Friday, March 31, 2006

Sens Game Report - NYR@OTT - 3.30.06

A depth win

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa goals: Neil (16, pp) sitting in front of the net on the 5-on-3 to bang in a rebound, Eaves (16, pp) in front also on the 5-on-3 hitting in a rebound from Spezza’s shot, Heatley (43, pp) set up from Pothier, Schaefer (19) hitting in a rebound after Schubert’s slapshot came back off the glass
Making Sens(e): All defencemen, Neil, Alfredsson, Heatley, Arnason
Not much Sens(e): I guess Spezza for underachieving a bit
It was over when: Heatley’s PP goal restored the two-goal lead and we went into shutdown mode.
It was definitely over when: Schaefer iced the win banging in the puck just past the midway point of the third.
Message in a Molson bottle: You gotta be proud of this group for shutting down the league MVP while missing our three top defencemen and #1 goalie (and two of our top forwards, if you’re counting). This was an old-fashioned game that was centered around backchecking forwards that helped out the young and inexperienced defensive corps.
Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260330014

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

The Meszaros Release Party
Two days after what was probably his toughest game in the NHL, Meszaros came out on top as this time as he was given two dubious tasks. The 20-year old had to first replace 6’9” Zdeno Chara, and second had to fill the role of shutting down Jaromir Jagr. Just another day at the office, I suppose, because Meszy was awesome. Jagr managed an assist and five shots on goal, but the fact that he was going against a rookie instead of a massive ogre with BBQ rib sauce foaming at his mouth made that easier. This battle goes to Meszaros as he blocked shots, tied up his opposing superstar, and kept him away from Emery.

12 Selke Candidates
For those that don’t know, the Selke Trophy is awarded to the league’s best defensive forward. After this game, we can nominate just about all of our forwards as the name of the game was backchecking. Arnason played better defence than just about any of the Rangers – when you think of Arnie, don’t just look at how he hasn’t scored a goal, but follow him on the ice and see where he plays. He spends a lot of time backchecking and that holds him up from getting down the ice for goals. Anyway, even Heatley broke up a goal in the third by coming back and helping out Emery. It is just so comforting to know that our coach can change a game plan for a night or two and immediately, everyone in the room buys into the plan and executes. This is why we have clinched a playoff spot and some other teams haven’t (let’s not name names). Great team win through defence first and then capitalizing on opportunities.

Special Teams are Special
If you can’t score on a 5-on-3, then you really hurt yourself in two ways. One is that obviously you didn’t make good from the opportunity, and two is that the other team gathers a lot of momentum from shutting you down. Tonight, Ottawa had two 5-on-3’s and scored on both. Again, that is why we have clinched a playoff spot – for the most part, we have excellent special teams. We finished the night 3 of 9 with the man advantage, but don’t lose track of the other half to the special teams. We killed off six more penalties tonight and again, did it without three of our top four defencemen. Think about how the Rangers would normally put their Jagr Unit out there and we’d counter with Kelly, Vermette, Chara, and Phillips. Now sub in Meszaros and Pothier there. That is a very different looking penalty killing unit, but it still performed at the highest level. Being able to score on the PP with regularity and being able to shut down the opponent on the PK consistently will lead to a lot of postseason games.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Emery was solid again, making the big saves at the big moments. The goaltender of the future is here now and playing with a ton of confidence.
2. McGrattan gave Orr a nice little round
3. I hate to be mean, but I was happy not to see Varada out there much this game. His play recently hasn’t been up to par with his linemates and the rest of the team.
4. The Filip Novak Era is quickly joined by the Brad Norton Experiment. Quick, tell me, who is Brad Norton? Apparently, he is our sixth defencemen right now and racked up nine minutes of ice time. Not bad.
5. I didn’t mean that Spezza had a bad game, he just wasn’t playing his best out there. The burden of high expectations, I suppose.
6. News is that Chara and Fisher will be back soon. Havlat is out until April 10th, Phillips until at least the start of the playoffs, and Hasek…take a wild guess. I had heard the plan was to get him in there for the final four games of the season, but what do I know?
7. Don’t forget to check this site daily – www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com.

Upcoming Games
Saturday, 7:00 vs. Washington
Next Monday, 7:30 vs. Atlanta
Next Wednesday, 7:00 at Buffalo
Next Thursday, 7:30 vs. Montreal

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sens Game Report - NJD @ OTT - 3.28.06

Photo: (AP PHOTO/CP, Fred Chartrand), espn.com

Winning shootouts is overrated.

Also, why can’t we solve the trap when we used to do it for the Jacques years? On the topic of the trap: the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: New Jersey wins 3-2 in the shootout
Ottawa goals: Heatley (41) on a powerplay shot from the point that made it through, Heatley (42) tipping in Pothier’s point shot with 31 seconds left and Emery on the bench.
Making Sens(e): Arnason, Emery, Pothier, Schubert
Not much Sens(e): Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson, Meszaros
It was over when: Alfie was stopped as the third Ottawa skater in the shootout.
It was definitely over when: we read the rules again and it states that if your team doesn’t score a single goal in the shootout, it is much harder to win
Message in a Molson bottle: Getting a point out of a game that we had no business getting a point in is always a good thing. This point belongs to Emery since he is the only reason that we even had the opportunity to tie it up in the last minute. If we can’t find a way to beat the trap in the playoffs….you know what? Let’s just find a way to beat the trap in the playoffs, okay?
Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260328014

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

Stale Pizza
You may have noticed that Heatley scored our only two goals but still found his way onto the not much sense list. Why? Because he and his linemates stunk tonight. Their passing was terrible, their shots didn’t get through, and their stickhandling made McGrattan look like a potential shootout sniper. But as the broadcasting team of Brown and Galley pointed out, each of these three guys are so talented that they can change the outcome of a game in one shift. For those keeping track at home, we call them gamebreakers. Heatley was a gamebreaker tonight being able to miraculously tip in Pothier’s shot with 31 seconds left. Heatley can coast all night, not backcheck and not hustle at all, but it takes one flick of his stick and Joe Fan falls in love all over again. I love the fact that we have so many gamebreakers on our team. I hate the fact that we have to discuss how they can suck for 59:58 and then shine for two seconds. This game was in the hands of the Devils from the drop of the puck and our heroes on the pizza line did little to change that course.

Black and blue on the blue line
It isn’t enough that Volchenkov is still stiff and in the Kremlin of his mind after Boguniecki’s hit, and Chara’s hand is still the size of a full rack of ribs after reshaping Cairns’ face. We are already getting to experience the beginning Filip Novak Era here in Ottawa and now we’ll see if there is anyone else to call up after Phillips left the match in the first with a knee injury. He twisted up with Parise behind our net and there was mention of a hyperextension. Moreover, Wade Redden was a little slower with a bad hip or whatever it was that was bothering him and he favoured it all night with decreased mobility. And finally, for those that didn’t see the game and the number of shots that Meszaros blocked, let’s just say that he doesn’t have to worry about babies for a little while. Yowzers!

What’s in a line?
There are eleven games remaining before the second season begins and we are far from knowing how our lines will roll out. Coach Murray said that he wanted to get a firm idea of which lines we will use going into the playoffs and set them for the last 7-8 games. Obviously with the number of key injuries we have right now, it isn’t easy to do, but at least we are learning which lines we DON’T want to keep together. First off, I don’t think we should have Varada on a line with any bona fide scorers. Sure he is a gritty player, but he gets in too many situations where he has to stickhandle along the boards and out into the slot. Secondly, I think the Pizza Line must be put together and kept together. It is nice to spread out the offence at times, but when Havlat and Fisher are back, then we should have enough secondary scoring to allow these three dudes to play together. The Fishing line was great (Fisher, Neil, Schaefer), but is that really the best option when everyone else is back? After the Pizza Line, try your hand at sorting out three other lines with this group: Fisher (C, W), Smolinski (C, W), Arnason (C), Kelly (C), Vermette (C, W), Schaefer (LW), Varada (LW), Havlat (RW), McGrattan (RW), Eaves (W), Neil (RW), Schubert (LW, D). Good luck. To make it easier, count on McGrattan and Schubert being on the shelf. But you will still need to decide who sits between Varada and Eaves. A good problem to have, though, eh?

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Emery was awesome and stole this point. That has a nice ring to it. Emery’s confidence must be at an all-time high right now.
2. McGrattan’s fight with Janssen in the first was a blast to watch, even if the punches were few and far between. Highlights of the fight were both fighters waving off the linesmen and also McGrattan sticking his tongue out at his smaller opponent.
3. Arnason must be snake-bitten. Another four shots tonight as he is now scoreless in 10 games as a Senator.
4. Too many powerplays in the first period without even a scoring chance. We’re supposed to come out early in the first and instead we sat back and let the Devils institute the trap. Yes, it still exists.
5. Alfie had an off night – no way of dodging that.
6. Meszaros the Superkid had an assist on New Jersey’s second goal on a stroke of bad luck. Trying to clear the puck out shorthanded, he fanned on it and the puck found its way right onto Gionta’s stick and the open net.
7. Not feeling great about Gomez’ goal in the shootout – it was reviewed and there didn’t seem to be anything conclusive that showed it in. But at the other end, no point in complaining about the Gomez goal when three of our best haven’t scored in years on the shootout!
8. Don’t forget to check this site daily – www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com. This time, post your playoff lines!

Upcoming Games
Thursday, 7:30 vs. NY Rangers
Saturday, 7:00 vs. Washington
Next Monday, 7:30 vs. Atlanta

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sens Game Report - OTT @ PHI - 3.25.06

Photo: (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy), espn.com
Nothing stirring this punch.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Philadelphia wins 6-3
Ottawa goals: Pothier (5, pp) on a point shot feed from Alfie, Heatley (40, pp) helping Morrison get an assist in his first game, Vermette (20, sh) in alone for his league-leading sixth shorthanded goal.
Making Sens(e): Alfie, Vermette, Morrison, Novak
Not much Sens(e): Spezza, Redden, Pothier, Meszaros, Schubert
It was over when: Philly put up another first period 4-spot and we had to pull Emery for Morrison.
It was definitely over when: Down 4-1 in the last minute of the second, Kelly’s goal to bring the game to a reasonable deficit was called back and instead McGratts was given an interference penalty. Instead of a 4-2 game going into the third (our best period), we were still down 4-1 and short-handed going into the third (and Philly scored on that powerplay).
Message in a Molson bottle: Worst defensive performance of the year, bar none. These turnovers weren’t just giveaways in our own end but were actual assists on Philly goals. Carter’s goal really could have included an assist to Pothier.
Courtesy Boxscore: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/boxscore?gameId=260325015

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

A defensive disaster
We are way too strong defensively to possibly think that we can play this poorly on a regular basis. This was as bad as our defencemen have ever played and not even Zdeno Chara with a tummy full of ribs could have stopped these shenanigans. To say that Filip Novak was our best defencemen in this game really sums up how the other five played. It wasn’t that there were a lot of turnovers because we never really had control of the puck in our zone long enough to give it away to begin with. On the bright side, Schubert is more of a forward and we might get Chara and Volchenkov back this week. Furthermore, Filip Novak is actually very strong at bringing the puck through the neutral zone, although Philly had really taken off the pressure by the time the kid got his first shift! These guys need to learn the lesson from this game that if they don’t play their arses off, then most teams will put up a four-spot in the first period.

The Importance of Being Early
This is not the first time that our Sens have given up four goals in the first period. We already accomplished that feat earlier in the season against these same Flyers and also against les Habs on Hockey Day in Canada. Perhaps it is me just being a na├»ve idiot, but I thought that in all three games we’ve had a chance to come back. In the last Philly game, we ended up losing 4-3. 4-1 in Montreal and had constant pressure after the first. And this time we were on that path until Kelly’s goal was waived off for McGrattan’s interference penalty. I’m not claiming to be brilliant here, but I think it would be easier to win the game if we DIDN’T give up four in the first. Now obviously we aren’t trying to put ourselves down early, but we are nearly unstoppable when scoring first and when leading after the first. When we come out strong in the first, we win the game.

Would the real Philadelphia Flyers please stand up?
The articles following this game were all about how the Flyers are healthy and are once again Stanley Cup contenders. Does a couple of decent games do that? What many analysts have failed to identify all season long is that Philly is built with slow defencemen and suspect goaltending. We’ve already established on numerous occasions that Cup winner’s are built from the net out. Meanwhile, Bobby Clarke says he doesn’t care who he has in nets so long as they score goals. This team can score goals alright, but Antero Nittymaki cannot win a Stanley Cup and defencemen that slow and lethargic (including newly signed Denis Gauthier, another sign that the game has passed Clarke by) defencemen will get burned time and again. Best case scenario for the Sens right now is that the Flyers get the Sabres in the first round and Buffalo just wears them down for six or seven games and we sit back and wait. Summing up, I agree that Philly has shown us and others this season that they are talented and experienced. But I just don’t see them as a legitimate contender with such shaky goaltending. Bank this – they get Buffalo first round and lose.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Emery wasn’t good but he wasn’t all that bad. The guy must have been exhausted and his blueliners should have just saved the time and put it by him themselves.
2. Morrison looked very solid filling in. Unfortunately for him, I’d imagine that Emery is back in Tuesday and holding onto the starts until Hasek gets back or we have another episode like this.
3. Spezza was brutal. Those passes don’t even work in Binghamton. His one-timer shots also showed why he is the assist guy on that line. Speaking of which, the Pizza line was reunited in the second half of the game to no avail.
4. Vermette becomes our fourth 20-goal scorer. Seven more to go. Sorry to Antoine and his family for once suggesting that he pack his bags and leave.
5. Eaves and Phillips were the only ones not have be a minus on the night – they were even.
6. Don’t forget to check this site daily – http://www.northeasthockey.blogspot.com/.

Upcoming Games
Tuesday, 7:30 vs. New Jersey
Thursday, 7:30 vs. NY Rangers
Saturday, 7:00 vs. Washington – Capitals versus Senators on a Saturday night, I wonder if that will make it on the Hockey Night in Canada schedule. Thanks, Bettman.