Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sens Game Report - NY Rangers @ Ottawa - 12.9.06

Where are those leaders we built from within?

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: New York wins 3-1 (with an empty netter)
Ottawa Goals:
Spezza (15, pp) tipping in a Schubert blast to bring us to within one.
Making Sens: Phillips, Volchenkov
Lacking Sens: Schaefer, Spezza – guys that need to be stepping up
It was over when: Spezza shows the wrong way to backcheck by whispering to Jagr to slow down instead of knocking him off the puck, and #68 roofs it over Emery’s glove
It was definitely over when: A funky bounce on a forecheck in the last minute and instead of fighting to get the puck back, we back off an let Shanny pot it into the empty net.
Message in a Molson bottle: This one was a bit sickening when you consider the effort this organization has put into developing leaders in the dressing room. The guys that we expect to fill the void of Alfredsson are playing a lifeless brand of hockey that leaves with two straight losses at a time when we need to continue going forward. Everyone seems to be skating around wondering what to do and where Alfie has gone instead of taking the opportunity to rack up a few points in his absence. Interesting how Toronto wins when Sundin misses games and we ALWAYS lose when Alfie is gone. Forwards need to want it more than they did this afternoon.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Tomorrow evening in Columbus, a Sunday tilt to kick off a four-game trip

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

You’re not Ron…
Remember that scene in Anchorman when Veronica Corningstone did the evening news as Burgundy was locked in a glass case of emotion as a result of watching his dear Baxter get punted off the Coronado Bridge? The rest of the news team goes about everything in a tentative manner, not really knowing how to act. That is how the Sens are without Alfredsson. I hate to keep harping on this, but to me it was the predominant theme in today’s game. Vermette and Schaefer are useless with Eaves up there, and everyone just seems to wait for someone else to lead the way. Heck, Cassie Campbell made a mention of it in pregame when they discussed the ridiculous move of Schaefer waving the white towel on Wednesday. We’ve taken pride in trying to develop leaders within the organization but only Phillips seemed to really show he wanted the letter on his chest. These guys had better snap out of it or we’ll get absolutely embarrassed on this trip against four streaking teams.

Chara Jr.?
Not quite, but Chris Phillips was great in covering Jagr this afternoon. Whether he was stickchecking him all the way back to the blue line or roughing him up behind the net, I thought Philly looked up to the task of taking care of Jagr, besides the latter’s two points (one of those was an assist on a 5-on-3 and the other was a shot from the top of the opposite slot). I don’t know that Murray will go to the shadowing that Chara did last year against every star in the league, but it is nice to know that we have someone that can handle that role. And make no mistake, Jagr was on fire today and still scares me as the most dangerous player in the league. Nice work, Philly. I’ll work on helping you hail a cab, though.

Dumb and Dumber
No, that’s not fair because Spezza and Heatley created a lot of scoring chances tonight and were solid in the offensive zone. What drives me and Jacques Martin crazy is that they need to realize that any kind of turnover isn’t going to be against the other team’s fourth line or something. For about the half of the game, we had the pizza kids against the Jagr/Nylander/Straka line and those three are fast as hell and just waiting for the puck. Spezza and Heatley need to realize this and while they can still go hard at the net, they need to understand that they need to be quick on their horses to backcheck. Two of the three goals were a result of these two floating back….again. Should we sent them to Binghamton to learn a lesson? Maybe Zdeno can do us a favour and smack them upside the head with a half rack of ribs to get the message through? Nah, he’s a division rival now.

Beaver Droppings
1. Why doesn’t Dean McAmmond get the spot with Vermette and Schaefer? We certainly don’t gain a thing with Eaves up there as all three play a different style.
2. Peter Schaefer, down a goal in the dying minutes of a game, is useless. The only thing he can do is skate fast down the wing and then kick the puck around the corner for a while. I continue to be unimpressed by what he brings to this season’s edition and am waiting for something to change my mind.4.
3. Emery needs a rest. I’m not saying this because I like Gerber and want him to get the job back, but it is obvious that Emery isn’t healthy. Why, when Washington exposed his weak glove hand for 60 minutes on Wednesday, are we still forcing this guy in there? The game winner was a result of his inability to get his glove up. Guess what? If we’ve heard about the injury and its effect on his game, then you can bet all the opposing players know about it, too. Get Gerber some games this week, coach.
4. Neil hits really hard.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa @ Washington - 12.6.06

This one escalated quickly; it really got out of hand quick!

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Washington wins 6-2
Ottawa Goals:
Fisher (7, pp) on a great pass through the blue paint from Schaefer
Spezza (14) left alone in front to tap a Preissing rebound into the partially open cage
Making Sens: Fisher, Schaefer
Lacking Sens: Vermette, Neil, Eaves
It was over when: Semin scored less than a minute after Spezza got us to within one, another two goal deficit that we just couldn’t overcome
It was definitely over when: Semin, Pettinger, Laich, bingo bango bongo and we’re packing mid-third
Message in a Molson bottle: I really hope that there is no mention in the post-game interviews about the officiating because this game was lost by the tired legs in Senators uniforms. Just as we outplayed the Islanders the night before, we lost every battle in the corner and had unbelievable difficulty moving the puck out of the zone. Missing Redden is bad enough, but we really get an idea of how important Alfredsson is as a forward in the transition game. Instead, we embarrassed ourselves by having no movement in all three zones of the pad. Thanks for coming out. Oh yeah, Ovechkin and Semin are outstanding. You could even say they’re the balls.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Saturday hosting the Rangers and then Sunday in Columbus. I’m guessing the goalies will split the games once again.

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

They go together like lamb and tuna fish
Nobody missed Alfredsson more tonight than his new centre, Antoine Vermette. Vermie was completely out of synch tonight, trying to do far too much as an individual instead of trying to find chemistry with his new right winger, Patrick Eaves. It didn’t help that Eaves has been getting little icetime recently and has basically been a non-factor for offence over the past few weeks. I know people will argue that it takes time to develop new chemistry, but I expect these guys, as NHL regulars, to pick it up quickly. Plan B, s’il vous plait.

The Upper Body Injury
Anyone that questions why coaches use this ridiculous expression to define an injury to a player needs to look no further than Ray Emery’s wrist and forearm. The news of his injured arm has obviously made its rounds over the past few weeks and while some teams tried to test him by just bumping into his wrist, the Caps took what appears to be a more successful approach – they blasted pucks high glove side. There are some shots, like Semin’s ridiculously hard zinger, that are unstoppable, but we need to assume that Emery could have gotten his arm up there a bit quicker if he were healthy. Also, that whole thing about making the save at the right time to keep momentum wasn’t really in play for us tonight. I love Emery and he certainly had a team clicking around him, but he wasn’t at his best..

Ker-plunk, whoooooosh
That was the poorly written alliteration of us tossing this one out and flushing it down the toilet. We really hung it up mid third when Hamel was given a hooking penalty for lifting the Capitals player’s stick and the bench went bonkers. I imagine the bench penalty went to the coach. We then took a penalty while killing the 5-on-3 and that will typically do it for you when you’re already trailing by two. What makes me upset is seeing Schaefer and Spezza on the bench giggling while Schaefer waves a white towel on his stick over the ice. What the hell, Schaefs? First off, the joke is a bit overplayed. Second off, what can you possibly be laughing at during a third period like the one we played? Third, is that really the appropriate thing to do when we were just handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for chewing out the refs? Take a walk and think it over, Schaefer. We need to be furious over playing a game like that. As bad as the Leafs are, at least they sound and appear genuinely livid after a loss. We laugh it off and move on without taking any lessons out of it.

Beaver Droppings

1. Fisher was hands-down our best player. You can see the passion in the way he skates hard on every shift. It amazes me that his teammates and sometimes even his linemates don’t feed off this.
2. Spezza got into the crazy errant passes in the third. Again, I think without Alfredsson out there to keep things in line, some players still try and take the game into their own hands and wind up turning the puck over at the blue line.
3. Volchenkov blocked six shots in the ugly first period and finished with eight.
4. McGrattan had a nice tilt with Erskine and wrapped it up with three solid blows the head. Callup Danny Bois accidentally looked up and realized he was fighting Brashear. Oops.
5. Their top players (Ovechkin and Semin) had 10 shots and 8 shots respectively. Our two top guys (Spezza and Heatley) had five and three respectively. The score is indicative of these numbers.

All in all, it was our inability to get the puck out of our end and lack of flow and speed through the neutral zone that kept us on our heels and fishing pucks out of the net.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sens Game Report - Ottawa @ NY Islanders - 12.5.06

This one was actually a close game, and early start was again the difference

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-2; officially eight of the last nine
Ottawa Goals:
Heatley (17) on a quick pass from Spezza with both in the slot
Spezza (13, pp), Zinggggg, howitzer from the sideboards when everyone was expecting the feed to his boyfriend.
Corvo (4, pp) darts in on the far side for a nice tic-tac-toe with Spezza to Alfredsson
Heatley (18) Zingggg, working to get the puck off the side boards to himself and wiring it past the Dunham pad.
Making Sens: Heatley, Schaefer, Corvo,
Lacking Sens: Preissing and Schubert were so-so, although Schubert broke up a two-on-one like a 12-year vet.
It was over when: Apart from the shot clock, this one was close. Heatley’s second goal was that sigh of relief that we could chalk it up as a win.
It was definitely over when: Killed off penalties five and six in the last eight minutes, the last one featuring the defencemen picking the puck and firing it straight out at least half a dozen times.
Message in a Molson bottle: I still can’t take the Islanders seriously, and we are actually ahead of them in the standings (one more win), but they’re division leaders. This win also puts us ahead of Toronto in the standings, not like anyone in Ottawa notices that, right? Tonight, it was Heatley and Spezza playing excellent hockey as they crossed the blueline and created a ton of turnovers. Transition game was so quick that even the Islanders broadcasters noticed how well Ottawa was at making one pass to get the puck to the neutral zone. Did you hear that? We’re envied in Long Island! Success!
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Wednesday at Washington. Remember that time we blew a three-goal lead there? I do, and you can bet the players do, too.

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

The gerbil and his cage
Weak reference for Gerber and gerbil, I know, but I’ve got a long time to find a better one. Anyway, Gerber played tonight much like he did in Raleigh last week – making the saves that he needs to make. But you can really notice a difference in his positioning as he is much further out of his crease to challenge shooters and he seems quicker and moving post to post. His massive black pad was flicking all over the place, too. Nice game, another step forward. Mark my word, he’ll get his games this season.

Heavy \’hev-e\ adj 1: having great weight 2: hard to bear
Now you know what to say when someone asks you to define Dany Heatley’s slapshot. It seems even harder and heavier this season than last, and he knows where to place it. His second of the night was the perfect example as the puck was just too strong and went through Dunham’s pad and just forced its way into the net. It’s official – we need Spezza and Heatley to live in loving matrimony for years to come because Spezza’s passes and Heatley’s slappers will only get better. They backcheck now, too. Hooray for Coach Murray. Fire that blog guy that brought up Hitchcock’s name a few weeks ago.

D for damn you, opposing forwards
John Muckler said that he had put together a more mobile defensive corps that would be quick and potent. They score goals, jump in on plays, move the puck, and basically do what our GM told us they would. What we might not have expected is just how good they can in their own zone. Meszaros was lights out tonight and is incredibly quick throughout the zone, Phillips is playing like he does in April (which is good), Volchenkov has been getting enough airtime about how well he is blocking shots and hitting everything, and Corvo is settling in as the #2 guy here. Maybe we don’t miss the big guy after all. Although I’m sure Baton Rouge is still furious/inconsolable.

Beaver Droppings
1. Alfredsson left the game in the middle of the third and looked very shaken up about something. I couldn’t pin point what it was, but I’m sure we’ll know which play it was in the morning. I’d like to say that he was just kept out of the game for precautionary reasons, but as I said earlier, he looked bad getting to the bench and then to the room.
2. McGrattan’s three minutes of icetime were a bit weird – three shots on goal and no hits. He looked like he was skating pretty hard out there. The fighter isn’t extinct yet dodo.
3. Schaefer looked great, skated very hard and passed through checks in the corners. He looked like he wants to create goals tonight.
4. Vermette went 16-5 in the faceoff circle against Sillinger, the #2 faceoff guy in the league behind Perreault. Spezza wasn’t too shabby at 14-4.
5. Another pair of powerplay goals and killed off six of theirs. Special teams is somewhat important, everyone.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sens Game Report - Hockey Bay @ Ottawa - 12.02.06

At least we can hold four-goal leads

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-2
Ottawa Goals:
Eaves (5, sh) taking a turnover and putting it over Bryzgalov on the backhand, bang bang.
Corvo (3, pp) with a wrist shot on the point making it through
Vermette (10) with a goal so great you have to track down the highlight on
Spezza (12) on some lazy play from the Lightning and some hustle by Kelly to get him the puck
Vermette (11) to ice it on the breakaway in the third
Making Sens: Vermette, Preissing, Fisher
Lacking Sens: Schaefer, Alfredsson, Heatley
It was over when: Getting out of the second period without completely blowing the fout-goal lead, which was entirely possible with the way the Sens played back and the Lightning came at them.
It was definitely over when: Vermette eased all fears with his second
Message in a Molson bottle: A great opening twenty minutes and then settling back apparently works better than those times where we’d dog it for two periods and try and come back in the third. All of our highlights came in the first twenty minutes and then we let the clock and the occasional clearing of a rebound do the rest. Not the prettiest win. Redden’s transition game was sorely missed.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Tuesday in Long Island

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

Early and often
Even during the slump that we experienced in October, we were scoring early and making teams look silly. Tonight was no different as we opened up a four goal lead that looked like Thursday’s game against Florida was just replaying itself. Two months ago, we were blowing these games. Tonight, we held on. It takes consistent goaltending and awareness from your forwards that helping on defence becomes more important than scoring a fifth goal. Spezza did some decent backcehcking on a particular Richards shift and was a huge help behind the net. Scoring early kind of lets us work on the backchecking and defensive awareness. Jacques would be so proud of his little protégé.

I wanna get physical…physical
Pardon the reference, but what a difference it is when your players finish their checks. If you ask Randy Lee to see some game tapes of when the Senators were losing, you will see our forwards skating around like little Magnus Arvedsons in the corners and trying to catch clearing attempts with their supercharged spirits or something. Nowadays, we have guys like Neil and Fisher, and even Heatley and Alfredsson that go hard into the corners and make the opposing defencemen actually work to get the puck out. The difference goes deeper than the turnovers we create. It actually takes a physical toll on those defencemen and we can take advantage of their condition late in the game Case in point is figuring how the hell Vermette was so wide open for that breakaway in the third!

You guys are special
The Tampa Bay announcers brought up an interesting point during the broadcast tonight - the Senators have only won once when they failed to score a powerplay goal. I don’t have a PhD or anything, but I guess that means we should score powerplay goals if we want to win. Tonight, we scored once with the man advantage and we scored once when we were killing off a Schaefer penalty. I guess what I’m trying to say is that once again, special teams were the difference. A few weeks ago, we had a powerplay less than 10% and we were in 14th place. Now the powerplay is clicking a bit and we’re doing much better. The changes are obvious when you see how the forwards are constantly moving on the powerplay and the defencemen have started to walk the blue line a lot more to find a lane instead of firing it into an opposing forwards legs. Joe Corvo is great at this, Meszaros is much better, and Preissing has a knack for it, too.

Beaver Droppings

1. How about Volchenkov leading the team in icetime and Fisher being second? If you think this 4-0 lead seemed comfortable, then try and explain why we had these guys out there so much. Truth be told, it got a bit scary in the second when Emery was getting peppered by their talented forwards.
2. Although Emery was great in stopping 34 shots, I thought there were a handful of scoring chances to the Lightning where he just looked a bit slower than usual. I seriously hope that Coach Murray understands the importance of getting Gerber back in there again as we’re on the road in New York and Washington. Let him face the Yashin-less Islanders.
3. Speaking of slow, Alfredsson looked tired tonight. His passes were off and he didn’t seem interested in shooting. Neither did Heatley, but that is because he never was close to the puck in the offensive zone. Yes, we pick on the team even after a 5-2 win – welcome to hockey in Ottawa.
4. Pressing was good again in his own zone and he has started to get his name out there on offence.
5. Fisher, Neil, and Volchenkov with six hits each. Add in Volchenkov’s blocked shots and Fisher going 64% in the faceoff circle against Lecavalier and you’ll realize which guys have had the most impact on this team’s turnaround over the past few weeks. Zing.
6. Schaefer is lazy and seems disinterested. Furthermore, unless he is on a shorthanded two-on-one break with Fisher, Shaefs looks content to not create a single scoring chance.