Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sens Game Report - MON@OTT - 4.6.06

Playoffs start in two weeks. Is the panic button within reach?

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Montreal wins 5-3
Ottawa goals: Meszaros (8) throws one at the night from the point that gets by Eaves’ screen, Heatley (46, pp) sets the single season goal record for Ottawa sliding one past Aebischer down low, Heatley (47) on a great pass from Kelly from behind the goal line.
Making Sens(e): Fisher, Meszaros, Pothier
Not much Sens(e): Spezza, Alfredsson, Arnason, Schaefer, most others
It was over when: Montreal cranked out two unanswered goals in the second period to regain the one-goal lead
It was definitely over when: Montreal’s two unanswered goals turned into four unanswered goals and we started looking at the scoreboard just to know when this debacle would be over.
Message in a Molson bottle: No excuses anymore – tonight we just didn’t have enough to win. Forget the injuries and forget the schedule, this team needs to find a way to win with guts and heart right now, because their legs aren’t carrying them any further. A dominating first period is completely forgotten by the middle of the second period when Montreal started to skate circles around us.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

The Gas Tank is Past Empty
Meszaros and Pothier are given clearance for being exhausted physically and mentally. But the rest of the team didn’t have legs in the third period, either. What troubles me the most about all of this is that our entire city is going to attribute this loss to fatigue and injuries. Why is Brad Norton tired? Why are Filip Novak and Christoph Schubert tired? What about Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson (besides his flu)? Think about it - each of our forwards are getting the same amount of icetime that they were when Chara et. al. were actually in the lineup. But in the third period when the game was in danger of getting out of hand (and it did), our boys couldn’t keep up. Sure there was the rare rush, but this team had nothing to give in the third and that isn’t going to help you come back from three down against one of the hottest teams in the league.

Ray Emery – Goaltender of the Present?
It should have crossed everybody’s mind by now that there is cause for concern with Dominik Hasek. The playoffs are two weeks away and he hasn’t worn equipment for more than three minutes. This means he hasn’t faced shots, he hasn’t practiced falling down and popping up, and he hasn’t seen anything close to game action. Can the 42-year old miraculously fly past all these milestones in the next 14 days? Instead of answering that question, think about what we should do with Ray Emery. On the one hand, he is coming off the Defensive Player of the Month award and has started al 19 games since Italy. This insane amount of work is preparing him for the hardships of two and a half months of playoffs. On the other hand, the insane amount of work might leave him completely drained and out of gas by the exact date that we need him most. So you make the call – should Emery continue to play every day and get the extra work to prepare for the postseason, or does he need a rest? Please note that besides the fact that Norton is playing in front of him, he’s given up ten goals in the past 48 hours.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Alfredsson clearly is not healthy yet. Or at least we hope that is the case.
2. Brad Norton took a 10-minute penalty for not fighting Aaron Downey. The two squared off with the Jack Johnson’s raised high, but waited patiently until the linesmen broke it up. Norton has yet to do anything to show that we shouldn’t be rushing Brian Lee up through the system in the next couple of years, if you catch my drift.
3. Ice time was much more spread out today, with Meszaros leading the way with only 25 minutes, while Arnason, Varada, and Kelly pulled up the rear around 10:30 each. Gotta love how your leading icetime guy still had 12 minutes less than he did the night before.
4. Fisher looks to have his legs back and is back to skating by people on the wing. Too bad Schaefer took the night off.
5. Wouldn’t you think that management is taking these games to evaluate who we miss more between Redden and Chara. It’s looking more and more like we might only be able to sign one of them. Chara is a force, but there is absolutely no outlet pass right now without Redden. The largest contract is said to be awarded to the defenceman that could eat a rack of ribs the fastest (must be licked to the bone and no using wetnaps).
6. Spezza looks great when his pass makes it through a few sets of legs and land on Heatley’s stick. Spezza looks terrible when it doesn’t. Guess which one we see more of? I thought the game plan down the stretch was to be smarter with the puck and play a tighter style. That lasted for a while, eh?
7. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Saturday, 7:30 vs. Buffalo
Next Monday, 7:30 @ Montreal
Next Tuesday, 7:30 vs. Boston
Next Thursday, 7:30 vs. Florida
Next Saturday, 7:00 @ Toronto

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sens Game Report - OTT@BUF - 4.5.06

Photo:; (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Sloppy loss

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Buffalo wins 5-4 in overtime
Ottawa goals: Alfredsson (40) on a great looking play from Fisher and Spezza, Schubert (4, sh) on a blast up the left side, Eaves (18, pp) banging in the play in front of the net with some hard work, Kelly (9) taking a turnover up the right side and beating Biron far side
Making Sens(e): Meszaros, Pothier
Not much Sens(e): Heatley, Alfredsson, Norton
It was over when: Buffalo came back from two down in the second to tie it up – they never let go of momentum for a minute, including the moments after Kelly regained the lead for us.
It was definitely over when: Pothier took a hooking penalty in overtime and it became merely a matter of time before Buffalo put us out of our misery.
Message in a Molson bottle: It isn’t often that you look at one of our games, even a loss, and can’t name a single forward that played a solid game. What happened to the backchecking and helping our depleted defensive corps? During the rare moments that Meszaros or Pothier got some rest, we were immediately in danger of giving up another goal due to Peewee level defencemen and forwards waiting for the outlet pass from Redden, who is actually in a different time zone right now. Ugly loss and a strong argument why losing teams shouldn’t get a point – we flat out didn’t deserve this one.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Depth has its end points
Check this first: Andrej Meszaros started the year as our #5 defenceman – he logged 37:47 minutes of icetime, no typo. Brian Pothier started the year as our #6 defenceman – he logged 35:55 minutes of icetime. Our next guy started the year in the press box. The two after that were guys that the common fan had never heard of, including Brad Norton who a lot of fans still haven’t heard of! Norton isn’t very good. Novak has his limits. Schubert started the year in the stands for a reason. While our defencemen have been stellar in the games leading up to this one, the overachieving AHLers simply ran out of skill. But let’s give the credit to the top pairing – Meszaros was unbelievable in playing what I’d guess to be the most ice time any NHL player has seen this year, and Pothier continues to shock us as being a wall and a leader. Remember when we were just happy if Pothier didn’t lose the puck on the blue line on a powerplay? He has quietly racked up 33 points and is in the top ten in plus/minus. “Not bad for one has been and a couple of never-will-be’s, eh?” says Jake Taylor.

What happens when you don’t battle for pucks?
Take a look at the score. We might have found a way to pop four shots past Biron, but when a team consistently loses every battle and race for every puck at every moment of the game, then your chances of winning are severely limited. What is tough to fathom in this one is even with a 3-1 lead, we really were playing from behind because we just didn’t have it tonight. Dany Heatley went from being future captain of the Sens to master tenant in the Bryan Murray doghouse. He finished the night as a minus-2 and could have been worse, but he was instead in the penalty box for two additional Buffalo goals. He’s earned some slack for this one, but make no mistake – he was bad. I suppose a positive to take from this is that we played one of our worst games since the Olympics and still took our closest divisional opponent to overtime before finally running out of stink gas.

Where is everyone?
Alfredsson returned back to the lineup after a game away with the flu. Apart from taking a full round of shots on the unsuccessful 4-on-3 powerplay in the second and his nice goal at the end of the first, Alfie wasn’t very strong. Fisher came back after missing nine games with the sprained ankle – he didn’t have his normal get-up-and-go tonight and hopefully he gets his game legs under him soon. Arnason was back tonight after getting his bell rung on Monday, but apart from one series of nice moves along the side boards, he is still appearing very out of place in this lineup (about Arnason, isn't anyone wondering when this guy will at least tap somebody into the boards? Magnus Arvedson called, he wants his style of play back). Volchenkov sat out with a sore neck, Chara is out with the cairns-hand, Phillips is out with the strained MCL, Redden is out west for personal reasons, Havlat is out with the un-cleared shoulder, and Hasek is nowhere to be found. Three scenarios: one is that these guys are just banged up and we’ll have a healthy lineup in the postseason, just like the organization tells us. Two is that we are purposely keeping our top players out of the lineup so that they are healthy enough in late April and picked up some extra R&R while other teams beat each other up for position in the standings. Three is that the injuries are much worse than we originally estimated and we actually won’t have our top guys back for the first round – have we all been told a series of lies? You make the call in this week’s Sens Forum – will the Sens have a healthy lineup come Game 1 of Round 1?

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Nobody questions Emery’s play since he took over the starting duties, but perhaps he is due for a night off – the guy has to be exhausted by now and if by chance he has to open the first round, do we really want him coming off 25-odd straight starts?
2. What does it say about your fourth line when Meszaros had more icetime while killing penalties then they did in the entire game?
3. How did Buffalo’s Maxim Afinogenov have a 4-point night but finish minus-2?
4. Chara says he still can’t grip his stick well enough to take a shot, but the question that Ottawa really wants answered is if it is well enough to grip a rib and take a bite.
5. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Thursday, 7:30 vs. Montreal
Saturday, 7:30 vs. Buffalo
Next Monday, 7:30 at Montreal

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 –

Upcoming Games
Wednesday, 7:00 at Buffalo
Thursday, 7:30 vs. Montreal
Saturday, 7:30 vs. Buffalo
Next week: Montreal, Boston, Florida, Toronto

Dominik Hasek: July 2004 – April 2006


It is with profound sadness today that I announce the loss of one of the great goalie’s in the history of the NHL. Drafted in the tenth round by the Chicago Blackhawks, Dominik was overshadowed in his early years by Crazy Eddie Belfour. It wasn’t until his arrival in Buffalo that he began his super-human performances that left anyone who played him frustrated beyond words. From 96 – 99 I feel comfortable saying he was the best goalie of all time. He doesn’t have the career of Patrick Roy or the consistency of Marty Brodeur but he was, for all intents and purposes, an absolute stud.

It may turn out that my report is premature and the "Dominator" will grace us with his presence in the post-season – but that scenario is looking more bleak every day. Remember seven weeks ago when the strained adductor muscle was "day to day"? I do, and here we are now wondering when he will muster up the courage to put on his equiptment. I believe that he can clear himself before the playoff’s but not with enough time to start. If Emery keeps winning you absolutely have to go with the hot hand. You cannot switch horses mid-stream and expect success.

Dom will need at least 5 games before the post-season to prepare himself, which would mean he is playing next week – not going to happen. I think it’s time for us all to accept this loss and throw our support behind Emery. If that scares you remember two names: Kipper and Jiggy.