Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sens Game Report - 10/7/2006 - Buffalo @ Ottawa

25 hard minutes does not a good game make.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Buffalo wins 4-3
Ottawa Goals:
1. Dean McAmmond (1) on a zinger off a 2-on-1 with Hamel going glove side
2. Jason Spezza (1) tipping in a Heatley wrist shot while standing in front
3. Jason Spezza (2) banging in a rebound into the open net off an Alfie shot
Making Sens: McAmmond, Alfredsson
Lacking Sens: Fisher, Volchenkov, Phillips, Coach Murray
It was over when: Pominville scored 1:14 after Spezza pulled us to within one, and we all know what Jason Pominville goals do to our team.
It was definitely over when: Time ran out. We waited too long to start playing.
Message in a Molson bottle: Don’t look at the third period and think that we could have won this game. We skated around listlessly for the better part of the night and the lack of effort has now landed us in a tie for last place in the division. If you missed this game, go back and watch your VCR tapes from last year’s second round against Buffalo because this one was really an extension of that series. We now trail 5 games to 1.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Thursday hosting Calgary.

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

The Good
- You can officially call me a Dean McAmmond fan. I’m not sure if it is just because it is nice to see some new blood among our collection of underachievers, but in my opinion, he has stood out as our hardest worker and best player in each of the first three games (tied with Gerber in the opener, before you snarl back at me). He skates hard and fast and goes after the puck. The other players can learn from that because they seem to enjoy skating away from the puck.
- The Pizza Line was together in the third and produced a pair of goals. It occurred to me after the first game or perhaps sometime during the second game that secondary scoring is pretty much impossible when you don’t have primary scoring. If our role players are as good as we think they are, then we should absolutely have the Pizza Line together and sort out the rest of the lines accordingly.

The Bad
- Mike Fisher does NOT have carte blanche, okay? We all love the guy because he throws his body around and his wrist shot would go right through you, but his play in the first three games has been mediocre at best. He isn’t finding openings for shots and he isn’t skating after the puck very much. Is he in danger of falling into the same trap as the rest of the vets, which is to have your performance drop as expectations rise? I dearly hope not, or else we should never use the term “breakout year” again. Fisher needs to forget about the expectations of the general public and focus on being Mike Fisher.
- I don’t point fingers, but Martin Gerber needs to keep us in the game. If we wanted to have a back breaking goal scored against us a minute after we get back in the game, we’d put Emery in. Booooooooooo, c’mon, Geoff. Just kidding, Rayzer, but it's funny cause it's true, right? The Swiss Miss needs to make the big save.

The Ugly
- I think Eugene Melnyk is completely within reason to ask for Phillips’ and Volchenkov’s paycheque for this week. Paint me crazy, but if I’m in a contract year like Phillips, AND I’m just handed the ‘A’ for alternate captain, I find a way to play so far above my own talent levels that I send Muckler into sleepless nights about how to re-sign me. And keep using that crazy paint brush because if I’m Anton Volchenkov and I know that my GM has been reportedly dangling me as trade bait and my salary is far above my performance, I begin this season like the Oilers finished - playing out of my skates! It baffles me how these two guys, who have each been involved in trade rumours, can open the season playing so awful. Make no mistake, their play has been nothing more than piss poor and I blame Coach Murray for continuing on with the expirement of keeping them together.

- I’ll say it again, the Pizza Line MUST stay in tact. In fact, the more I think about it and the more I drink CC and gingers tonight, I wonder why we ever left this approach. Secondary scoring, right? Mike Fisher, Peter Scaefer, Antoine Vermette, Dean McAmmond, Patrick Eaves, Chris Neil – these guys apparently all have the potential for a 20-goal season, right? So if this is true, then why do we split up three guys that will each score 100 points when playing together? Because the Bruins will put Chara on them? Great! That just makes more room for our six other 20-goal scorers. There is no team who has #3-#6 defencemen good enough to consistently stop those six secondary scorers. Can we stop their top lines? Well, I answer your question with another question – how is Joe Corvo’s foot?
- The numbers have Patrick Eaves at a minus-3. I didn’t think he was that bad but I guess his (in)ability to collapse down low made quite the difference, seeing as how he was on the ice for all three of Buffalo’s even strength goals.
- Alfredsson was a plus-2 and had two assists – give him his due credit because he was there tonight, playing like a captain. Great job, buddy.
- Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil were both around 10 minutes of ice time. I need much more McAmmond to be happy.
- This first period gave me very upsetting flashbacks to last year’s series. How we’ve managed to come out of the gates so sloppy in all three games, two of those at home, is beyond me. Lessons learned since May? Apparently nothing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

We've got a long way to go, Ottawa fans

No, I'm not saying we have a long way to go to win the Cup, but we have a long way to go until we can really call ourselves true fans. Every time I think that Ottawa is closer to being at our goal of one million passionate and crazy Senators fans, Toronto comes to town and I'm reminded of how far we are, collectively, from being a genuinely massive and forgiving fan base. Two incidents in the past twelve hours have made me particularly sick to the stomach, and please feel free to disagree with me if you feel I'm out of line.

First, how the hell do we allow our captain to be booed in his home arena? Considering that there were plenty of walkup tickets available leading up to the home opener last night, we certainly didn't jump at the opportunity to fill the rink with red, did we? Instead, we let 6,000-8,000 Toronto fans come from out of their doldrums and into our house and ridicule our own captain, the face of our franchise. For God's sake, they might as well have stood in front of our faces and booed us, and apparently we'll just stand there and say, "yeah, well, I don't think that was very polite of you and I expect that I'll receive a letter of apology in the mail shortly." When we see that Toronto (and to a lesser extent, Montreal) is coming to town, we ought to be buying up our tickets on the day they go on sale, just because we know how obnoxious it is to have visiting fans cheer louder in our building. In nearly 10 years of games at the Palladium/Corel Centre/Scotiabank Place, we haven't done a damn thing about it, and that is absolutely ridiculous.

Second is our goaltending situation. I know that we are used to years of relying on backup and minor league goalies, but we need to take it down a peg or two. Our new #1, Martin Gerber, comes with years of solid experience, two trips to a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, winning once, and the ability to stand on his head on a regular basis for us. Obviously the pressure on him in Ottawa will be far greater than what was on him in Carolina last year, but can everyone please calm down and wait out the 82 games? Did we offer Martin Gerber an $11.1M contract so that he could lead our team to a 2-0 start? Speak into the microphone with your answer, please. Let me share with you Don Brennan's headline in the Ottawa Sun this morning: The Senators were awful in their home opener, but nobody looked worse than their new No. 1 goaltender. I understand that it is the responsibility of the media to cover the games and bring a combination of the facts and their related analysis to the common public, but come on now. Gerber last night was far from the goalie he was on Wednesday, but can we tone it down a bit? If I hear the term 'goaltender controversy' in reference to the situation in Ottawa, I'll snap.

These two occurrences, combined with the fact that I just hate losing to the Leafs, have led me to the conclusion that we, as fans, are far from the loyal groupies of our two Eastern Canadian rivals. I don't ever want to be as delusional as either of those fans, but at least they stick up for their team through thick and thin. As Kevin Lee said yesterday, what will happen to our fan base, season ticket base, etc., when the Sens are merely an average team? I weep for the future.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sens Game Report - 10/5/2006 - Toronto @ Ottawa

"The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Toronto’s revenge, 6-0
Ottawa Goals: ummm
Making Sens: McAmmond for PM
Lacking Sens: Alfie, Spezza, Heatley, Gerber, Schaefer, others
It was over when: Kilger’s second goal occurred when Gerber left the puck behind the net instead of wheeling it around to Meszaros in the corner and Steen threw it out to him for the tap in. That was the dagger in the heart.
It was definitely over when: Yikes, this one just got ugly as Tucker scores a second and the Sens don’t seem to care.
Message in a Molson bottle: Complacency loses hockey games – write that down. There is absolutely no excuse to lose a lesser talented team that outplays you, so I’m sure Coach Murray will turn the dressing room into a Jerry Springer set tonight. Interestingly enough, I’d imagine the players will avoid the flying chairs as much as they did the corners tonight. Just a flat out lazy effort from the goaltender on out. The highlight of the night happened during the second intermission when Ron MacLean accidentally called new Penguins owner Jim Balssilie "a hockey gay, oops, I meant hockey guy." Whoops.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Saturday night hosting Buffalo

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

The Good
- Not much to be fond of tonight, but I’m still really happy with the play of Dean McAmmond. The problem is he isn’t getting nearly enough time on the third line, but isn’t quite good enough to crack the top two lines. His speed is unbelievable, and guess what – he backchecks like a champ. I like him a lot.

The Bad
- The play of Martin Gerber left a lot to be desired. I’m not playing the blame game here because nobody carried their weight, but where Gerber kept us in the game Wednesday night, he didn’t do anything to help our cause tonight.
- Spezza and Heatley were back to the floating and errant passes. Funny how when these guys are good, they’re really good, but when they’re bad, they’re absolutely awful.
- Alfredsson is starting to irk me a bit. We need to see something from our leader Saturday night because he must still have the baby blues right now. He’s usually the guy on our team that makes his linemates better, but I’ll go as far to say that he has held Fisher and Schaefer back a little bit in the first two games.
- Peter Schaefer negates two powerplays in the first period by twice taking a penalty of his own. Down 2-0 with enough time left in the first, we needed a powerplay goal, but Schaefer ensured that we didn’t have the man advantage for long enough to make this a game. Toronto didn’t seem to mind.

The Ugly
- Ugly? The whole game was ugly. As a team, this is one to forget. I’d hate to be at practice tomorrow, that’s for sure.
- The broadcasting of Bob Cole and Harry Neal is off to a God-awful start, much like they finished last season. It’s not so much their love for Toronto so much as their ignorance about everything else. They spent a good 40-50 seconds of play talking about how Michael Peca’s forechecking makes him a great defensive player. The poor coverage is magnified when you put the same teams up against TSN on back to back nights. The latter gives great analysis, the former gives a mindless and sometimes childish play by play.
- Darcy Tucker is the worst skater in the NHL.

- The not-so-private love affair between Darcy Tucker and Mats Sundin has to be becoming a cause for concern for any Conservative Leafs fan. It is one thing to congratulate a teammate after a key powerplay goal, it is a whole different thing to neck each other in front of 19,000+ fans. Somewhere in the TSN studio, Belinda said to Tie, “how come you never hold me like that?”;_ylt=AlkNTZPNU.krtVeivE2gAaBivLYF?slug=f9f3bdbd266843aaad67cfc44125018b.nhl_maple_leafs_senators_hockey_thx103&prov=ap
- So Spezza goes 13-5 in the faceoff circle so clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about on that one. We get smoked in the faceoff circle last night and win, we hold our own tonight and get embarrassed.
- Redden and Meszaros cash out at a combined minus -5. And McCabe was a plus-2. Ouch.
- The McGrattan v Belak fight left a lot to be desired. Belak is no Domi.
- I’m not ready to have Eaves on the top PP unit instead of Alfredsson. I don’t feel like that unit is dangerous enough to score over 20% of the time. Sticking Eaves in front of the net is neat and all, but I still think putting Alfie up there gives us a far better chance at scoring with regularity and it leaves the blue collar goals to the second unit.
- I still miss Chara, as does Baton Rouge as they have apparently seen sales of BBQ ribs plummet. Sell your stocks immediately and put all your money into baked beans.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sens Game Report - 10/4/2006 - Ottawa @ Toronto

And we're baaaaaaack

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa Goals:
1. Eaves (1) on the powerplay on a rebound from Priessing’s shot
2. Neil (1) showing some speed and showing that Toronto’s D is still slow
3. Schubert (1) on a strange wraparound shot that banked off Raycroft’s pad
4. Alfredsson (1) into the empty net to ice it
Making Sens: Gerber, Redden, Eaves, McAmmond, Neil
Lacking Sens: Phillips, Volchenkov
It was over when: Neil’s goal was so reminiscent of last year’s Toronto defensive corps that it just seemed to deflate the team and the crowd.
It was definitely over when: Toronto continued to take penalties throughout the third, preventing any kind of flow. Not that there’s anyone on that team that can score, anyway.
Message in a Molson bottle: Cobwebs. Phillips and Volchenkov looked far too similar to the way we were in May, but give Philly a mulligan since he is new to playing on the right side (there used to be a bigger guy over there). First 10 minutes we sloppy, but by the end of 60 minutes, we looked like a fast team that forechecks and backchecks consistently. Let’s do that 81 more times.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Thursday night hosting Toronto

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

The Good
- The new guys stole the show, in my opinion. Martin Gerber was phenomenal from the drop of the puck to the final whistle. When we were sluggish early, it was the Swiss Miss that kept it scoreless. If he plays like this 59 more times, he’s worth the investment.
- Tom Priessing, before leaving the game mid-second with some king of groin issue, looked great as a puck-moving and pinching defenceman. The Eaves goal was a direct result of Priessing coming in low. Those that missed him last year in San Jose because of their early bedtimes got a good look at what kind of player he is going to be for us.
- Dean McAmmond was phenomenal. First off, he may compete with Vermette in the speed competition. Second, he sees the ice well, doesn’t get fancy in his pantsy, and can skate around just about anyone…on Toronto. It’s a start.

The Bad
- Daniel Alfredsson was not very noticeable tonight. That’s okay. When the guy has the puck, you still understand that he’s probably the best all-around player on either side of the ice. What gave me a weird feeling is the way he threw the puck into the open net with his backhand in the final minute. Why the frig couldn’t he do that last ...forget it, I’m over it. Alfie will score 100 points, but he was lucky to get one tonight with the way he played.

The Ugly
- Hi, I’m Anton Volchenkov and I would rather skate over here, thank you. Again, we’ve moved on from last year, but the A-Train must have been at the wrong station tonight. Choo-choo, come on home, buddy. If Priessing’s groin is an issue, then Volchenkov will see a lot of ice time with Phillips and the two of them will have to overcome whatever language barriers there may be between them.
- Tie Domi. He’s just plain ugly, although it took a really big man to confess that Mats Slewfoot Sundin being awarded a penalty shot was bush league. I could keep railing Domi, but (insert your own Belinda Stronach joke here).

- Chemistry is still a work in progress with the Fisher/Schaefer/Alfredsson line. They were good, but Alfie once made Todd White a 60 point player, so by my count that should make Fisher a 70 point guy. Me do good at math, see. The speed and flow to this line will be a sight for sore eyes after a few more games.
- I was just about to say to myself that I wasn’t crazy about Eaves being on the top PP unit and that I’d rather Alfie be up there, but then Eaves scored. Okay.
- Vermette has gotta keep skating. He keeps stopping when he hits the slot and then looks for a pass. If he’s coming in on any Toronto defenceman, he needs to get around him.
- Hi, I’m a faceoff win. Do you want to get to know each other? Please circle one: YES NO MAYBE
- I didn’t miss Havlat or Smolinski or Hasek, but I kinda missed Chara.
- Back at it tomorrow night at home. Zing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why do we come back?

A fictional movie character once said in a voice that sounded exactly like James Earl Jones, "People will come, Ray. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces....It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come." If the movie, Field of Dreams taught us anything, it is that our passion for our favourite sport can often overcome our own common sense. As hockey fans, we tend to cross a very fine line between being the most passionate people on Earth and being the most naive.

Here we are as hockey fans, on the eve of another long stretch of regular season games that span from October through April, and we're committed to following every detail of our team and their foes during that time. And what do we do in April? We prepare for a second season that we hope and pray will last another two months through mid-June. If our team gets eliminated earlier than that, we utter what would otherwise be seen as ridiculous comments by non-hockey fans: "Summer has come too soon," and "I can't wait for this stupid summer to be over so we can get back to the cold winter." Some would say we commit the ultimate no-no in any relationship - we love someone who doesn't love us back. We pour our hearts into the Senators each and every spring playoff run and always end up with a sickening taste in our mouths, so bad that we're actually wishing we just had a regular hangover. It's as if Jeff Friesen or Jason Pominville or Joe Nieuwendyk personally walked into our living room and kicked our dog and drank our orange juice and left without saying sorry, that's how awful we feel. And do you know what else we sometimes do? We promise ourselves and our peers that we must be leery of becoming this involved in the team this coming fall.

But we aren't less involved in the fall, are we? Even worse, we've found a way to justify why our team will really win it all this year. We write off the departed as greedy nogoodniks and hail the newcomers as the missing links. We read the paper each morning and look at the line combinations from yesterday's practice, and we read up on how our new goalie looked in warmups. The proverbial water cooler becomes the office hot spot once again. We stop talking about the putt Johnny missed on the 17th last weekend and we start talking about why Jason Spezza will win the scoring title. And before you know it, it's opening night in Toronto and you've got your jersey on your back and the television is turned up far too loud. Your Microsoft Outlook calendar is filled with home games and you're actually checking flights to see if your family could take a quick vacation to the south during the Florida/Tampa/Carolina road trip in November. Guess what, friend? You're back. You said you wouldn't be here, but you were wrong and you are once again walking on the tightrope between passionate and naive.

When the puck drops tomorrow night in Toronto and our latest installment tries once again to be the last team on the ice, take comfort in this: your entire city will be right beside you cheering for their Sens. We're not naive, we're passionate. We love our team and we love how it brings our city together. We may arrive at Scotiabank Place complaining about the drive out past Kanata, but as soon as we come across and mock a lost soul in a Toronto or Montreal jersey, we're united once again. The naysayers say that we love a team that doesn't love us back. Whether or not you believe this doesn't seem to matter when you consider the effects that NHL hockey has on our community. Thousands of children have had the opportunity to play on the Senators ice and call it the Rink of Dreams. Did you hear that? It is a kid's dream come true to step on that ice, all because it is the same ice where Daniel Alfredsson plays. Oour neighbours participate in charity events to raise money for great causes, partly because we're a great city and partly because Mike Fisher does it, too. On the other side of the picture, adults shed tears and prayed at night for the families of Chris Neil and Wade Redden when they each experienced tragic losses during last season. We welcomed Dany Heatley into our city and into our hearts when he wanted to turn the corner on a difficult past. Now you tell me there isn't a bit of love and passion involved in the relationship between the Senators and their fans. How do they show their appreciation? They show up each fall and put on our team's colours and play their guts out for 9-10 months of the year in pursuit of our common dream.

Terrence Mann hits the nail on the head - people will come. On this, the eve of another NHL campaign, we count down the hours until puck drop and we think about what player's name and number we'll get printed on our next jersey. Our hangover is over and we've forgotten about Pominville and the empty carton of juice in the fridge. It's as if we're peeking out from underneath our security blanket and we see Daniel Alfredsson saying, "I hope you're ready, because we need you," and without even thinking you just nod your head to acknowledge that, yes, you'll be there. And all of a sudden, all you see are the 82 games in front of you and your team and it occurs to you that everything is falling back into place. Order is restored. The boys are on the ice again and tomorrow night at 7:30ish, the only thought in our passionate/naive minds will be about our hatred of the Leafs.

Long-awaited Blogger Predictions - 2006-07

When you google your way through the Internet each day for your hockey news, you don't just stop at every corner and read what each Joe Q Fan has to say about their team. You try and find a website that has the right mixture of credibility and passion. After a season in the world of blogging, the passion of these two writers cannot be questioned. And for anyone that questioned their street cred, as the kids call it, take the time to read below at our 2006-07 predictions for the Eastern Conference. Why no Western Conference? Because nobody likes them and professional sports revolves around the East Coast. And if that isn't enough reason, they rarely win. Below yo uwill see a couple of gambles (Matt with Boston, Geoff with Atlanta). If you think those predictions are laughable, then look no further than last year's final four. There's always a Cinderella in there somewhere that makes it close but never wins it. Let's hear your rebuttals and predictions in the comments section!

Matt's East:
1. Ottawa - depth galore
2. NY Rangers - Lunqvist will emerge as a top 5 goalie
3. Carolina - great depths and quality players
4. Boston - admirable lineup top to bottom; Zee takes them up a level
5. Buffalo - speed wins
6. Tampa Bay - highly skilled top end
7. New Jersey - Gionta makes the difference in making it again
8. Atlanta - Lehtonen is a star in net

9. Florida - depth coming together, not quite enough
10. Philadelphia - goaltending woes will haunt them
11. Montreal - they simply don't have the horses
12. Toronto - skill level is way too low here
13. NY Islanders - Wanged
14. Washington - too young
15. Pittsburgh - way too young

OTT vs ATL - Ottawa in 4
NYR vs NJ - New Jersey in 6
CAR vs TB - Carolina in 6
BOS vs BUF - Boston in 7

OTT vs NJ - Ottawa in 7
CAR vs BOS - Boston in 5

OTT vs BOS - Ottawa in 7

Geoff's East
1. Ottawa - equally offensive, quicker defensively, and a year older
2. Carolina - Staal and Cole are too good; this division is their's to lose
3. New Jersey - they win the Atlantic so long as Brodeur is in nets
4. Atlanta - they pick up an All-Star d-man at the break and take off
5. Buffalo - Ryan Miller is taught that he's a top 10, but not a top 5
6. NY Rangers - Jagr stays healthy and puts up another 100+ points
7. Tampa Bay - adding a consistent goalie lets them forget last year
8. Philadelphia - Gagne and Forsberg are enough, but they are dropping

9. Florida - Close. Jacques' team is looking eerily familiar to Sens fans
10. Montreal - lack of a #1 defenceman is too much pressure on Huet
11. Toronto - JFJ is out by Jan. Tellqvist retires to take over as GM
12. Washington - their plethora of picks are young but growing
13. Boston - wasted money. Perhaps Muckler WAS calling the shots here
14. Pittsburgh - Hear this - Pittsburgh goes nowhere with Fleaury in nets
15. NY Islanders - Matt said it best - these guys are just plain Wanged.

OTT vs PHI - Ottawa in 5
CAR vs TB - Tampa Bay in 7
NJ vs NYR - New York in 7
ATL vs BUF - Atlanta in 7

OTT vs TB - Ottawa in 6
ATL vs NYR - Atlanta in 7

OTT vs ATL - Ottawa in 6