Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa @ Buffalo - 11.15.06

Now that was an effort you can hang your helmet on… Down 2-1 in the third and finally fighting back.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-2
Ottawa Goals:
Neil (4, pp) after some great forechecking from Fisher roofing it over Biron
Spezza (9) tipping in the Meszaros shot to tie the game in the third
Schaefer (2) tipping in the Alfredsson shot to take the lead. What? Take the lead?
Phillips (1, sh, en) banking in an empty net goal killing a penalty in the last minute. Philly deserved a goal in this one.
Making Sens: Fisher, Phillips, Neil
Lacking Sens: Meszaros had trouble early, Heatley still can’t stickhandle
It was over when: The Phillips empty-netter was the first time Ottawa fans could take a breath since the start of the third period.
It was definitely over when: Emery and the defencemen collapsed the net in the dying seconds to maintain the two goal advantage.
Message in a Molson bottle: If this team can put forth the kind of effort that they showed tonight, then I can be proud to cheer for this team (for the record, I’ll cheer for them no matter what). Their intensity and drive picked up every minute of this game, leading to our best third period of the season and our first come from behind win of the year. What is necessary now is to enjoy this win tonight and take the positive message out of it, which is, “play your ass off from the start of the game until the final horn and you can beat the best team in the NHL.” Have fun tonight and get back to work tomorrow.
Courtesy Boxscore: Disregard the blatant mistake in handing out the three stars in this boxscore. How any of these three received a star surely leads one to believe that someone wasn’t watching. I’d have it as 1) Fisher, 2) Phillips, 3) Emery. No Sabres in the top three.
Next Game: Friday in New Jersey, the second of four straight games against division leaders.

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

The Good
- Mike Fisher and Chris Phillips finally showed why they are wearing the ‘A’. Fisher played his most solid game of the season, leading to the Neil goal in the first, drawing a hooking penalty in the second, and blocking shots in the third. Phillips was physical and smart and was rewarded with his first goal. Great game from both, really picking up the pace and leading by example
- Ray Emery was a star tonight. A few huge saves, coupled with a solid 60 minutes, gives us the backstopping we needed. To say we needed this kind of an effort from our ‘goalkeeper’, as Muckler calls it, would be an understatement.

The Bad
- Andrej Meszaros had a rough start to the game by taking a hooking penalty early from being flat-footed and then turning the puck over onto Briere’s stick, which naturally ended up in our net a second or two later. The defence came around during the game, but Meszaros has to be better given the icetime he gets.

The Ugly
- I know he is on the Team1200 every single morning and is a very smart analyst, but I was pretty sick of Pierre McGuire constantly talking about how slow the Ottawa Senators are. The guy praises us all last season and early this year, then starts calling for a blockbuster trade and says every single morning how slow the Sens are. He mentioned it again 6-8 times in this game, including on the Vanek goal. Vanek didn’t score that one because the Sabres are faster (they are, but…), we had two forwards all the way back in the zone that just didn’t know what they were doing. Schaefer made it back and then mysteriously peeled off to the side as Vanek took a rebound and popped it into the open net. Mr. McGuire, don’t say the Senators are a slow team. We’re very, very fast; we just float far too often. Perhaps I’m just sick of listening to the Sabres bandwagon…

- Derek Roy is a diver. I’d rather have Darcy Tucker on my team than Roy, if that tells you how much I dislike Roy.
- Why can’t we score on a 5-on-3? We killed one off and that was a lot of fun, and we netted a pair of powerplay goals, but we have yet to find a group of five that guarantees a goal. If the Spezza to Heatley pass on the doorstep is gone, we need to find Fisher or Neil or whoever in the slot. We need to be scoring on 100% of the two-man advantages.
- I thought we had a frantic and solid second period, but we only had four shots.
- Volchenkov looked terrific and is turning into a nasty Russian version of Jay McKee meets Scott Stevens. Not quite that good, but he hits people like the dickens and he blocks shots like the balls. He also doesn’t look nearly as stupid out there as he and Phillips did in the first week or two of the season.
- Who is responsible for us taking a too many men penalty while on the powerplay?
- Denis Hamel on the first powerplay unit was fun, and well deserved given the sacrifices this guy takes standing in front of the net, both tonight and this past Monday against Montreal.
- Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza refuse to hit anyone. Pacifists…They combined for five giveaways, too.
- Eaves had the quietest ten minutes of the night.
- Wait, what? No shorthanded goals allowed? No powerplay goals allowed? And we scored two on the powerplay? And we scored shorthanded? Who are these guys?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Million and One Questions

I know it has been a while since I posted but let's be honest for a second here. There has been nothing to write about. Wait a second, there has been one thing to write about - the fact that the Sens are an absolute horror show on ice. How to approach this???? Do I hit the panic button? No Cheeko will get mad. Do I hit the positive button? No that's not in my nature. What about a Q and A session with myself, moderated by myself? That works.

1. Is it too early to do anything drastic?
We are roughly a quarter of the way through the season. At this point in time you have a general idea of how the team is playing and what you can expect going forward. We are past the point of any trend being an anomaly. What you see is what you get.

2. If no, should Bryan Murray be fired?
Me and Mr. Cheek have had considerable debate over this one. To me, Murray isn't the problem. He seems to have turned around Spezza and Heatly but he is dealing with two very difficult situations. First is the Gerber factor. Martin Gerber has been terrible at the best of times and his confidence is shaken. He is also showing no signs of picking up the pieces. Nobody can tell me that a new coach would magically turn around our goaltending woes. Second is the dreaded Daniel Alfresson whose playoff futility has finally caught up to him. Alfy has not been the same player this year and there is no coach out there who can erase the past. Alfy's confidence is shot and he wont be getting it back with this organization regardless of the coach.

3. Has Muckler done what he could?

Mucks is not the problem in Ottawa. Outside of landing a seasoned veteran leader (no, they don't grow on tree's) and picking up a goalie last year his moves have been good. He did what he had to do this off-season and although I would have liked him to keep Chara and ditch Redden I understood why he made the move he did. The Heatly for Hossa deal is a wash and Muckler's small moves like acquiring Smoke and Shaeffer have been commendable.

4. Is it time for Alfy to get shipped out?

Yes, Yes, Yes. Alfredsson has been such a great Senator and has been loyal beyond what we could have ever expected from him. That said, he is what he is - A playoff underachiever whose confidence has completely eroded. If there is ever a chance to get a healthy return on Alfredsson now is the time to part ways.

More questions coming tomorrow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sens Game Report - Montreal @ Ottawa - 11.13.06

It’s official – we’re very bad. Let me ask you this, fellow Ottawa fan: what is the identity of this team? With Jacques, we were a defensive team that had great neutral zone speed on turnovers. Lindy Ruff's Sabres are fast. MacT's Oilers have heart, Hartley's Thrashers are all offence. What is our identity? Maybe we should try and define ourselves as something, besides being a graet paper team, of course.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Montreal wins 6-3
Ottawa Goals:
- Hamel (3) tipping in a Meszaros shot
- Eaves (3, pp) on a nice individual effort when the team was down
- Vermette (7, pp) standing in front and banging in a rebound
Making Sens: the Vermette/Kelly/Eaves line was okay
Lacking Sens: Schaefer was particularly bad, and the rest weren’t far behind. The top line wasn’t strong, either. Gerber’s performance leaves us wanting Lalime back.
It was over when: Two powerplay goals scored 31 seconds apart to open the third period was the end of it.
It was definitely over when: The Mike Johnson shot from inside the blue line after we had cut the lead to one that made its way past the Swiss Miss was the backbreaker. Again.
Message in a Molson bottle: See the recap of every other game for the same sports clich├ęs: not playing the entire 60 minutes, not helping each other out, getting lazy in all ends of the ice and all aspects of the game. This group of underachievers can’t possibly be allowed to carry on like this for much longer
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: at Buffalo on Wednesday.

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

The Good
- Powerplay netted a couple.
- Volchenkov, who is third in the NHL in blocked shots, had five more tonight.

The Bad
- Martin Gerber refuses to make a timely save, which is amazingly frustrating to watch. He even had some amazing saves in this game early, but as the team was coming back from a 4-1 deficit to make it 4-3, he lets in a Lalime-esque shot from inside the blue line from perennial non-scorer, Mike Johnson. He is currently in the middle of the worst stretch of goaltending that we’ve seen since, um, I don’t know. Maybe Craig Billington’s 11-41-4 record 12 years ago. The guy is a basketcase and we’ve gotta start wondering who is going to help him out of it.

The Ugly
- This team completely folds when the going gets tough. There is absolutely no adversity. Yes, they scored a pair when they needed goals, but then the goalie folded and it was back to our losing ways. I don’t know what we work on in practice, but it lasts about 10-15 minutes in each game before we start floating and playing as individuals.
- Peter Schaefer was ridiculous tonight. I’ve never seen a player in this league skate away from so many loose pucks ever. Fisher and Neil have no chance to do anything out there because it is as if they’re shorthanded! Whether it is his comfort with the new contract or if we overvalued Schaefer’s interpretation of forechecking, he was more harm than help tonight. What the frig was he doing skating away from Perezhogin on the Bonk goal when all he had to do was stick check the guy? A laugh.

- Spezza continues to dominate in the faceoff circle. He also showed some jump in the game. I know the comparisons are already being drawn, but Scotty Bowman took a similar player (all offence, questionable team-first commitment…) and made him into one of the best two-way players. Steve Yzerman won a few Cups as a result. I think with the right tutelage, we might see the same in Spezza at some point. Its easy to forget that he has years and years ahead of him to develop into a leader of this team.
- Alfredsson worked hard but his stickhandling was noticeably poor tonight.
- In all seriousness, how much longer can we possibly keep going like this? Ken Hitchcock is supposed to be on the short list for Columbus, so perhaps we need to move quick…I’m just saying…