Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sens Game Report - Florida @ Ottawa - 11.30.06

This one was just ugly

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 6-0
Ottawa Goals:
Heatley (15, pp) on a perfect bounce off the boards behind the net, hammers a bouncing puck past Auld
Heatley (16) with a howitzer with Preissing jumping in on the play
Fisher (6, sh) roofing a pass from Schaefer on that old-fashioned short-handed two on one break
Kelly (4) on a pass from Spezza after the latter’s first attempt stuffed Auld’s pads with both guys parked in the paint
Meszaros (4) tipping in a Phillips shot on some hard forechecking from the fourth line
Vermette (9) scores on backup Belfour looking at half of an open net and finishing
Making Sens: Emery, Preissing, Alfredsson
Lacking Sens: Schaefer
It was over when: Heatley’s second showed that his hat trick on the weekend is almost about to repeat itself and the focus of the Panthers shifted entirely on stopping #15.
It was definitely over when: By shutting down Heatley for the rest of the night, although he still found some chances, the Panthers lost all focus and just looked silly through 20 minutes. The last two periods were for show and for pizza.
Message in a Molson bottle: Perhaps one of the best all-around games when you consider their forechecking, their neutral zone play, and the backchecking. We officially have goaltending and competent defencemen and it has allowed our forwards to focus more on scoring goals. In scoring a few early goals, it allows the entire group to settle into a comfortable style of play that has all five guys moving together through the zones and helping on both ends. This win was another thing of beauty
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Saturday hosting Tampa Bay, trying to clean up the one sore spot in our past two weeks.

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

Defencemen 6 through 1
Wade Redden left late in the first period with an upper body injury (he looked to be grimacing after taking a hit behind our net) and who steps up to play their best game this season? Tom Preissing, that’s who. The $600,000 man, as we can now call him, was excellent in all three zones, especially in the Florida zone. He seems to know exactly when to join the play and exactly when he cannot join the play, both evidenced tonight. A key element of winning teams is different guys stepping up their game when needed. With Redden out, Preissing was solid.

Here’s a new topic: goalies
Don’t let the six goals and the free slice of pizza lead you to forget the performance that Ray Emery put forth tonight. He made the fundamental saves and he made the extraordinary saves. When your forwards are in a flow like the Senators were tonight, the last thing they want is to have their goalie let in a few goals and change the momentum. Emery ensured that it was all Ottawa tonight. Now if we can get assurances that Martin Gerber is game ready, then we’ll be in a pretty nice situation. The way I see these two right now, though, is that Gerber is like a PC and Emery is a Mac (are those commercials on in Canada like they are here?). Gerber has some glitches but you know he’ll be reliable at the end of the day. Emery, on the other hand, is more popular right now and is wowing you with what he can accomplish. I’d try and expand this analogy but it would become clear that I don’t know much about computers…

Where’s da beef?
I still love the cameo of Boris the Blade in Eurotrip as the Slovak that is just getting North American entertainment – “hey, Miami Wice, Best new show!” So where’s the beef? As in, what isn’t clicking right now with the Senators? Well, I still think Peter Schaefer is a weak link on the line with Alfredsson and Vermette. Alfie has been our best forward lately and Vermette is clicking very well with him. It is Peter Schaefer, though, that leaves me wondering just what the heck is going on out there. He kicks the puck around in his skates deep in his own end as if he’s forechecking instead of just passing off to a defenceman or just clearing the puck out. And to me, he just seems to float a bit. Remember when he formed the perfect second line with Neil and Fisher? Can you even imagine him playing with those two sparkplugs anymore? What else is less than perfect? I can’t really think of anything that stands out right now. Sounds like a good time to go on a winning streak and get back into respectable places in the standings.

Beaver Droppings
1. Can someone tell Chris Kelly that he made the team? The kid still skates around with that look on his face that makes you wonder if any of this has sunk in to him yet.
2. For those that missed the game on TV, a Weiss hit on Phillips shattered the glass in our own end that sent two children to the hospital, hopefully for precautionary reasons only.
3. Alfredsson was aggressive again tonight and nearly got into fisticuffs with Weiss on a couple of occasions. Maybe he is still upset about the alleged story that he was pegged in the head with a danish while having breakfast at the Brookstreet after the loss to the Sabres last playoffs. Whatever the case is and whether or not that campfire story is true, Alfie is playing with his heart on his sleeve. It seems to have started around the time that he was supposedly being traded to LA. Right.
4. Only three players (all defencemen) logged over 20 minutes tonight, telling you that we had the opportunity to roll out the fourth line a lot.
5. Volchenkov blocked another five shots tonight. And smiles when he does it. In fact, all of the guys are smiling a lot which is nice to see they appreciate one another’s effort and enjoy winning. It makes me laugh when people say Ottawa lacks “heart” in the playoffs. Does anyone think these guys don’t love to win? Find some other answer on why they haven’t been a successful playoff team, but cross off lack of grit and cross off lack of heart.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa @ Carolina - 11.28.06

Good road trip, exorcised some demons

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa Goals:
Eaves (4) hitting in a rebound into an open net after some work by Fisher
Schubert (2) with a blast from the point, glove side with Spezza as a screen
Fisher (5) on a pass from Alfredsson that only Alfredsson can make
Neil (8, pp) tipping in a Heatley shot after a weird turnover left us alone in front
Making Sens: Fisher, Alfredsson, Gerber
Lacking Sens: Meszaros had trouble early
It was over when: Fisher’s goal was the two goal lead that Gerber needed to settle in, unlike his previous starts.
It was definitely over when: Killing off the suspect penalty call on Vermette late in the second period meant we’d go into the third period with a two goal edge and a lot more momentum. It held up.
Message in a Molson bottle: This was the type of win that everyone on the team needed. They’ve been on the road for a week and put their embattled goalie out against his former team. Those are enough excuses for them to have called this one in, but they came together around the five minute mark of the first and dominated the next 55 minutes. Gerber was sharp in the second period and the third period was a formality.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Thursday hosting Florida. Who will be in nets?

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

Gerber is no baby
I hesitated before putting him as one of the top three players tonight simply because I don’t want to jump in and blow smoke up his arse for the sake of his confidence. But the more I thought about the game itself, the more I realized that he really was solid in this game when we needed him most. Now I will admit that at no point was this game really in jeopardy of being lost to the lifeless Hurricanes, but nevertheless, Gerber made the necessary stops in the second period when the game was still a game. As a nice byproduct, this win will hopefully do a lot for his confidence. The fact of the matter is that Gerber really was a different goalie tonight, challenging shooters, using his natural instinct for saves and lateral movement, and just looking far more comfortable in there. That is, if you don’t count the way he looked on the Carolina goal…

The Spicy Swedish Meatball
Daniel Alfredsson was our best forward tonight. He has been one of our top forwards ever since we took the two games from Buffalo as he is skating hard and skating towards the puck, no matter where it is. Tonight was no different and to add some spice to his game, he was throwing his body around a bit. While I don’t agree with everything that Pierre McGuire says (he still says every morning that Ottawa is not a fast team), he did point out that your best players on paper need to be your best players on the ice. Alfie was our best on the ice.

Whoa, that’s deep
The Senators started to showcase their depth on this road trip and tonight was another fine example. The first goal was a result of some great work by our #6 defenceman, Tom Preissing before getting it to Fisher, who fed Eaves. The second goal was from our #7 defenceman, Christoph Schubert. Vermette and Schaefer look terrific playing with Alfredsson, McAmmond is certainly one of the better fourth liners in the league, and Gary Bettman is turning down other GMs that are attempting to clone Chris Neil. People said that the early season losses might teach the Senators how to play with some fire in the face of adversity and those people appear to be right. Mike Brophy said it perfectly before the game when he said that for the first time in a while, our players have learned just how hard they have to play each night to win in this league and this landscape.

Beaver Droppings
1. Spezza and Heatley did very well playing across from the quarter-point NHL MVP, Rod Brind’Amour.
2. How about Fisher and Neil leading the team with 6 and 7 shots on goal, respectively? What were we just saying about depth?
3. Three giveaways is all we offered tonight. That’s an outstanding road statistic and something to cheer about on the plane ride home.
4. Seriously, who will Coach Murray put in goal on Thursday night?
5. Quote of the night was Dean Brown pointing out that the patches of fans in attendance seemed to boo their displeasure every time Eric Staal was touched. I think Staal is a very talented player, but I just think he is a bit of a whiner and falls down far too easily for someone his size.

Gerber Update - After 20 minutes...

After 20 minutes in Carolina, my last post looks ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as Martin Gerber. A bad goal and some shaky footwork hasn't helped in backing my assertion that Gerber will be back in 38-win form.

But I stand by my words - Martin Gerber will step it up. Hopefully the game-tying goal by Eaves in the first gives him some confidence and he just starts playing fundamentals again. What's with the basketcases we get to play in nets in Ottawa, anyway?

Monday, November 27, 2006

White Elephant? C'mon now.

Absolutely not. Say what you want about the performance of Martin Gerber as a Senator this season and what John Muckler and Bryan Murray should do with the embattled goaltender, but I assure you that Ottawa's goaltending tandem will be envied by the All-Star Break. We wouldn't have fiinished atop the Eastern Conference with 113 points last year if we didn't have two serviceable goalies and you will see that this very same situation will get us back in the top half of the playoff picture soon, as well. While Gerber's performance to date has been sub-par, it is far too soon to write off his career in Ottawa. In fact, I still predict that we will be singing his praises before the end of this season and the majority of Hockey Country will eat the words they are muttering while they read this.

Again, I do not argue that Gerber has been a small touch above awful so far this season. But Martin Gerber won 38 games last year, a lot of them by standing on his head and actually stealing wins. He certainly drove our forwards crazy when Carolina won the first two matchups. The same was the case over in Italy when he led the Swiss team to a startling shutout of the supposed powerful Canadians. While one may argue that the expectations for him in both environments was rock bottom, the fact of the matter is that he has the ability to win games and win games when they count. He hasn't done it yet since Opening Night in Toronto, but you will see that Gerber will pull his socks up and steal some games for us soon.

I will also not argue that salaries are irrelevant. I'm completely aware of the amount of money that is sitting on our bench right now as we ride the hot hand oh our 'backup', Ray Emery. Johm Muckler knew we needed a bona fide number one goaltender and he paid what he had to in order to secure the guy we wanted. Our playoff shortcomings have always been in between the iron and Gerber was our solution - our most expensive solution to date. But Bryan Murray does not look at our payroll when he sets the starting lineup for each game. When Ottawa fell into a deep slump, the coach used the guy that had the confidence of his teammates and had the ability to make the big save. As of this moment, that man is Ray Emery. But guess what - at some point in the future, that man will be Martin Gerber. Don't think for a second that Gerber won't fight for his job back.

What I will argue, though, is that I am betting on Martin Gerber to come into his next start hungrier than ever. I hope it is Tuesday night against his old team in Carolina and he shows his coach, his teammates, and his fans that he may still be our goaltending solution after all. If he comes in there and plays lights out hcokey, then we know we have the right guy. If he starts letting in the Nieuwendyks again like he did in his most recent string of games, then I'll join you in calling for his head! In other words, I am calling Martin Gerber's next start THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF HIS CAREER! Sound the scary intense music.

I guess my whole point is that I am just a little dismayed at so many fans and even some media that are crying out that Muckler made a terrible move and Gerber is the white elephant on our books. By my count, he still has about 223 games left as an Ottawa Senator, so people can get busy rooting for him to step up his game, or can sit back and complain for the next three years. I choose to drive his bandwagon and will consider letting some of you on when Gerber becomes the number one goalie in Ottawa again.


PS - sorry for the missing game reports over the past few days - I was recovering from my first ever deep fried turkey and WebMD recommends that you sit still for 72 hours in order to come to terms with what you've just put in your body. I'll make up for it this week.