchenkov out of the game with a scary hit. And he was finally clearing out bodies in front of Emery like an Olympic defencemen is supposed to. It was great to see Redden’s passion tonight. Chara also took some time to pick the leftover ribs out of Eric Cairn’s teeth with his fists at the end of the second after taking a nice spear from the Penguins outspoken moron that will be suspended for leaving the bench. By counting the number of punches the big guy landed, I would think Cairn’s teeth are clean now. Phillips also threw in a couple of assists and has been, in my opinion, our most consistent defensive defencemen this calendar year – if only he was fast enough to catch that cab back in 2002! But he wasn’t and that cab was mine. Bottom line – we officially have the best blue line in the NHL, bar none.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. The buzz on Arnason so far this week is that he is catching up to Randy Lee’s Sens workout regimen. I agree with Galley in the Afternoons – he isn’t in Ottawa shape yet. Put him on a couple of post-game TSN interviews with Farhan while he works out on the bike (just like every Redden interview ever) and he’ll get caught up to speed. Nothing like doing an interview on a bike to get the blood flowing.
2. Did Emery play well tonight? Who knows – the Penguins just didn’t have many great shots tonight. What he did do, though, is win his 10th this month, a Senators record, and two shy of the NHL record for wins in a month. Should we really have gone after CuJo?
3. Volchenkov will hopefully be okay after Buguniecki put him head first into our boards – no call, by the way. Might be a concussion - don't look away because we're pretty banged up right now.
4. Neiler scored on the powerplay for the third straight game, scoring all three the same way – tip-ins. Nobody said they should be pretty on the powerplay.
5. Speaking of the powerplay, it was strong at times and pathetic at times, but those ups and downs can happen sometimes, especially when the Pens give us 75 minutes in penalties.
6. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Friday, 8:00 at Buffalo (note the bizarre start time for an EST game)
Saturday, 7:00 at Philadelphia
Next week: NJD, NYR, WAS

North East Report

After somehow fooling themselves into believing they were contenders, the Boston Bruins have come back down to earth. They are officially out of the hunt for the playoff’s (not mathematically I will add) and are forced to play the role of spoiler. This has been a terrible season for the B’s and im sure B's brass cannot wait for it to end.

Still hanging on, but only by a thread. The Leafs have played some horrid hockey over the past two months but nobody in the race for eight seems to want to grab the horns and run. 5 pts back from Montreal and 4 back from Atlanta means that they are in a dire situation. I would say that even if they beat Montreal on Thursday and Saturday they still wont make the playoffs for the simple fact that they don’t have the horses. I know you all want to exact some revenge but lets get a grip and be thrilled when they don’t even make the post season. You can still make fun of all the Leaf lovers just the same.

The future is in their hands. It seems as though all they have to do is play just over .500 hockey and they can secure the final playoff spot. Gainey made a huge mistake by starting Aebisher twice last week and it almost cost them dearly, but Gainey is no fool and Huet will take the rains from here on in. All that said - Atlanta will take the final spot.

I like Buffalo. They remind me of the Sens about five years ago - young, small and fast. But we know where that gets you – nowhere. The Sens have given themselves a bit of a cushion over the sabres right now but there is still three games to play and the division will be decided then. On a side note – Maxim Afinogenov is one of the most exciting guys in the league right now.

Our beloved Sennies are right where they need to be and are showing signs of the form they had when coming out of the gate in November. Ray Emery has re-solidified himself as the goalie of the future and all lines are clicking. This team is poised to make a run at the cup and anything less would be a major let down. The Sens must win their division or potentially face dire consequences.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa at New Jersey - 3.19.2006

The Beast of the East once again.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-0
Ottawa goals: Heatley (39) on the PP after Alfie’s pass went off a skate, Eaves (14) with the blue-collar goal tipping in a Meszy point shot, Vermette (17) showing that his wrist shot is simply awesome and can sometimes be faster than Brodeur’s glove, Chara (14) convincing the opponents that a 5-on-3 to Ottawa is a bad idea because he’ll sit out front and will not be moved.
Making Sens(e): Emery, mostly everyone
Not much Sens(e): Arnason, although we still cut him some slack
It was over when: We put up three in the second period and won every single battle for the puck.
It was definitely over when: Emery robbed Elias late, preserving the shutout and putting the finishing touches on a dominating game.
Message in a Molson bottle: It turns out that the flight from Ottawa to New Jersey after last night’s game against the Sabres was more like a long intermission. These were two of the best games we have played all season, in my opinion, and I’d really like it if the playoffs could start today. Can they? Emery was stellar and we made Brodeur look human at the other end.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Is there a goalie controversy in Ottawa?
Probably not, but Sens fans should be absolutely thrilled with the way that Ray Emery has filled in for Hasek since Torino/Turin/NorthBoot. He is now 9-1-1 since assuming the number one duties in net and last night was one of his best performances. Showing no signs of fatigue, he made those big saves at key moments that we always remember Dominator doing. Emery has kept it simple, too – he knows that he will be judged mostly on wins and losses right now so he’s doing what a normal goalie should and that is to let in fewer than we score on the other end. He doesn’t make spectacular gloves saves or go sprawling through the air to knock a puck away. Instead, he is just well-positioned and controls the rebounds and it is working very, very well. This kid right now could be our starter next season if Hasek hangs ‘em up.

Who doesn’t love a good powerplay?
Tried, tested, and true – nobody said powerplay goals had to be pretty. Case in point is that we looked sharp and set in going only 1 for 10 against Buffalo and Saturday, but looked frightened and confused and went 3 for 9 on Sunday in New Jersey. The three goals – a pass off a skate landed on Heatley’s stick, a tipped shot from the point, and a 6’9” ogre taking a slapper off the ankle and in. Nothing fancy, but definitely effective. Ideally, I think Coach Murray would like to see us get the puck to Alfie, Redden, Chara, and Meszaros/Pothier for point shots and stick Neil or Eaves in front of the net to screen and tip. These are the hard-working goals that separate the champions from the golfers. This past weekend, we were playing like champions and the hard work has put us atop the Eastern Conference.

It's official - we're a team
This game showed that we are one of the most cohesive units in the NHL. For the same reason that the Rangers had missed the playoffs for seven years, we showed that we have 12 forwards and 6 defencemen that play like one solid set of NHLers. Rebounds are cleared out quickly, the outlet passes make it clear through to the neutral zone, and we have three forwards cross the opposing blue line together. Our defencemen know when to pinch and our forwards know when to backcheck. Our penalty killers know when to go for the goal and when to simply clear the puck. All in all, the fact that we can play together as a team is by far our best advantage going into the postseason. "Team wins" are the ones that make the difference in May.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Arnason isn’t very noticeable. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. I think we can still cut him some slack as he gets used to something different called “winning” but at some point, we should all want to see what made him one of the top players on an NHL team, no matter how bad that team was. In 13 minutes in New Jersey, he recorded one shot.
2. Schuby-doo hits people really hard.
3. Smolinski had a second straight rock solid game as the ringer on the Fishing line. I can live with that.
4. You know that you are successfully rolling four lines out there when everyone on the ice has at least 10 minutes of ice time.
5. This patch of games right now is the most complete hockey I believe this team has ever played. Ever. Bold statements are free of charge today.
6. Chara and Gionta have a great rivalry going on and to make it more amusing on our side is that Gionta is tiny. Big Z probably wants to roll the little guy in smokey barbecue sauce and take a big Chara-lite bite out of him. Yum.
7. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30pm
Friday at Buffalo, 8:00pm
Saturday at Flyers, 7:00pm Good back-to-back test here

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sens Game Report - Buffalo at Ottawa - 3.18.2006

We’re good

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:

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’re speedy
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 –

Upcoming Games
Sunday at New Jersey, 7:30pm
Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30pm