Friday, April 21, 2006

ROUND 1 GAME 1 - Tampa @ Ottawa - 4.21.2006

Both Photos: (AP Photo/Patrick Doyle,CP)

The sleeping giant has awakened.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa goals: Havlat (1, pp) on a deke down low that only he could pull off, Spezza (1, pp) on one of his nicest wrist shots of the season picking the short side top corner, Fisher (1, sh) icing the game on a two-on-one break on Schaefer’s saucer pass, Alfredsson (1, en) with an empty netter at the 18:58 mark that still winds up in the scoresheet.
Making Sens(e): Emery, Redden, Havlat
Not much Sens(e): All forwards were sleepy through 40 minutes, especially four names that made it right – Havlat, Spezza, Fisher , and Alfie were noticeably weak through two periods. Funny what a goal can do to one’s opinion of a player.
It was over when: Dare I say, even Havlat’s goal to tie it up in the third drove the crowd crazy and woke the team up for good.
It was definitely over when: With the score 2-1, Fisher put in a shortie that just sent the arena into hysterics.
Message in a Molson bottle: Watching the first two periods, we all knew that it was just a matter of time before the boys took over – we just hoped it was sometime in Game 1 that they did this and not Game 3 or 4! This game was eerily familiar to the very first game of the regular season where the fans sat around for 40 minutes wondering why we were losing 1-0 to an inferior team. But just like they did in October, the better team took over – and this one didn’t require overtime! Defence did a solid job shutting down their forwards and our powerplay took a few tries to get going but was eventually the difference maker. Our first PP unit is just gross to watch with Havlat joining the bunch. Let's eat ribs to celebrate this occasion!
1st Courtesy Boxscore:
2nd Courtesy Boxscore:

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

1st period – Championship teams start from the goalie out – and so does this report
Simply outstanding. If Emery had butterflies going into the game, he certainly found a way to turn them into great positive energy because he played exactly like we needed him to play. We don’t necessarily need Rayzor to steal games throughout the tournament, we just need him to not lose any. Tonight, Emery was making the saves he needed to make and it kept us in the game while the forwards continued their pre-game nap through the first two periods. Emery did his job for 60 minutes and it earned us the win. If he keeps this up, maybe all the pessimists will find something else to dwell on.

2nd Period – How Gary Bettman touched this game
Referees are expected to call penalties like they were in October. Says the former assistant commissioner of the NBA, “if the referees put the whistles away, we’ll put the referees away.” As a result, tonight’s game featured a combined 15 penalties (9 for them), leading to four special team goals out of the five (and that fifth was an empty netter). While our powerplay finally came alive in the third with the Havlat and Spezza goals, let’s keep in mind that Richards on the point of Tampa Bay’s powerplay is why they are the defending champs. If we want to make quick work of this series, we need to get our sticks down again and out of the Lightning armpits. Heatley took two lazy penalties that, while they may not have been called down the stretch of the regular season, are still enough to be called now – and all he was doing was sticking his blade into the opponent’s armpit. Unless we want to have a 33% powerplay all series, let’s not let special teams take over this series because Tampa has enough shooters to put a few in on their own.

3rd Period – Was this a must-win game?
I think you can argue either side here, but I’m going to explain why the answer is yes. Tampa Bay and their Fonz-like coach conveniently labeled themselves as the underdogs that aren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. As the experts have said (Williams and I), the pressure on Ottawa will DECREASE with every win. If we had lost this game, the depressed Ottawa fans would have found a way to blame the loss on Emery, blast Alfredsson, and cancel their season tickets in the first few minutes after the final horn. Furthermore, it gives Tampa Bay just a bit more hope in hanging around in this series. Tampa is not good enough to make this into a long series and if we had given them the chance to do that, it would just lead to more games. By taking this first game, we remind the Lightning that we have dominated them over the past four years and that will remain in the heads through next week. Too many people in the city would give up on this team if we had lost, and so many people will jump back on the bandwagon because we won. And now Emery just has 15 more to win!

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. I’m still predicting a first-round sweep, by the way.
2. First period – our best line was Vermette, Neil, and Varada. Tons of hitting and energy from this hodge podge group. I don’t even know what they’re supposed to do out there – hit people, shoot, or just kill time. They did all three.
3. Tough night for Tampa when Richards and Lecavlier went a combined 10 of 29 (34%) in the faceoff circle.
4. Only Meszaros and Pothier DIDN’T have a shot on goal. That’s good. Early on, though, we weren’t doing a great job of moving around the blocking forward and instead just fired pucks into their legs.
5. One of the highlights of my night is seeing Martin Havlat’s excitement after his game-tying goal. I don’t like to think that there is truth to the theory that Europeans don’t care about the Cup, but it is still nice to see them so passionate.
6. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

New for the Playoffs: THE MAN WE COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT: Ray Emery. If he doesn't make key saves in the first period, we don't have as quick a comeback in the third period. Cheers, Ray!

Upcoming Games

Sunday vs. Tampa Bay 6:00
Tuesday @ Tampa Bay, 7:00Thursday @ Tampa Bay,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Between the Lines - 4.19.2006

Here are some sub-stories to follow in Round 1 for Ottawa:

Zdeno Chara vs. Vincent Lecavalier
Here's where home ice will show its biggest advantage - with the last line change, there will rarely be a moment in this entire series when Chara isn't on the ice shadowing Lecavalier. Zee showed off his style in the final regular season game when he went as far as to chase Jagr all around the Ottawa zone, even out to the blue line. How Chara and Lecavalier perform in this battle will go a long way to determining the outcome of the series. Follow this closely.

Is Chris Phillips ready?
It has been said by most that Phillips has been our most consistent defencemen over the past two or three playoffs. He hasn't played since March and rumours have him possibly coming back on Friday night. Paired with Chara, he'll have increased responsibility in front of the net as his partner chases Lecavalier around the rink. If he comes back too soon, we'll know it pretty quickly by the gaping hole in front of Emery.

When will Martin Havlat score?
He was absolutely flying in his second game back in New York on Tuesday. However, a lot of his scoring chances were either self-produced or coming off a feed from the blueline. He will need to reestablish his amazing chemistry with Schaefer that we saw in October and November. If the Pizza Line stays split up, then having Havlat in the lineup and flying gives us three different lines that have gamebreakers in them. Havlat scoring early will open floodgates beyond the imagination as Tampa Bay has to come up with three defensive pairings in shut down mode.

Dany Heatley's first playoff game
The X-factor in the trade last summer was that Heaters looks gritty. We are thrilled that he had such an amazing freshman year in Ottawa and popped in his 50th, but now it is time to end the comparisons for good. Heatley has an opportunity to earn the love of Hockey Nation forever by putting up numbers in the playoffs. Let's watch and see if he and Spezza continue their scoring in Round 1. They both enter the playoffs on a tear.

Mike Fisher the leader
Okay, so this is Spezza's breakout year, right? Well, right behind that is Mike Fisher's breakout season as the clear #2 centre. With Arnason in the pressbox and Smolinski seen as more of a two-way guy, this is Fisher's opportunity to convince management (although he already has, in my opinion) that it is HE that will line up for the faceoff on the second line. He is also showing a ton of leadership and grit and if he isn't Murray's favourite player yet, he oughta be after the postseason.

Who is the new rival this year?
Tampa Bay is our expansion cousin and beat us in the race to the Cup. But does this series have enough legs to become a real rivalry? Will we get the Habs in the second round for a new divisional rivalry? Can we get a crack at revenge against the Devils? And when did Darcy Tucker become a model?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sens Game Report - OTT@NYR - 4.18.06

What cheers up the Spartan Spirit gang? The perfect road game!

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-1
Ottawa goals: Eaves (20) on a lightning fast give-and-go with Alfie, Alfredsson (43, pp) picking the top corner on a rebound from Redden’s point shot, Meszaros (10) in four-on-four play after Heaters gave him a great backhanded saucer pass, Fisher (22, sh) in a goal that you must see a replay of during this shorthanded 3-on-4, Heatley (50, pp) after the whole gang started zoning in on him to watch him drop a blast from just inside the blue line – Havlat retrieved the puck out of the net as Heaters is the first 50-goal scorer in team history.
Making Sens(e): The names you want to see here – Alredsson, Heatley, Redden, Meszaros, Havlat, Fisher, Eaves, Emery
Not much Sens(e): Can’t think of anyone
It was over when: Meszaros opened the third period and restored our two-goal lead with what can be considered by some to be a weak goal on Lundqvist.
It was definitely over when: Fisher pulled two amazing moves while battling shorthanded and wrapped it around Lundvist to ice this game for good. Heatley’s Hammer was just icing on the cake.
Message in a Molson bottle: Everything that we wanted to have happen tonight, happened tonight. Emery played solid in nets, our stars were stars, our role players were role players, and we didn’t allow a single odd-man rush shot. That is because our defencemen pinched perfectly and our forwards backchecked consistently. Before the game, Hockey Nation in Ottawa was ready to blow up the team and fire the front office. After the game, we’re the Eastern Conference regular season champs and host the Lightning to start the second season. Cheers, boys!
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

1st period – Um, hi. Does that captain come in blonde and curly?
He’s back and he’s ready to go. Daniel Alfredsson played probably his best game since the Olympics in putting up three points and breaking up so many Rangers rushes that he might as well have been playing on defence. Alfie did tonight what captains do in the crucial games – he led his team to victory. And no better time to do that than the 82nd game of the season going into the playoffs with his top-shelf performance in tact. Without getting a haircut since September and no guarantees made in two years, Alfie has the table set to be the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup. Will he sit down to eat? Get your tickets now.

2nd Period – Winning on the road is fun
The Sens played the perfect road game tonight, barring Straka’s quick goal in the second. The first period was played patiently without many turnovers, sending a couple of guys in to forecheck and waiting for the Rangers to turn the puck over. After a scoreless first, the Rangers started to grip their sticks a little tighter and the Sens started to pick up the tempo even higher than its playoff-like first period. Each Ranger turnover now became a better scoring chance. And then those scoring chances became goals. All the while, we kept our defencemen back and a forward within reach to thwart any opposition attacks before they even started. This performance is exactly what will be needed in every third, fourth, and possibly sixth game of the first three rounds of the playoffs if we want to see the fourth round. If there was ever a shot that Emery didn’t see, it was because there were two Sens players blocking it. It brings a smile to your face.

3rd Period – And then there were 16…
So we wanted to win the conference and play against the eight seed. Let’s stop talking about it there. Watch carefully how none of the Sens will say a thing about how they were hoping to play the Lightning (4-0 against them this year, outscoring them 16-6) instead of Montreal, who has a hot goalie and would present us with a much more passionate series. The players won’t say a thing about it because from now on, each quote from one day becomes a locker room posting the next. The Sens know what is at stake here and don’t need to acknowledge pressure, expectations, past playoffs, or available tee times. Leave the taunting to Andrew Peters and the Sabres – we’ve got a job to do now and we’ll watch quietly as we go out about our business. Phillips might play in Game 1, Hasek probably will not. Chara will sit quietly in a booth at the back corner of Baton Ridge and peacefully taste the sauce on the house recipe ribs. Make no mistake – the boys are ready.

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Looks like my first guarantee might be wrong already – I said Varada would be the odd man out in Game 1 but Arnason has been benched the last two games. This might change since the Lightning are more of a speed team and less of a physical team. In other words, maybe Murray will see something in Arnason this week that makes it more useful in this type of series than Varada.
2. Kelly was on the top line with Spezz and Heaters; Fisher centered Schaefer and Havlat; Smoke was in between Eaves and Alfie; the pot-pourri line was Neil, Varada, and Vermette.
3. Poor Vermie – his ice time will see a big hit with Havlat back in the lineup.
4. Have we seen the last of McGrattan? Here’s why we hope so – the only way he gets back in the lineup is three injuries to forwards (Arnie and Schubert will be brought in as replacement forwards first).
5. Havlat was flying tonight. He couldn’t have played a better game without scoring a goal than he did tonight. He also rang a breakaway shot off the post in the first 30 seconds of the game.
6. Smolinski and Spezza sucked in the faceoff circle and that has to change.
7. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Friday vs. Tampa Bay
Sunday vs. Tampa Bay

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sens Game Report - OTT@TOR - 4.15.2006

(AP Photo/Ryan Jackson,CP)
Alfie, what up?

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Toronto wins 5-1
Ottawa goals: Heatley (49) on a gift-wrapped pass from Alfie in the third, cutting the deficit to four goals.
Making Sens(e): Arnason, who didn’t spill his coke in the press box
Not much Sens(e): Most others
It was over when: Stajan opened the second period with another powerplay goal and put us down two with no effort in sight.
It was definitely over when: Antropov scored the fifth at the end of the second and we were officially hoping Tampa would finish off what we didn’t really even start. (Tampa Bay’s win in overtime officially eliminated Toronto from the playoffs.
Message in a Molson bottle: You know, this could have been seen as a meaningless game by some, but that is looking past what we could have accomplished. We had an opportunity to put Toronto out of the playoffs ourselves and instead, most players stayed behind at Baton Rouge or something.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

1st period – I’ll have a large Pizza Line, hold the heart and sense of urgency
Sure, we didn’t want to get injured, but there was enough at stake tonight for the boys to at least show up tonight and put forth a half decent effort. First off, the fans in Ottawa still have not had the satisfaction of putting Toronto out of the playoffs. Perhaps it is just me, but I’m tremendously upset by this. Second, we have all but given away the Conference title, now trailing Carolina by one point and needing a win in New York and a Hurricanes regulation loss to take it back. Third, this was our first game with ALL of our forwards in the lineup since November and all we can muster up is one goal against one of the worst defences in the league? It will take Havlat more than one game to get his timing back, but where the other dudes that used to put up an 8-spot on these jokers? While our biggest concern going into the postseason is our goaltending situation, I would think our lack of consistency lately should be a close second at this point.

2nd Period – And starting in goal for your Ottawa Senators…
Peter Sidorkiewicz! Seriously here folks, let’s discuss our goaltending situation for a moment. Dominik Hasek said that he was in Ottawa to win a Stanley Cup and managed to injure his groin (adductor, whatever) in a tournament that had nothing to do with Ottawa winning a Stanley Cup. Ray Emery is starting the postseason (not counting Tuesday’s NYR game) on a five-game losing streak, more losses than his downtime in January that had fans begging Muckler to bring in a legitimate backup. Mike Morrison, now not fresh off of waivers, has started two games and looked less than playoff-ready. Now I’m an optimist and think that this will all be sorted in out in the next five days and Dom will be ready, but is it almost time to worry that we might be playing the red-hot Habs without a solid goaltender of our own? Did you know that in the last 11 years (odd number, I know…) the #2 vs. #7 has seen the underdog win MORE series than the favourites? Are we comfortable going into a 2 vs. 7 series against Montreal (if the Habs hang onto that position) as we back into Game 1?

3rd Period – Line Up and Be Ready
So how will our lines shake out come this weekend? First off, I really think the Pizza Line will be strong and solid and a force to be reckoned with. Will the Smolinski/Schaefer/Havlat line hold up? If it doesn’t show at least some signs of dominance Tuesday, it might be time to consider someone like Vermette or Fisher playing in the middle so that it becomes a legitimate scoring line instead of having a setup man, a scorer, and a two-way forward that comes around from time to time. And what about Tyler Arnason? Coach Murray has said Arnie will have a talk with the coaching staff and it sounds like he’ll have to talk his way back into the lineup. If he pulls it off and decides to start scoring again, then perhaps he is the formidable choice to centre between Schaefer and Havlat. That line could be dangerous if they can click. That would leave Fisher to play with Eaves and Neil and Smolinski to line up between Vermette and Kelly. That fourth line is sort of a mix and match but it matches up some great pairs of chemistry. What do you think?

Loblaws Express Lane – 10 items or less
1. Darcy Tucker, how do you have a job? Was he honestly looking for revenge for Alfie’s hit four years ago when he jumped him late in the third? The only thing that separates Darcy Tucker from Sean Avery (former Kings superpest) is that Tucker thinks he’s respected. What a clown.
2. Heatley’s defence might be closer to Spezza’s than we thought. Backchecking is supposed to last until the puck is on its way out of the zone, not into our net. The kid still scored his 49th and might be our first player to hit 50 after being the first player to get 100 points. Not bad for a comeback season, eh?
3. Thanks to Pynch for some excellent written descriptions of the game.
4. On the bright side, perhaps some of the Toronto brass will think this near-miss of the postseason is a sign that nothing is wrong with the team but a few small tinkerings. Looking forward to embarrassing this team for years to come.
5. Most expect the first two games of our Round One series will be on Friday and Sunday at the Palladium/Corel Centre/Scotiabank Place. Get your tickets.
6. Don’t forget to check this site daily –

Upcoming Games
Tuesday, 7:00 @ NY Rangers