Monday, November 20, 2006

Sens Game Report - Minnesota @ Ottawa - 11.20.06

Somewhere on a Barbados beach, a rich man cracked a smile

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-3
Ottawa Goals:
Meszaros (3) with a bit of a zinger that sneaks its way through the screen
Chris Kelly (3) sent in on a breakaway from Heatley shows some nice hands
Chris Neil (7, pp) scores a goal-scorers goal, backhanding it in high from the goal line
Daniel Alfredsson (6) showing that nasty wrist shot over the Fernandez shoulder.
Peter Schaefer (4, pp) finding himself with the puck and half a net on the powerplay
Making Sens: Emery, Neil, Fisher, Volchenkov
Lacking Sens: Schaefer, Redden had some cobwebs
It was over when: The Chris Neil gave us a 3-goal lead that just felt different this time
It was definitely over when: Our captain zinged one up high to put it out of reach.
Message in a Molson bottle: We let them back into this for a while and ended up giving a bunch of scoring chances, but we kept our cool and skated well. For the fourth straight game, Ray Emery gave us a chance to win and our skaters did the rest. These guys are finally playing as a cohesive unit and being accountable for one another. Whether it be playing with desperation or playing with talent, this team is starting to find its groove, just like Stella.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Wednesday in Philly, starting a four-game road trip

Three storylines to wow your friends over a Timmy’s double double

A Ray-diant performance
42 saves. When we grew sluggish and allowed ourselves to be outshot 37-16 over the last two periods, it was Emery that kept this from becoming a game, if that makes sense. As was the case in the previous three games, we have a great lineup of skaters to the point that all we need is for our goalie to make the saves and give us a chance to play our game. I like Ray Emery and it will be very interesting to see how Martin Gerber performs next time he gets a shot, which will probably be at some point on this road trip.

Hammer and Neil
Mike Fisher and Chris Neil are statistically two of the top three hitters in the NHL. I didn’t make that up; it’s science. Mike Fisher, although snakebit for goals, is playing like a man possessed while flying through the neutral and offensive zones. Chris Neil is playing like an All-Star right now both in terms of what he is doing with the puck (scoring amazing goals) and what he is doing without the puck (hitting everybody in sight). Volchenkov also threw some outstanding open-ice hits, although skated out a bit too far in the neutral zone on at least two of them.

Almost looking like a team!
Disregard what I said last week about Coach Murray’s inability to bring this team together. Ken Hitchcock can deal with that mess in Columbus because we’re starting to play as one and buying into each other’s styles. Dany Heatley is backchecking, Antoine Vermette is playing in the corners, and everyone is starting to block shots. Get this, Gonzo: we blocked 27 shots tonight. Besides the fact that Minnesota would otherwise have wound up with over 70 shots, it seems like we’re all finally buying into this concept of working together. A defenceman pinches and a forward slides back to cover. It’s a thing of beauty.

Beaver droppings…
1. Blocked shots: Volchenkov with 5, Phillips and Corvo with 4, Alfredsson blocked one of our own that is going to leave a mark on the ankle.
2. Volchenkov also led the way with 6 hits, most of them being great hip checks or huge open ice cracks. This kid looks like a million bucks out there. Funny, because he’s making more than that. He’s getting rewarded with icetime from the coach and airtime from the writers at NxNE.
3. Two high sticks into Patrick Eaves’ grill in the first went uncalled. Refs kept the whistles away for the most part of this one and at least it was consistent. The penalty shot call against Fisher for allegedly putting his glove on the puck in the crease in the third was kinda bush league.
4. Vermette at 28% in the faceoff circle isn’t too hot, especially when a handful of those are on the penalty kill. Winning the draw on the PK typically leads to a clear and a good 15-20 seconds off the clock.
5. We are a fantastic five-on-five team. To make things more amicable as we try and climb the standings (we jumped over Boston but have three games in hand, so…), our powerplay is showing signs of life. You CANNOT make a run for the playoffs without good special teams. Our PK has been restored and our PP is putting the puck in the net by moving our skates and moving the puck. Hooray!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sens Game Report - Buffalo @ Ottawa - 11.18.06

Add Buffalo to the list of teams that we want to play 82 times (with Toronto)

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa Goals:
Peter Schaefer (3, pp) chipping in a rebound in front of Miller
Dany Heatley (11, pp) with that textbook tap in beside the net from Spezza that we have been missing all year.
Antoine Vermette (8) with a nifty backhander from the slot that made it through.
Chris Phillips (2) with an awesome backhanded deke on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box.
Making Sens: Heatley, Neil, Fisher, Phillips, Volchenkov, Emery
Lacking Sens: hard to pick anyone here
It was over when: Vermette giving us the two goal lead just felt right, didn’t it?
It was definitely over when: The Phillips goal was a beauty to ice it.
Message in a Molson bottle: The way we get “up” for the Buffalo games this year is the way everyone got up for games against us last year. We need to show this kind of intensity and drive every night to be successful. We aren’t going to win games by phoning them in anymore and this will only make us a better team come April and May. Nice effort tonight, hard skating and hard hitting, drawing penalties and getting shots on net.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Monday hosting Minnesota, the fourth straight game against a division leader.

Three storylines to wow your friends over a Timmy’s double double

I’d rather be Fishing
Can I say that the Fisher line looked 150,000% better this game? Not only was Chris Neil up to his usual tricks of working his ass off for 60 minutes, but Mike Fisher finally followed suit and put in a beauty of a performance. Maybe he heard Pierre McGuire say for the 20th time that he thinks Ottawa is a slow team, because Fish was flying down the wings and certainly throwing his body around, leading both teams with 9 bodychecks. It’s his effort in games like this that make us want Fish to be a Senator for life.

Saturday Night RAY
What I like about Ray Emery this year is that he is giving us a chance to win a hockey game. I’m not trying to get into any kind of goalie dispute over Gerber and Muckler and Hasek and all that jazz; I’m just enjoying the fact that it is now up to the skaters to win or lose the game, not the goalie. As a byproduct of Emery’s performance, it will make Martin Gerber hungrier to win when he gets back in there. Hear this: Martin Gerber is a great goalie and he will find his game at some point. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with having two serviceable goalies. We will use Emery now as the hot hand and at some point, we’ll be using Gerber as the hot hand. Salaries aside, we need to be satisfied in knowing that we’ll always have a second goalie that we can turn to, both now and in the playoffs. As Ricky’s father, Ray, said about the Trailer Park Boys having to go to midnight mass at Sunnyvale, “way it goes, boys.”

Should we make everyone trade bait?
Remember how some of our trade bait this off-season included Emery, Volchenkov, Phillips, and Vermette? Besides the fact that Emery and Vermette are playing well, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov have been playing lights out hockey over the past two weeks. Phillips looks like the leader that he needs to be and is returning to his stellar defensive play that we had become accustomed to. Anton Volchenkov is just phenomenal lately blocking shots all game and hitting anything in range. To be honest, he was disappointing last year and you had to start wondering why a $1.5M defenceman like this was still on our team. He is earning his colours once again with his all around game. Perhaps we should start a rumour that Spezza and Schaefer are up for grabs!

Beavertail toppings
1. Outshot them 41-24 and outhit them 38-27. That should win you the game. These numbers include outshooting them 32-13 over the last two periods. SNAP.
2. How about Heatley with a goal, assist, and 6 hits. Heatley’s best game of the season, by far. When we traded for him, everyone was excited about the “Canadian boy” coming home because he’d play with an edge. Last night was the player we hoped we were getting. Keep it up, Dany Boy.
3. Decent tilt between Peters and McGrattan in the first.
4. Remember when I said Dean McAmmond was a difference maker here? He didn’t do much with his 6 minutes of icetime on the fourth line. He’ll show up again at some point.
5. They blocked 22 shots, we blocked 12. Their forwards blocked 12 shots, our forwards blocked 5. I’d love it if our forwards 1 through 12 blocked shots like Buffalo’s guys. When the Sabres see their captain, Chris Drury lay out and block two shots, it pumps them up. Shot blocking can be as motivating as a good fight or a great forecheck. I’d say we should let Volchenkov lead practice for a day.