Monday, November 12, 2007

Mid-November Report

5 weeks - time flies when you're having fun, eh? The Ottawa Senators are off to one of the best starts in NHL history and sit at 14-2 heading into the five day break in mid-November. Taking the idea that it is always best to go on a break on a winning note, the Sens took down division rival Montreal on Saturday before hosting the Sabres in Ottawa next Thursday.

It seems like a natural time to start to really evaluate the state of the team at this point of the fresh season. Enough games have been played for fans and management to get a better idea of how the lines will roll, which forwards are finding the twine, and which defenceman are ready to put bruises ahead of beauty. Here's a quick breakdown from the eyes of this beholder:

Let's be honest here - there are the first three guys and then there are the rest of them. Without a doubt, Daniel Alfredsson has been the best player on the team, and quite possibly the conference, showing that there might be some benefits of a short summer after all. Spezza, though out with a groin injury right now, and Heatley are continuing their love affair and put it on paper for the world to see with their 7- and 6-year contract extensions, respectively. Spezza hasn't found the back of the net as much, but he continues to feed it to that other guy that can, as Heatley continues to develop into one of the top two-way players in hockey.

As for the rest of the forwards, it has really been a case of the "different guy each night" cliché. One day it is Fisher, the next it is Vermette, then newcomer Randy Robitaille, and the list goes on. Secondary scoring was a question mark for a couple of reasons: one, because the Anaheim Ducks showed what can happen if the top line gets shut down, and two, because Bryan Murray said repeatedly that he wanted another top-six forward to balance out the lines. He is fully aware of the potential in the secondary forwards, but he's also fully aware that it is easy for them to lay back and rely on the pizza line to deliver the wins.

If Ottawa is to continue its torrid pace into the postseason, which is still months and months away, it will need Fisher, Vermette, and Eaves to chase that 20-goal plateau. Todd White once had 60 points centering Alfredsson in Ottawa - Fisher doesn't have the luxury of having the captain on his right, but he also gets to bypass the opponent's top defensive pairing so he needs to chase the 60-65 point mark this year to take the next step.

Much like where the top pair left off, Phillips and Volchenkov continue their monstrous efforts on the blue line. Volchenkov took the early NHL shot block lead and will likely not give it up, and Phillips has the city completely forgetting that big guy that used to play for us a couple of years ago. Perhaps most refreshing, though, is the rebound performances of Meszaros and Redden to date. While they still won't lay one solid bodycheck and will continue to get hammered by forecheckers, the two of them have rediscovered their communication and poise and are far better at clearing pucks out from the paint. Both players are due for contracts next summer, one looking for a raise and the other looking for a paycut. Whatever offer Murray tenders to Redden will directly affect half of the third pairing. Perhaps the biggest loser of the summer, Joe Corvo had his +/- leading defensive partner, Tom Preissing, replaced by aging cold-cock afficionado, Luke Richardson. Richardson has definitely held his own back there, but paired with Corvo, these guys will see limited ice time all season long. If Corvo was looking to build off his solid postseason last year with more minutes and a more important role, he can think again. Truth be told, Happy Feet looks a bit lost back there and might be trying to overcompensate in the massive change in speed in his partner - Richo doesn't get up and down the pad quite as fast as Preissing could. If Redden signs, it is because Corvo is on his way out. Simple as that.

Who would have thought this would even be a topic a few months ago? Not me. Ironically, I supported Gerber indefinitely last year and was constantly ripped on by other media outlets and fans alike. Emery stole the job, saved our fall, and rode on the coattails of a possessed captain all the way to the Finals. Job secure, right? Wrong. A surgery recovery that dragged on has now cost Emery his icetime and possibly his job in Ottawa altogether. Rumours are abound that management is tired of his poor work ethic and debbie downer attitude around the room - there is talk of a deal to LA. Meanwhile, Gerber has made the necessary saves and is showing us all why he was given that $11M contract a couple of years ago. His rebounds are still out of control and he has been a true beneficiary of the defensive system in place in Ottawa, but that doesn't take away from his performance to open the season. He will make Emery earn every single minute he plays, and that is all you can ask of your supposed backup goalie. The only question is if Emery will push him back for the time, or just let him take the job.

Special Teams:
Really quick here - powerplay is trying to be too fancy. Get the puck down low to Spezza, let him find Alfredsson in the slot of Heatley on the goal mouth and end it. Our inability to score on every single 5-on-3 makes me sick. Penalty kill is lights out and leads the league in shorties, to boot.

All in all, I don't think Ottawa is playing its best hockey yet but they certainly look fantastic. Their passes are crisp and while it often goes unmentioned, their neutral zone play has been downright scary. Other teams' fans think that their boys aren't playing well against Ottawa when this is merely a testament to the Sens' ability to govern between the blue lines and exploit every single mistake made by the opponent. This group reminds me a lot of Detroit in 2003 - just a well-oiled machine who can only lose because of a lack of focus and effort. There isn't a more talented team in the Conference, and possibly the league. That being said, no trophies are handed out in mid-November. If the season ended this time last year, we'd finish in 12th place! Let's push the guys to maintain this focus and intensity for, what, another 8 months or so?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Senators July Report

Well, July has come and gone, so let's take a look at how new General Manager did in his first full month on the job.

Topics to be discussed:

1. The Ray Emery contract
2. The Wade Redden non-trade
3. The Peter Schaefer trade
4. The Oleg Saprykin non-offer
5. The coaching change

1. The Ray Emery Contract
Simply put, this is a necessary signing that gives the team the stability it needs. Had we run into talks of offer sheets or even walking away from arbitration awards, it is hard to say how Murray would have felt going into the season with Gerber. Ray Emery isn't flawless, but he's a young goalie that has now put a lot of experience under his belt in his two years. And keep in mind that playing a post-season in a hockey market like Ottawa provides far more lessons and experience than a post-season in Anaheim or Carolina or other less-interested cities. If Emery didn't crack in his first two seasons, I think it is safe to say that he truly can be the goaltender of the future for the Sens. Getting him under a contract that makes him the 3rd highest paid goalie in Ontario and 18th highest paid in the league is dreamy given that he took his team to the Finals. This also gives Murray the opportunity to move Gerber whenever he finds a taker. He said up until the signing that he wouldn't do anything with Gerber until Emery was under contract, strictly because of the fear of giving Ray too much leverage.

Now that the contract is done and he's here for three years, Murray will have his eye on the street and wait for a goalie to go down. It is beyond me, though, why we can't find a trading partner in LA or Phoenix, though I guess those teams just don't want a 32-year old that just came off a tough season and makes $3.7M. If Murray can't move him before October, I can't see him being a deadline move just to make sure we can have two competent goalies going into the playoffs. 8 weeks to move him now, or we keep him for a second season, in my opinion.

2. The Wade Redden non-trade
This is the big one, folks. I'm no mathmetician, but luckily it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Redden doesn't figure into the plans of the Senators after this season. On the ice, he was essentially relegated to #3 defenceman behind the shutdown pair of Phillips and Volchenkov. Off the ice, his money will be basically used up in its entirety on extending Heatley ($4.5M will likely become $7.5M), Spezza ($4.5M will become at least $6.5M), and Fisher ($1.5M will be at least $3M). Oh snap, those raises work out to exactly $6.5M! It puts Murray in a really tough situation because you can't move your highest paid player at the deadline going into the playoffs, but you hate to let him walk away for nothing next summer. In going public with having a trade in place for Redden last month at the draft, Murray reiterated where #6 stands on this team. In other words, we'd love to move him and get a scoring winger and a mid-level defenceman, much like what Philadelphia got in Lupul and Smith for Pitkanen. Can we assume that this is the same offer Murray was going to make with Redden?

I think in going public with the non-trade, Murray basically puts the spotlight on Redden both for the rest of the summer and into the season. I have to believe that Murray is still putting his name out there and will simply ask Redden AGAIN to waive the no-trade clause. If you're asked twice to leave, do you get the hint that you don't fit in? On the other hand, if you are Redden's agent, you are insisting that your client STAY in Ottawa at all costs. He is in a contract year and is playing in a high profile market on a guaranteed playoff team. Where else can you prove that you are worth $6.5M in next summer's market? As beneficial as it would be to us to move him out for two players back, I think he'll be back on the blue line in October. The silver lining in all of this is that there is no way that he can be as bad as last season.

3. The Peter Schaefer trade
This was my midsummer night's dream. I never liked Peter Schaefer so it is hard to look at this one objectively. I see the value in him as a penalty killer and I dont' think $2M for him in today's market is completely unreasonable. But he was such a lollygagger last year and he brings so little offence to the second line, that you are just better off giving the icetime to Vermette and finding a grinder to take Schaefer's spot on a third line. Or in Donovan's case, the fourth line. We saved a lot of money and instead of having a guy that is here for three more years, Murray has a guy that comes up for contract next year. The hidden gem there is that Murray has the money to sign his stars first and then can see if Donovan still fits into the plans. He never had that luxury with Schaefer, who was on the books and taking up much-needed cap space.

4. The Oleg Saprykin Deal
The story seems to be that Muckler qualified him before getting fired, and Murray basically asked Saprykin's agent to tell his client nto to sign it. It is great that this was so cordial and now Oleg is off to Europe and we have the $1M+ in money to spend elsewhere. Saprykin was solid in his play and was absolutely worth the second round pick just for that game winner he scored in Buffalo in Game One. That being said, it is tough to pay over a million dollars for a guy that is almost a lock to be on the fourth line. Better to have McAmmond at $900K, who can play on any line, can kill penalties, and can grind if needed (even if he's not that big). Good move on Murray to save the money - we'll need it next summer.

5. The coaching change
Not much to discuss here, except that Paddock was the right choice to take over. We can all look at Pat Burns, Pat Quinn, all those other big name guys, etc. But with Paddock, you get a guy that knows the players and knows the system we play. As a team that just played in the Finals, we don't need to be changing our style and learning a new system. We just need to tweak it a bit, add some Murray-type players that have more size and sandpaper (see Donavan for Schaefer), and we'll be fine. Murray is still in the picture and if he wants John Paddock to coach this team, I think he has earned our trust.

All in all, a pretty breezy summer for Murray. His challenge now is to get straight into extension talks with Heatley, Spezza, and Fisher. If there is one thing we've learned from Buffalo's experience this year, it is that when a player says that they want to talk, we listen. Stories are abound that Drury would have signed at $5M a year last summer but the Sabres didn't want to talk until now. Oops. I hope Murray at least opens the dialogue with all three and we get an idea of their desired number. If we can extend them before June 2008, then that whole "the window is closing" pressure disappears and we can just play. What are your thoughts on the Sens summer thus far?

Monday, June 04, 2007

rd 4 gm 4; anaheim @ ottawa; 6.4.07

That’s what happens when you take your boot off their throat.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Anaheim wins 3-2 (Anaheim leads series 3-1)
Ottawa Goals: Alfredsson, Heatley
Making Sens: Volchenkov, Phillips, Fisher
Lacking Sens: Redden. Heatley, Meszaros, more
It was over when: The first few minutes of the second period. It was clear our edge was gone and we handed them the keys to take back the game. They did.
It was definitely over when: McDonald’s second goal (in one minute) gave them the lead, silenced the crowd, and forced our boys back into their timid style they’ve played all series.
Message in a Molson bottle: It pains me to no end that we can come out flying in the first period, take the lead, and then just walk away for the final 40 minutes. Sure, we had some pressure and a game-tying goal late in the second period, but we are a scared team. Our top players are terribly intimidated by their team, and it rubs off on the rest of the boys. We’ve become so hands-off (with notable exceptions like Fisher) and basically wear our fear on our sleeves. The result, against a dominant team like Anaheim, is this shitestorm we allowed over the final two periods, and our first elimination game of the playoffs.

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Mike Fisher’s status as an underrated player in the league is over – everyone notices him now. He has been the absolute heart and soul of Ottawa over the course of the fourth round, partly because he plays such an inspired game and partly because our old stars are out of their element this round. Mike Fisher represents everything you need to be a champion – skill, speed, tenacity, and a city’s worth of heart. How his teammates can watch a shift of his and then not respond the same way is frightening. The most painful thing about this 3-1 deficit right now is that Mike Fisher deserves better and nobody is helping bring that fate.

Pessimistic Patty
I don’t care who scored our goals tonight, our top players are soft. We don’t have a top line crusher, like a Rod Brind’Amour, and we don’t have a game-changing blue liner like a Scott Stevens. In this particular series at this particular time, it is unraveling our team in front of the world. We were one of the most physical teams in the Eastern Conference. Apparently, the Western Conference is far tougher because besides just a few guys, our entire team looks terrified and rattled each and every shift. Dany Heatley was supposed to be the North American difference maker, the anti-Hossa, but you can’t really tell a difference right now, can you? Even Alfredsson and his ass-first hits on the dump-in are gone. Why do we choose to stick-check the hell out of everything instead of using our body? Why, when approaching an oncoming winger, do we take an angle alongside the guy so we can poke it away instead of taking the angle to knock his head off? We look physically pathetic and it isn’t because we’re smaller, its because we don’t want to play that style. Guess what, boys, it’s too late. Anaheim wrote the prologue at home in the first two games and you have NOT answered the bell. Frigging stick-checking everything.

Upbeat Urusla
Have I talked about Mike Fisher yet? Other than that, I can’t take a positive out of this game yet. Perhaps emotions are still boiling over at having crapped the bed in a game where they missed their top player and their lower-tiered defencemen looked completely awful. Perhaps we really did play that timidly over the last 40 minutes that there is nothing to be happy about. Hey, did Heatley get his first point of the series? Great. We lost. What have you done for me lately, Eddie?

Debbie Downer
I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but it is going to take all of our might as fans to analyze how we can come back in this series. Even last year when we were down 3-0 to Buffalo, we could conceivably put a plan together to win the series. Down 3-1 now, I really don’t think we’re a couple of line changes from winning. While all three losses have been in one-goal games, they’ve been in games where we just rolled over and played dead. For God’s Sake, the biggest game in franchise history and Wade Redden plays like a total pansy. How the balls are we going to regroup and beat these guys three times when Redden is our man and some buffoon named Meszaros skates beside him? Don’t get me wrong, I’ll try and figure out a way of how we’ll come back and win this on the road in seven, but the way we’ve played through four games, we’re somewhat lucky we got a fifth game out of it, in my opinion. Am I overreacting to the loss? Speak to me.

Keys to next game
Hit their heads off, for crying out loud
Traffic in front of Giguere
Leave it on the ice and have no less than a dozen cuts and bruises. You don’t know when you’ll be back here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

rd 4 gm 3; anaheim @ ottawa; 6.2.07

Tonight we spell redemption M-lower case c-upper case A-M-M-O-N-D

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-3 (Anaheim leads series 2-1)
Ottawa Goals: Neil, Fisher, Alfredsson, McAmmond (GW), Volchenkov
Making Sens: Volchenkov, 3rd and 4th lines
Lacking Sens: Redden. Heatley, Emery
It was over when: Getzlaf’s offsetting holding penalty negates a key Ducks penalty and keeps momentum in our favour.
It was definitely over when: Our boys hold the Ducks to 3 shots in the third period and smother them for the final ten minutes until time expires.
Message in a Molson bottle: To play better tonight wouldn’t have been good enough – a win was the only thing that mattered. With the help of our third and fourth lines, we were able to gain back a bit of momentum. The turnaround wasn’t evident until Alfie’s game-tying goal in the second when we came back for a third time, this one giving us enough push to take over the game. The positives here were that we were a bit better in the faceoff circle (still getting killed there), a bit more physical, and created a bit more space on the ice to attack. Still, we have far too many non-players dressed in the jerseys of our highest paid players and all they did was get bailed out by our lowest paid guys.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Hey, a win is a win is a win, right? We didn’t get much from Redden or Phillips, Heatley was invisible, Spezza was soft, and even Alfredsson wasn’t terrific. What we did see was some top-flight effort from guys like Chris Neil, Antoinne Vermette, Dean McAmmond, Oleg Saprykin, etc. They say we couldn’t win if we didn’t have our top line clicking – we proved them wrong in a big way, potting five behind their Conn Smythe candidate. It was this four-line effort that we said was one of our strengths coming in. Now let’s get the big boys to follow suit and hit something.

Pessimistic Patty
Speaking of our top players, they look lost out there. It isn’t that they aren’t trying, but it just seems like they aren’t willing to fight for pucks like they did before. Spezza and Heatley still look timid, Alfie isn’t driving towards the net for goals like the previous series, and Redden just needs to be taken out back and beaten with a rubber hose. If Chara were still in town, he’d eat Redden for lunch, just to prove a message. But seriously, our top players are just not in this series yet and it is getting to the point where they can either get on the bus or watch it go by. This series hits the halfway point now and there is still no real sign of our four highest paid guys. Ding ding, all aboard.

Upbeat Urusla
This was an alley fight. We went down three times by a goal and three times we fought back. This was also the first time we fought back physically and for the first time in nine periods, there is some hatred between these two. The Pronger hit on McAmmond (for which he has just received a one-game suspension) was the icing on the cake of this battle and if you think about it, we play our best when we hate our opponent. Our best regular season and playoff games were against none other than Buffalo, a team that we despise. If we can build up the same kind of hatred towards the Ducks, it definitely neutralizes their physical style and brings the fight into the alley, a place where we know we can be successful.

Debbie Downer
I don’t want to knock on our penalty killers because they still do a great job, but we don’t have that same kind of swagger we did in the first three series. We are aggressive penalty killers and it actually worked against us on their PP goal this time around as we just didn’t cover the holes on the ice. It is not fair to ask that they score shorties night in and night out, but I don’t think we have such an obvious special teams advantage anymore, even though I am flip flopping on what I said after game one.

Keys to next game
Take this game into the corners
Get first line swagger back
Dump and chase and hit

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Riddle me this:

What is the bigger storyline so far this series:

1. Ottawa abandons gameplan, loses focus, and looks like boys playing a man's game.
2. Anaheim shows how dominant they really are as not even the NHL's second best team can compete.

In other words, are we playing that bad or is Anaheim playing that good? I know it is a combination of both, but which is more prevalent?

Report coming soon.

Monday, May 28, 2007

rd 4 gm 1; ottawa @ anaheim; 5.28.07

Chalk that one up to slow legs

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Anaheim wins 3-2 (Anaheim leads series 1-0)
Ottawa Goals: Fisher, Redden
Making Sens: Emery, Volchenkov, Fisher
Lacking Sens: Meszaros, Kelly,
It was over when: The Moen goal was in that “next goal wins” time frame and gave them more than enough momentum.
It was definitely over when: Our powerplay, which had been great earlier in the game, fades away like the game clock.
Message in a Molson bottle: Holy Toledo, if that loss wasn’t a result of our lazy legs from nine days off, we are in trouble. Badly outplayed and physically dominated, this was our worst of the playoffs, and it wasn’t more evident than with our captain. Alfie gets a free pass because he is the one that got us here, but starting with him, this group needs to find their legs and their bollocks fast. The same edge that let us annihilate the Sabres is what Anaheim used to throttle us tonight – winning battles in the corners and wanting it more. Regroup and go for the split on Wednesday.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
We have immediately established our major edge in the special teams. Penalty kill, while not as offensive as it was last series (that’s okay), was solid and the powerplay put up a pair. What irks me is not scoring on a 5-on-3 – absolutely no excuse for that as we need to score on 100% of those freaking things. Regardless, we sent a message that if they take penalties, we’ll make them count.

Pessimistic Patty
Good Lord, were we physically outplayed tonight or what?! To a man, they hit the balls out of us in all areas of the rink and you need to look no further than Meszaros’ fly swat on Rob Niedermeyer on the Moen game winner to see how we reacted. If we showed our advantage in special teams, they trumped that in spades in their physical style of play. We need to start throwing bodies around and quickly or they’ll continue to exploit us. We got this far by being the more physical team against our opponents, but we were shown up tonight. Of particular concern is our handling of their forecheck. They’re going to hit the shite out of Redden and Meszaros and create scoring chances and we better find a response. For those keeping score at home, Redden was a minus-3 and Meszaros was a minus-2, all the result of being outhit and not getting pucks out.

Upbeat Urusla
Our best player tonight? Ray Emery. He was beat twice on point blank shots from the slot and once on a nifty move by Getzlaf, who I personally thought was about a km offside on that one, but who am I? By the way, is CBC showing Getzlaf on the bench all the time like Versus is? Why in the shite do I care about Ryan Getzlaf? Get him off my frigging television before he starts getting Sydney Crosby treatment from the television crew down here. Anyway, I thought Emery fought the puck early but settled in to make some key saves in the second and third and showed outstanding composure as they crashed the net on him all game, much to the apparent acceptance of our defencemen. Hey Meszaros, why don’t you make them a frigging sandwich while you have invited him in our crease? Might as well be hospitable, since you obviously have no problem with him being there. Jackass.

Debbie Downer
We haven’t been down in a series. We haven’t had pressure of a must-win game yet. We haven’t been outplayed in a game. We haven’t had our captain shooting blanks. These are all reasons to get down between now and Wednesday night. But at the same time, we didn’t dominate 15 games up until this point by backing down. Chalk this one up to the layoff and get behind your team before Game Two. No sports clichés, just don’t suck next game.

Keys to next game
Find our physical response
Establish a better forecheck
Establish any kind of backcheck

Sunday, May 20, 2007

BFF's Wayne and Geoff. I'd also ask that people start commenting on the blog so we know how many readers we have. Two topics to start - what are your thoughts on Geoff's playoff beard, and where were you when Alfie scored the greatest goal in Sens history? Post away...

rd 3 gm 5;ottawa @ buffalo; 5.19.2007

Revenge is a dish best served by a Swede; plus read at the bottom for the Gretzky story

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 3-2 (Ottawa wins series 4-1)
Ottawa Goals: Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson (GW)
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Heatley, Phillips
Lacking Sens: na, Gerber
It was over when: We went to OT. You had to have that feeling that Alfie would get one back for last season.
It was definitely over when: Alfie ropes one in on a 1-on-3 past Miller for a beauty of a game winner.
Message in a Molson bottle: Evenly matched game, tough penalty calls to take in the third, but each and every player left it all on the ice in one of the greatest games in franchise history. Not much summary here because if you didn’t see this game, then you should be very upset with yourself instead of turning here for a recap. Seriously, though, if you missed this, it was a game where you could honestly write a thousand storylines and still not cover all the details. Amazing things took place for the city of Ottawa.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

What a win!
Where do you start in trying to capture the best storylines of this game, this series, this playoff run, and this season? Pominville was on the ice during Alfredsson’s overtime winner, by the way. To say that Alfredsson and the Senators got their revenge against the Sabres is the understatement of the season. The similarities between the two series are just striking.

What I liked about this series is it showed two major aspects of our team – depth and leadership. The first two game winning goals of the series were off the sticks of Oleg Saprykin and Joe Corvo. The last two game winning goals of the series were off the stick of our beloved captain, Daniel Alfredsson.

Rather than get into a game report about what was good and what wasn’t (since everyone has seen the game or at least the highlights), let’s instead just enjoy the importance of this moment. Without a doubt, our lifelong captain and Ottawa’s greatest adopted son scored the biggest, most important goal in the history of this franchise. There to celebrate with him were the future of the Senators in Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. Hugging Alfredsson after the scrum were other lifers in Wade Redden and Chris Phillips. Smiling like a child in a candy store was 73-year old John Muckler, who is headed to the Finals for a seventh time. Exorcising demons of this own was our coach, who is now coaching in the finals for the first time in his own storied career. As I said, what storyline do you start with in talking about this game?

And to go out on a bit of a soapbox here after watching The Reporters on, let me say that I couldn’t care less if we are dubbed Canada’s team or not. I don’t expect Habs and Leafs fans to bypass their hatred and cheer for us. I also think the Flames and Oilers fans, like Uncle Rico, are too caught up in the 80s and what they accomplished 20+ years ago to care about us. And Vancouver? Nobody listens to them, anyway. For reasons unknown, we just aren’t a popular team in the rest of the country. You know what? I don’t give a rat’s ass. Alfredsson and the boys aren’t trying to win a Cup for Canada, they’re trying to do it for the great fans of Ottawa. Let the Flames and the Oilers be the loveable losers and Cinderellas. We should be quite content to be there and actually have a legitimate shot to win this whole thing. If we pick up a few fans around the country along the way – great. If not, then beat it; October is right around the corner for you.

And the Gretzky story

Quick anecdote – for the second straight year, I had a chance to meet with Wayne Gretzky yesterday at the BMW Charity Pro-Am tournament in Greenville, SC. He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and also happens to be the greatest hockey player of all time, too. After the photo and getting an autograph from the Great One, I asked him if we had anything to worry about with Buffalo (it was about noon so we were just hours from Game Five puck drop). His response: “Yeah! Buffalo will win this one today and then the pressure will be on Ottawa to win Game Six. Buffalo isn’t going to lose three at home. Ottawa’s edge is that it is way more physical, way tougher than the Sabres. But Spezza has been playing great, Alfredsson has been playing great, and you’re getting great goaltending.” Hey Wayne, says the guy with the heart rate of around 180, who is gonna play in the Finals? “Ottawa and Detroit – good stories there with Ottawa and Hasek.” I told him that his prediction of Buffalo winning game five scared me because a year ago, when Montreal opened a 2-0 series lead on Carolina, he looked at me and said, “Montreal isn’t going to win that series.” When I reminded him of that, he said, “I remember saying that.” Then I soiled myself at the thought that the greatest hockey player of all time remembers saying something to me. We have since exchanged email addresses and cell phone numbers and I’m babysitting his kids next weekend. Later in the month, we’re going to go to Ocean’s Thirteen together and hit the town. Actually, I’ll just tell these stories all year and try and top them when he comes back here next year – just keep hoping the Coyotes miss the playoffs…

Until next week! GO SENS GO!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

rd 3 gm 4; buffalo @ ottawa; 05.16.2007

The better team lost tonight

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Buffalo wins 3-2 (Ottawa leads series 3-1)
Ottawa Goals: McAmmond, Schaefer
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Fisher, Volchenkov, Corvo
Lacking Sens: Meszaros, Heatley, Neil, Emery
It was over when: Heatley’s high sticking penalty with about 2:30 left meant we’d only get 30 seconds to put on the full press – not enough.
It was definitely over when: Miller grabbed the puck with about 8 seconds left and instead of freezing it and giving us a faceoff, he threw it to the corner and time ran out.
Message in a Molson bottle: Far too slow of a start. A terrible turnover to start the game and then sitting back to see what Buffalo would bring, just the complete opposite style we’d played all series. We kicked around for 30 minutes before showing signs of life and taking over the game. In the end, we had badly outplayed the Sabres but two blunders in the first half (Meszy’s turnover and Emery’s brutal handling of the Drury goal) put us in too deep of a hole. Hold your head up high, that Sabres team that played today won’t beat us again because we won’t show up with such carelessness to start the next one on Saturday.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
The lines were flying in the second half of this game and the fact that we DIDN’T tie this one up is a mystery. Redden, Fisher, McAmmond all had glorious chances to pot one; I’ll have nightmares about Redden in the slot on the powerplay in the third and completely missing the net. But let’s get back to Ophelia – we had goals from the second and fourth lines tonight and they probably generated far more chances than our top line. This is what we need, and if you couple that the top line playing like they have, and we could have won this one. It’s a nice sign that they’re scoring.

Pessimistic Patty
Emery looked awful tonight. Perhaps its my emotions running hot because I’m writing this just minutes after the final horn, but I thought he fought the puck all night. I don’t know how to explain this just because all he has to do is make the saves that he is supposed to make. Had he done that, we could still be in this game because the Drury goal was just hideous. I think Emery is enough of a fighter to bounce back from this one, but I imagine he’ll beat himself up over this one for a few hours. Again, all we need him to do is wear sharp suits and stop the routine shots. The other 18 will do the rest.

Upbeat Ursula
We showed resolve tonight. It doesn’t show much in the end result, but to fight back from that 3-0 deficit just for the sake of winning this series was a nice showing. After the Drury goal, we somehow settled back into our style of play and controlled the rest of the game. If we play like that through 60 minutes on Saturday afternoon, we’ll hopefully have a better result. In each series, we’ve broken off of our game plan for a period or so and we did the same thing tonight. On Saturday, it is back to business.

Debbie Downer
What the frig is up with Dany Heatley? At first, I thought he was snakebitten against Miller. Now, I think he is just in a funk. I love his assists and all, but he is the weak link on that top line right now, sad to say. I know, I know, we lost one game. I’m not going into panic mode and I still think we will win this series, but the dude potted 50 goals this year – don’t you expect him to find some in a game like tonight? Wait, stop. I guarantee a Heatley goal on Saturday. There, I said it.

Keys to the next game
- Take the crowd out of the game
- Focus on our system
- Take back the special teams

R.I.P. Buffalo

Guys, Dont worry. Buffolo is don on Saturday.
Bye Bye Roy

Monday, May 14, 2007

rd 3 gm 3; buffalo @ ottawa; may 14, 2007

Don’t let up, boys.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 1-0 (Ottawa leads series 3-0)
Ottawa Goals: Alfredsson (GW)
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Volchenkov, Redden
Lacking Sens: Neil
It was over when: The Alfie goal, combined with our domination up until that point, would be enough for a team on a mission like this
It was definitely over when: Back to back penalties in the third period for Buffalo spelled the end – we weren’t going to let them tie this one up.
Message in a Molson bottle: The most dominating performance to date from the boys, this was wasn’t nearly as close as the 1-0 score. We outshot them 32-15 in a must-win game for Buffalo, and held them to 0-for-6 on the PP with one shot total. Those numbers tell the story – this was a one-sided affair that started from Emery and covered just about everybody on out. I sound like a broken record, but you have to lose before you can win and this team knows how bad it wants to win right now. Bias aside, no team has walked through their opponents in recent memory like we are right now. Finish the job, boys!
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
You have to be lucky to be good, but more importantly you have to be good to be lucky. Some will say it was a lucky bounce that got us the goal tonight, and I’m telling you and all your friends that it was the hard work of the top line that led to that goal. I repeat, you have to be good to be lucky. We are getting the bounces and the opportunities because we are manufacturing them behind the curtain. That goal was a result of an absolutely amazing outlet play from our zone, some great passing through the neutral zone, and a result of the players knowing where to go on the rush. Brilliant goal from a brilliant line, now 1-2-3 in playoff scoring. Trade who?

Pessimistic Patty
Hard to point anything out right now, but Chris Neil might be in over his head right now. He hasn’t brought much to this series, though I’ll say that sometimes his job as our third line winger is just to control their third line. He just seems tentative to hit someone on the forecheck for fear of taking a dumb penalty or something. The stakes are higher right now and I just hope someone settles Neiler down and gets him back into his groove as the NHL hits leader. Remember that he won that?

Upbeat Ursula
What can you say about our penalty killers? We killed off six more tonight and held them to one shot. That means, mathematicians, that they had five powerplays where they didn’t have a single shot. Pairings were Kelly/Vermette, Alfredsson/McAmmond, and Fisher/Schaefer and I’ve never been so amazed at a dominance of special teams like this. Remember last year when we kept giving up shorthanded 2-on-1s? Remember how awful it felt? Now go hug a Sabres fan, cause it has gotten that bad for them now to the point that they’d rather decline a powerplay. We had more scoring chances on their PPs than they did, including a 2-on-0 where Meszaros rang one off the post.

Debbie Downer
Nothing, just make sure you come out like the balls on Wednesday. Comparisons to last year are funny, but who wants to go back to Buffalo for game five? Attack them like a Chara on a Baton Rouge rib, like a Havlat on an injured list, like a Pothier on an overpaid contract, like a Hasek on shitlist. Let’s take care of our business Wednesday.

One last note, I’m off to see Wayne Gretzky at the BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament in Greenville, SC on the weekend. Anybody have suggestions on clever quips to try and make the Great One laugh? Last year, when he had a 7-iron shot coming up from off the cart path, I told him that he’d put it in from trickier angles than this. He replied, “yeah, but I was a lot better on skates.” That comment is only cool because Gretzky said it. Post a comment and let me know what I should try and say to him this time around.

Keys to the next game
- Don’t let up
- Shore up the PP (0-for-7 tonight)
- Dominate the neutral zone again

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This about that

It is too difficult to find the right words to describe the roller coaster of emotion in this game last night. To go down two goals in Buffalo, to score three straight after that, to give up a tying goal with 5 seconds left, to win a game on the road in double overtime. For anyone that missed the game, this was a doozie. To see how this team has evolved from year's past, you need only watch a single playoff game this year because the evidence is everywhere. After the Briere goal to tie it up, it was said that the core of the team went to the locker room and calmed everyone down, told them to refocus, and get back to work. You have to lose before you can win because you need to know how terrible it feels to drop an overtime game, to let a series lead slip away at the last moment. That's what has made this leadership that much better.

All I wanted to mention today was a response to listening to Lindy Ruff's post-game comments. In 4 minutes, he said he was upset about Alfie's hit on Tallinder not being called, the Vanek punch-in goal being overturned, and the fact that Ottawa keeps getting 5-on-3s and Buffalo doesn't. I believe he was just short of bringing up Brett Hull's skate, too. I don't know how this series will turn out, Buffalo is a great road team and they have shown all year that they know how to win games. But regardless of the outcome, you just get the feeling that the Sabres have yet to learn how to deal with losing. I think you need your coach to be a voice of reason, to teach the young kids (Buffalo is a pretty young team) how to shake off a loss and get back to work. But if you are a second-year player on the Sabres and all you hear after the game from your coach is how the other team is getting better powerplays and the refs cost you the game, you really don't a single thing from the loss. I believe it is for that reason that Buffalo is not quite ready to be a champion and until they learn how to learn and adjust from a loss instead of making excuses as to why it didn't work out, they'll continue to bring up Hull's skate and complain.

It should be an amazing game on Monday night. As has been the case with each of the 12 previous ones, this is the biggest game of the season for Ottawa. Win this and you can get your boot on their throat on Wednesday. Keys to the game are to stay out of the penalty box, clear out rebounds, and hit them like hell. I know those sound obvious, but 1) I don't want to give them a chance to discover their powerplay, 2) Buffalo is a team that pounces on rebounds, the less of them there are, the less goals we give up, and 3) we've been outhit in the first two games and it would send a strong message if we bring our crowd and our physical play to them as hard as we can, keeping in mind the first key there - be smart and stay out of the box.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

rd 3 gm 1; ottawa @ buffalo; 5.10.2007

Nice start.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 5-2 (Ottawa leads series 1-0)
Ottawa Goals: Fisher, Alfredsson, Saprykin (GW), Spezza, McAmmond
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Fisher, Volchenkov
Lacking Sens: Corvo, Comrie,
It was over when: Oleg Saprykin!
It was definitely over when: Not only was Spezza’s PP goal in the third awesome, it was the fact that it was during a Derek Roy, Resident Piss Ant, penalty that made it the icing on the cake.
Message in a Molson bottle: The Sens were faster then the “fastest” team in the league, created turnovers, and were simply the better team. Going into the game, we knew our big three had to be great and we were a better special teams group. The pizza line had a pair of goals, we had two on the powerplay and a shortie, and just drove all over their fans tonight. Great effort.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
I like it when the pizza line scores, but I like it even more when the other forwards score. Such was the case with goals from Fisher, Saprykin, and McAmmond. Fisher was a man possessed in the first period, McAmmond was the smartest player on the other three lines, and Saprykin is like a Patty Eaves but with better hands and puck control. There wasn’t a moment with any of the four lines that you worried about Buffalo blowing past them as it was just another tight, well-played Ottawa game from the role forwards.

Pessimistic Patty
It isn’t the two-goal lead that got away that bothers me, it is the type of goals that they scored to wipe out that lead. The first one, our forwards left the zone all at once and all before the puck, leaving two out of place defencemen and a huge rebound from Emery. The second one, Heatley simply has to tie up Lydman before he gets back around in front like that. Two lapses of judgment, two goals. Let’s learn and move on.

Upbeat Ursula
Three third period goals in the third period of a tie game while visiting the best team in hockey. Not too shabby. The poise that the Sens have shown through 11 games has been magnificent and unseen in the past. What is so nice to watch is that not a single player on our team is trying to do too much with or without the puck. There is a level of trust that has been established within the core of that room and they really do count on one another to back each other up. Compare the number of odd-man rushes we gave up tonight compared to any of the previous games last year (I don’t want to bring up last year, but it is our only point of reference so far). We are just operating as a well-oiled machine right now and time will tell if Mucks has put the right pieces together. I have to say, when we traded for Saprykin, Williams and I agreed that all he had to do was score one game winner and it would be a worthwhile deal. Was that not the most important goal the Sens have scored this postseason?! Way to go, Saps. The Tenacious O. I hope he stays in the lineup and Patty Eaves sits out a few more…

Debbie Downer
The Preissing/Corvo pairing was average tonight and here’s to hoping that it was just Game One jitters. I’m sure the media hype has to get to some of these guys, so let’s write tonight off and move on. I’ll say this about both of them, though – they don’t get burned by a speedy Buffalo forward, do they? It is refreshing to see Corvo play a guy all the way around the net instead of losing a step and having the Sabre cut in front of the net.

Keys to the next game
- Skate hard and fast and keep drawing penalties
- Clear out the rebounds – Buffalo loves those
- Traffic in front of Miller works, right Alfie?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

rd 2 gm 5; ottawa @ new jersey; 5.5.2007

Haven’t won anything yet. Let’s enjoy this and get ready for the next one.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 3-2 (Ottawa leads series 4-1)
Ottawa Goals: Vermette, Spezza, Alfredsson (GW)
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Spezza, Emery
Lacking Sens: Redden, Corvo, Comrie
It was over when: The Vermette goal took so much momentum from them and shifted it to us as we set forth on another second period explosion.
It was definitely over when: Alfredsson’s wrister through the five hole gave us the two goal edge and we might as well have packed up then and there.
Message in a Molson bottle: Once again, we showed that we can rebound after a bad period. We came out flat and Emery kept us in the game in the first period, just enough so that we can come out flying with 19 shots in the second period and cruise through a courtesy third period. Top line was dominant again and we did just enough backchecking to prevent any kind of sustained scoring pressure from the Devils. The third period might have been our most smothering period in history.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Giving up the first goal is no longer the recipe for disaster in our locker room. We have shown an incredible ability to stick to our powerful game plan and in a game like this, it becomes just a matter time before the plan kicks in and we start to chip away. Our style of play promotes team offence and also keeps a keen eye on backchecking and keeping the puck out of our own zone. It was worked well against a fast team and against a defensive team. Let’s see if it can work a couple more times. One thing is for sure, the players have absolutely bought into the plan, something that is absolutely mandatory for success. Just ask Axel Rose.

Pessimistic Patty
I don’t want to sound like a Negative Nancy here, but we still have a few defencemen that turn the puck over a lot. Redden and Meszaros continue to show an inability to get the puck out of the zone at crucial times, and Joe Corvo is sometimes trying to do too much behind our own net instead of just finding an outlet or finding the glass. This is all hidden right now because the forwards are playing back, but as the opponents get better each round, so too should our defencemen in clearing the puck. Corvo also should never have left Gomez behind him on the first New Jersey goal.

Upbeat Ursula
We are a detail-oriented team. The Vermette goal was a fabrication from the strong boards play by, well, Vermette himself. We did an amazing job at keeping the puck in on the left side, it made its way back around to Preissing, and then there was Vermie to tip in the shot through Brodeur. Couple this with the play behind our own net of guys like Fisher and McAmmond in helping out the defencemen. What the result will be is that we work as an 18-skater unit (down to 15 in the third period, sometimes). This is why Carolina won the Cup last year and never really had a superstar. 18 guys doing their job.

Debbie Downer
Mike Comrie had a so-so game but once again found himself on the bench for the third period. Dean McAmmond jumps up in his spot and we roll three lines while protecting the lead. I wish Comrie would just show better backchecking in the first two periods and then Murray would let him play in the third. He’s good enough to do it, he just hasn’t been around on our team long enough to understand why Spezza used to get benched, I guess. Let’s hope he figures it out because he’s far more valuable on the ice then he is taking McAmmond’s spot on the bench with the fourth unit.

Keys to the next game
- Rest
- Hope the Rangers force a seventh game
- Work on playoff beards. Mine is a disgusting collection of fur that itches me to the core. I love it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

rd 2 gm 4; new jersey @ ottawa; 5.2.2007

The hockey monkeys were shining on us tonight

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 3-2 (Ottawa leads series 3-1)
Ottawa Goals: Alfredsson, Heatley, Fisher (GW)
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Fisher, Neil
Lacking Sens: Redden, Meszaros, Emery
It was over when: The Fisher goal that gave us the lead by two was going to be enough considering the backchecking we’ve had combined with their inability to pinch in.
It was definitely over when: We forechecked the hell out of them until the final buzzer.
Message in a Molson bottle: Both goalies were weak tonight, Emery giving up huge rebounds and Brodeur giving up two soft goals. The difference in this one was that our top players outplayed their top players. Not out best game, but still a very solid effort in knocking down their defence and pouring more shots through to Brodeur. We need to show that killer instinct again on Saturday because we haven’t won anything yet.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
The pizza line continues to dominate in all ends of the rink, whether it is a Heatley backcheck, Spezza carrying through the neutral zone, or Alfredsson being Alfredsson, these guys are playing their best hockey. I think you can honestly say that after nine playoff games, our best player each and every game has been our captain. The effort and emotion has rubbed off on his linemates and trickled down to the rest. The pizza line is playing great hockey right now and if you don’t agree with me, I will fight you. That’s no lie (turn on Afternoon Delight and eat a ruben sandwich while you’re at it, Papa Burgundy)

Pessimistic Patty
I don’t mean to agree with Marty Brodeur’s post-game comments (“we showed that if we shoot pucks at Emery, he doesn’t look very good”), but Rayzer needs to be a tad sharper with his rebound control going forward. Besides the two shots that got past him and rang off the post in the first, he is still looking a bit out of position on some saves and letting out rebounds that we’ve been back to clean up. I also find that some of his saves look all 1980’s Andy Moog-ish where he just kicks a leg out while standing up. He stole a game for us in the first round and he might have to do it again on Saturday in the Meadowlands.

Upbeat Ursula
Chris Neil’s best game of the playoffs and Fisher’s first goal of the playoffs. Both positives for those that are counting on effort and scoring from our lower lines. I still want to see Kelly and Vermette start potting a few more, but its great to see the winner come off a secondary stick and its great to see Neil finally playing a bit smarter and being in the play and hitting the shite out of things. How sweet would it have been to see him score on the inside out, how’s she going, move he pulled in the third?

Debbie Downer
We had Brodeur on an off night and still had to play to the final buzzer. There were long periods of play in the second period and in the third period where we were stuck playing Devils hockey. I know that we can do it successfully, but I thought we let them dictate the pace a few times, the first time they’ve really done that in this series. I want to come out balls hard on Saturday and scare them into realizing that we’re not keen on playing a sixth game.

Keys to the next game
- Screen the goalie
- Rebound control
- Shoot glove side, for pete’s sake.

Monday, April 30, 2007

rd2 gm3 - New Jersey @ Ottawa - 4.30.2007

In terms of oversight from officials, we’re even now.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 2-0 (Ottawa leads series 2-1)
Ottawa Goals: Preissing (GW), Spezza
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Volchenkov, Comrie
Lacking Sens: Schaefer, Gerber
It was over when: The Preissing goal ignited this time to a level to which the Devils couldn’t match
It was definitely over when: Killed off the Phillips penalty and went into total shutdown mode for the final four minutes
Message in a Molson bottle: The better team won this game, no doubt about it. Just like in the first round, we have outplayed our opponents and are in a 2-1 series lead. The only difference is that the guy in the other net is standing on his head. Brodeur was amazing and it took a funky goal to win it. However, we were the team that was able to roll four lines, saw the role guys like Neil and McAmmond, Saprykin and Schubert play their precious little hearts out. Oh yeah, and Phillips and Volchenkov continue to cold-cock people as they enter the zone, which helps. Great team win. Enjoy it tonight and come back to work tomorrow to get ready for the next one.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
The second line was our best line tonight, finally. For the first time in this series, Mike Comrie showed the Tasmanian devil in him, Mike Fisher played out of this world, and Peter Schaefer recognized that there was a game being played and he was a part of it (expectations in check with that fella). This is a scoring line for us, but it is also an energy line and needs to forecheck hard and get the dirty goals. The game-winning goal tonight was a result of their solid play. Good to see. Third and fourth lines looked great tonight, too. They’ll need to keep it up if we’re to win this series.

Pessimistic Patty
Make no mistake, Romans, we’re facing the absolute best goaltender in the wonderful world of men’s ice hockey. Game One was an anomaly, games two and three are what we can expect from him for the rest of the round so it will take continued traffic to the net to crank out another two wins. We’ve never beaten an elite level goaltender and this is the toughest one yet. Luckily, our team is playing with a different vision and if anyone can do it, it’s the guys we dress right now.

Upbeat Ursula
Did you know that Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatley have combined for 27 points in 8 games? Not too shabby for a has-been and a couple of never-will-be’s, eh? Actually, these three are playing great hockey in their own end right now, including the last minute of the game when we had all three of them backchecking hard enough to free up the puck and all record a point on Spezza’s empty netter. Your best players need to play like your best players, and guess what Scotty? We’re covered. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Debbie Downer
The Joe Corvo giveaway might have been the worst turnover recorded in post-War history, people. I love the guy and have defended him vehemently all season long, and even though he’s getting icetime and playing with lots of confidence, that one was bad. Redden and Spezza also had some bad turnovers in this one and if any team is going to make us pay for those, it’s the Sabres. But after the Sabres, the other team that will make us pay for those is the Devils. Can’t do it anymore from here until next preseason. That’s why we have goalies, though.

Keys to the next game
- Traffic in front of Brodeur.
- Keep pucks high – he’s too good with his pads and stick.
- Stay out of the penalty box
- No turnovers ever.

One final note, I'll say that I liked the way Sweet Lou responded to the media re: Fisher's tap on Brodeur on the game winning goal, but Brodeur WAS out of the crease and incidental contact is not a penalty. Sometimes you don't get the breaks (goals with 2.7 seconds left are impossible) and sometimes you do.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rd 1 Gm 5 - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa - 4.19.07

Onward and upward, and as a well-oiled machine

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 3-0 (Ottawa wins series 4-1)
Ottawa Goals: Heatley (GW), Vermette, Kelly
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Emery, Vermette
Lacking Sens: NA
It was over when: Heatley scores and Fisher follows it up by absolutely railing Ouellet and Staal into the ice, setting the tone for the rest of the period.
It was definitely over when: Kelly’s goal put this one away for good, up 3-0 in the second period. We may blow a 3-goal lead in the regular season, but not here.
Message in a Molson bottle: As the guys on TSN said, we may have had a bad period or two, but we never had a bad game. Heatley’s goal was a monkey off his back and really let the team take off on their usual second period rampage, but the momentum was ours after killing off two 5-on-3s in the first period. Defence + offence + goaltending + secondary scoring + PK = win
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Ray Emery absolutely became a more consistent and reliable goaltender as the series went on. Games 4 and 5 were without a doubt his best of the series. I hope the week off now doesn’t allow him to lose focus, because he’s the first #1 goalie we’ve ever had in the playoffs. Quick, move him into Muckler’s apartment and let him hide there from the media for a week. On a side note, this was easily Redden’s best game, too. Hooray, he won’t get traded yet!

Pessimistic Patty
Not much to touch on here, although I guess some people say that having a week off is too long between series. The way that this can be alleviated is if Tampa Bay, or Hockey Bay as their 10,000-12,000 call themselves, win over New Jersey and we get the equally rested Rangers in Round 2. All we can hope for is the Murray keeps the whip on them and that Redden and Heatley can nurse themselves back to health.

Upbeat Ursula
I’m not getting into the rah-rah we’re a different team than before bit, because then it would just seem like TSN’s Brent Wallace asked that question again (“no, Brent, we’re not the same team as the one in 2000…”). I’ll say this about what we’re seeing for the first time this year. We’ve never seen Alfie as the leading scorer in a series and he led both teams with 6 points. We don’t usually see us on the right side of a 2-1 win and we did that in the pivotal game 4. And we’ve never seen a coach that can roll four lines in all three periods of all five games and Murray had the luxury of doing that. This is shown in the numbers where only Oleg Saprykin had less than 10 minutes of icetime – amazing. It is a combination of getting early leads and also having guys like McAmmond on our fourth line. I think this group of players is the most cohesive and intelligent bunch we’ve had.

Debbie Downer
Alfie was 0-for-2 in the faceoff circle. He stinks. That’s all I got in this one. Oh wait, you know what is a downer? Watching this beauty of a game on Versus Network here in the US and A. I know Crosby is a spotlight player, but at no point during these five games did the play-by-play team talk about how well Ottawa was playing. They didn’t acknowledge anything about the Roberts hit on Volchenkov in the third period that could have been a charge, and clearly didn’t know that it was a major issue in the papers this morning. They didn’t know that Redden was involved in rumours all day for his poor play, instead praising him as the smartest defenceman out there. If the executives at Versus Network or OLN or whatever it is, if they read our website, let it be known that these buffoons have to join the Pens on the links. Or go bass fishing with some of the other network stars on this ridiculous TV station. At least I can go to MTV or VH1 for some music down here, right? Wait, what was that? Just reality shows there now? I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the Hockey Night in Canada team.

Keys to the next game
- Um, get rested and healthy

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rd 1 Gm 4 - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh - 4.17.07

Winning a one-goal game in the postseason? Preposterous!

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 2-1
Ottawa Goals: Spezza, Volchenkov (GW)
Making Sens: Emery, Volchenkov, Comrie
Lacking Sens: Redden, Heatley
It was over when: Volchenkov takes a backhanded saucer pass from Comrie and blasts home a 30-footer with 10 minutes to play
It was definitely over when: Scrambles in front of our net result in us just icing the thing and then counting on Vermette to win the ensuing draw throughout the final minute.
Message in a Molson bottle: If we gave one away last Saturday to the Penguins, Ray Emery stole this one back. He was lights out throughout the game, especially in the second period when we killed off 8 minutes in penalties. Great goaltending, shutdown defence, and timely scoring – something we had never really seen in April and May before. Feels good.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
There is light in the nets. People had been saying that through three games, Emery was good, but not great. People were waiting for him to make that timely save that shifted momentum in our favour. Tonight, he made a lot of those saves as Crosby and his sleepover buddies spent a lot of time driving to the net, and Gary Roberts spend a lot of time at the net. Great job by Emery, he got us this win. Write it down, Ottawa, we have a goalie.

Pessimistic Patty
What the balls is wrong with Wade Redden? That is the question going around the water coolers this morning, as Redden was just laughable in this one, whether it be getting burned on the outside because he was flatfooted, or getting taken down in front or right behind his own net because he can’t play physical. Whatever is wrong with him, and lets hope for the sake of discussion that he has some lingering injury to his groin that is making him play like this, that Murray either hacks away his icetime or just canes him old school rules to get him to snap out of this. Then again, how much can we expect from him now when this is how he’s played all year?

Upbeat Ursula
Guys like Comrie and Vermette and Volchenkov are perfect examples of doing the little things right. Comrie is a menace on the forecheck, even in his small stature, as he hits anything and cycles the puck like a champ. Vermette is key in winning faceoffs, an area where we’ve trumped the Penguins this series and was key in the dying minutes of this one. Volchenkov is an absolute machine, what else can you say? To have him rewarded for his efforts with the game winner last night was very fitting.

Debbie Downer
I know it is tough to pick up a negative in a hard-working win, but I thought some of the guys looked a bit tired in this one. Let’s be honest, Pittsburgh kinda took it to us for the better part of the game. I thought we were by far the better team in the third period and really controlled the pace, but they outhit us pretty bad and it just looked at times that some of the stars of the early games were a bit slower in their takeoffs. All the more reason to handle our business on Thursday and get some rest.

Keys to the next game
- Use the crowd and the motivation of not wanting to travel until the second round
- Stay out of the box – 8 minutes of PK in the second period could have been a recipe for disaster.
- Clear the paint – too often was Roberts parked in front of Emery with only a weak shove from #6 (I’m not naming names here…)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

RD 1 GM 3 - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh - 4.15.07

That's why we have captains.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 4-1
Ottawa Goals: McAmmond, Comrie, Alfredsson (GW), Alfredsson
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Comrie, McAmmond
Lacking Sens: Redden, Meszaros
It was over when: Alfie bangs in his second of the game, a shortie from McAmmond to give us the 3-goal lead, and finally showing results for his hard play.
It was definitely over when: We continued to take the physical play to them throughout the latter half of the third, which was played mostly as 4-on-4 from offsetting minors throughout. Good shut down third.
Message in a Molson bottle: I don’t want to sound dramatic, but if we hang around in the playoffs for a while, then certain players are starting to define their careers right now. Alfredsson has been the best player on either team through three games, Comrie is looking incredible, Phillips and Volchenkov have played lights out shut down defence, and even Dean McAmmond is earning a raise. Nice Gordie Howe hat trick out of DMac today. Eaves is concussed, too, after a hit from Armstrong and McAmmond then picked off Talbot and took him to task.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
We once again dominated on the forecheck. I don’t care if we dump it in once we gain the red line or if we carry it in on the outside, if we continue to cycle like this and hit their defencemen often, we can win these games. Alfredsson, Fisher, Neil, Comrie, Schaefer, Schubert, all those hits will tire out their d-men and it slows them down throughout the game and series. Think Gonchar was tired when McAmmond passed it right by him to set up Alfie’s second of the night? Keep the hits coming.

Pessimistic Patty
Another third period goal allowed. I know that in this game and the first game, they were otherwise meaningless because the game was in hand, but after Game Two, we need to absolutely shut them down in the third. Their goal was just a result of Phillips giving too much room coming in, in my opinion. I’d like to see us shut them out in the third period on Tuesday.

Upbeat Ursula
Players are starting to buy into the program. Schaefer has looked a lot better in the offensive zone and is actually skating after loose pucks, something he hardly did all season. Its nice to see that Comrie has someone to play with. Fisher’s okay, too. Corvo and Preissing continue to do their job defensively, which was a concern mid-season. Corvo actually has been hands down our best puck moving defenceman back there and almost had a beauty goal if it weren’t for that massive f*ing yellow pad.

Debbie Downer
Wade Redden had better be injured, that’s all I have to say. So when a forward is coming at you and dumps the puck by you, aren’t you supposed to either take the man or take the puck? Redden stands there like a deer in headlights and either he is having trouble turning around or he just plain stinks. Either way, he’s a liability right now and if Therrien doesn’t keep his top forwards on the ice when Redden is out there on Tuesday, then he’s a mo-mo-mo-moron.

Keys to the next game
- Take the crowd out early by taking the body to them throughout the first.
- Don’t give up any ice in the neutral zone – its been working so far
- Crash the net – when we go to the net, we score. Easy recipe

Rd 1 Gm 2 - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa - 4.14.2007

Can't exorcise ALL our demons, I guess.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Pittsburgh wins 4-3 (series even 1-1)
Ottawa Goals: Spezza, Alfredsson, Kelly
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Spezza, Comrie
Lacking Sens: Heatley, Fisher, Redden
It was over when: Crybaby Crosby sneaks behind Phillips and bangs in the winner
It was definitely over when: We rattle two off the post in the third and can’t get it by the man in the yellow pads
Message in a Molson bottle: Sometimes you can outplay someone and still lose and I think that’s what happened this time. The problem for Ottawa is that it seemed only half the players bought into the game plan and the other half were not pulling their weight. The problem with this loss is that it opens the team up to media scrutiny about Crosby’s success, the missing Roberts trade, our inability to get a 2-0 series lead, and the fact that the Penguins are a real team. We need to put all of this to bed in Game 3 and restore world order.
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Spezza and Alfredsson were unbelievable for the second straight game. Alfie scored a great PP goal, hit bodies and was great with the puck. Spezza looks like an elite player out there, too. You need your best players to play like your best players, and that’s what we got from these two. If only this would rub off on the rest of the forwards. Joe Corvo was our best puck-mover today, too. He is fast and he’ll take the space that you give him without the dumb plays that he was making mid-season.

Pessimistic Patty
Dany Heatley and Mike Fisher were very disappointing today. Heatley was just not himself, didn’t have his timing or his puck control and just lost battles far too often for someone his size. Mike Fisher was just in another world and couldn’t do a single thing right this time around. Both of these players need to pull 180 degree turns quickly and get ready for the next one. Ray Emery was no picnic either and while he can’t be completely faulted for the goals, he needs to make the big save, like the one Fleury made on Fisher in the dying seconds.

Upbeat Ursula
Mike Comrie, Chris Phillips, and Anton Volchenkov were our physical leaders. Comrie did an amazing thing in fighting (sort of) Armstrong to open the third, payback for running Emery in the previous period. Comrie switched sides with Schaefer for the faceoff with the sole intention of dropping his gloves and this truly should have been enough to lift us with the momentum to dominate the third. It wasn’t.

Debbie Downer
What is it going to take for these guys to win two in a row? We had a chance to take a complete stranglehold on the series, but the Redden/Meszaros pairing shite in their shorts and some key forwards could do no right. What the balls is it going to take?! The bright side is that most of the key players here are new and haven’t experienced our past letdowns (Corvo, Comrie, Preissing, McAmmond), but at the same time, they must be amazed at how we can completely negate the entire Wednesday night performance and go to the Burgh to open a best-of-five series on the road. I still think we win this series, but I’m pretty exhausted from the total lack of killer instinct of some of our star players. I want to see Wade Redden play his best game since Game 3 of the first round matchup last year when he took over the TB game. If not, then I’ll run out of expletives in the next report.

Keys to the next game
- Take over the first period, set the tone and hit the shite out of their defencemen on the forecheck
- Defensive positioning must be mistake-free – no pressure, guys.
- Heatley must score a goal
- Oh yeah, powerplays. When we sent the puck to the point for the shot, it didn’t work. When we brought the puck down low between the top three guys, we scored. I’m no mathematician, but those numbers kinda favour one strategy over the one that made our powerplay a league-wide joke coming into the playoffs. Give the puck to your best players, not defencemen that can’t hit the net.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Time to Put Boots to Juggular

It has been well documented this week that the Sens have enjoyed a grossly inept past when it comes to winning game two of a playoff series after winning the first. 0 - 6 is their record after winning game one of a series to be exact. Although most of the current Sens have only been around for one of those game-two losses it is a very good reason as to why we have fared so poorly in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the past this team lacked a killer instinct to pounce on a wounded foe. They never had the intestinal fortitude to battle through the opponents last gasp. I do not need to remind you that the odds would swing wildly in the Sens favour if they did manage to go up 2 - 0 in a series (roughly 87% of those who win game 1 and 2 go on to win the series). Even more appealing is the sheer pandemonium that would ensue in Pittsburgh where although they do not say so, expectations are extremely high for this team. A win tonight would put Jocelyn Thibault in nets for game three and send baby Cosby into media scrutiny hell which is exactly where the Sens would want him.

All that said, now is the time. A time to place the boot firmly to neck and begin to press down. The pigpens are merely a bunch of boys who will fold up shop when faced with a two -zero deficit. Still, expect them to come out flying tonight for the first ten minutes. If the Sens can weather that storm Cosby and Co. will look an awful lot like we did a decade ago. Confused, Bewildered and unable to claw back.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rd 1 Gm 1 - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa - 4.11.07

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Ottawa wins 6-3 (Ottawa leads 1-0)
Ottawa Goals: Meszaros, Kelly, Preissing, Heatley, Neil, Comrie
Making Sens: Alfredsson, Phillips, Volchenkov
Lacking Sens: hard to name anyone
It was over when: Heatley comes out 9 seconds into the third to bang in a rebound off Alfie’s tip, giving us a 4-1 lead
It was definitely over when: Baby Crosby’s goal is disallowed 15 seconds later, meaning that we keep momentum and that he is a boy in a man’s game, to quote an old friend.
Message in a Molson bottle: Dominating forecheck and exploiting the weakness between the pipes, we came out flying in this game and never let up until we spent the last 12 minutes or so shorthanded. This wasn’t as close as the score suggests as we most certainly showed experience, grit, finesse, and the ability to win and win big. Saturday gives us an opportunity for our first ever 2-0 series lead. Can you believe that we’ve never led a series 2-0?
Courtesy Boxscore:

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

Optimistic Ophelia
Areas that we can watch on tape and carry into next game were the outstanding forecheck and consistent pressure. Dumping and chasing will work in this serious simply because Pittsburgh’s only strength is at forward. If we dump it in and hit the balls of their defencemen, we’ll continue to get chances on Fleury. By the way, could you imagine watching this game on Versus in the US and they actually show a highlight clip of his saves at the end of the game? I could have sworn we put an unconverted touchdown past him, but I digress. The forecheck is key in this series and we MUST come out with the exact same intensity on Saturday afternoon as we did tonight.

Pessimistic Patty
Hi, I’m Bill, the guy that works in the Ottawa penalty box, it’s been really nice hanging out with you tonight. We cranked out a cool 10 penalties today and when you consider that a key to the series was to keep the play on the 5-on-5, this math doesn’t add up. I think we’ll learn the lessons from this and get over the opening day jitters to settle down enough and stay out of the box. If not, then we’ll see more of these 9-goal affairs.

Upbeat Ursula
Emery was solid, we hit hard, and didn’t retaliate when their idiots came out in the third to try and start some shite. After 10 years in the playoffs, we can now be seen as an experienced team and it showed tonight. We need to continue on this path.

Debbie Downer
Alfie is snakebit again. He played a hell of a game in terms of effort and creating plays, but he had 8 shots on goal and a ton (tonne) of great scoring chances and either missed the net or was stopped cold. It’s only one game, but how nice would it be for everyone involved if he potted a pair in the first period on Saturday?

Keys to the next game
- Match tonight’s first period intensity and domination
- Continue to control neutral zone
- Keep your sticks on the ice and out of Penguins’ faces

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Playoff Blog Coming Soon

The dynamic duo returns for what will hopefully be a long and prosperous postseason of Senators hockey. Check back soon.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sens Game Report - Ottawa @ Buffalo - 2.7.07

I don’t like Buffalo one bit.

The Balance in the Bank:

Final Score: Buffalo wins 3-2
Ottawa Goals:
McAmmond (6) knocking in a rebound that got away from Biron on a Corvo shot
Schaefer (9, pp) picking up the garbage in front of the net on the PP
Making Sens: Neil, Spezza, McAmmond, Volchenkov (minus the one turnover)
Lacking Sens: Corvo, Redden, Fisher
It was over when: Redden takes the lazy hooking penalty with 5:30 to go and we give up the powerplay goal
It was definitely over when: A high stick on Schaefer went uncalled with a minute to play and we stayed shorthanded until it was too late to get a last minute rush
Message in a Molson bottle: This was the one game against Buffalo we were supposed to win as they were playing on no rest and should have lost their legs in the third. Instead, we looked like the lazy team in the last few minutes and showed the same tendencies that have been evident since the All-Star Break: spotty backchecking and suspect defence. Let’s be able to call this team out when necessary – our great run of 2007 hasn’t been so great since the Break and we are dangerously close to ninth place.
Courtesy Boxscore:
Next Game: Thursday night hosting Montreal for a home and home (back end on samedi)

A pair of storylines to wow your friends over a Timmy’s double double:

A brief, sort of, periodic breakdown in judgment
Buffalo’s first goal was on a disgusting handoff from Volchenkov that was so simple that I’m sure Vanek was surprised to get it. Buffalo’s second goal was Afinogenov having an open one-timer because Comrie and Neil didn’t get back in time to backcheck. Buffalo’s third goal came while we killed off a very lazy hooking penalty from our highest-paid player. I truly believe that a lot (not all) of the Senators have bought into the blue collar mentality that Muckler had last summer and Murray has preached all year, but we abandoned that attitude too often tonight against a team that is best known for skating hard and fast. Letting up against the Sabres leads to goals against – three tonight, to be exact. This team needs backchecking from the forwards to win games. Volchenkov can't block every shot.

Whose Line is it Anyway?
Kelly started between Alfredsson and Heatley again. By the third period, everyone was playing with different linemates except the fourth line of Schubert, McAmmond, and Eaves (which was probably our most consistent). Murray has all the pieces a coach could want but so far, it seems like we’ve been unable to find the right combination to produce three consistent scoring lines. Spezza’s talent is wasted playing with a guy like Schaefer, who has been lollygagging since he signed his 4-year deal and always had a reputation for not shooting. Comrie needs more icetime than what he gets in a third line role (11:40 tonight). I’d like to see Comrie spend some time with Heatley and Alfredsson and let Spezza play with Vermette and Fisher for a bit. Match their talents. As Muckler said on the radio this afternoon - all the tools are there and there a ton of line combinations and we don't really have the luxury of spending the next 25 games finding what works. We're two losses out of being outside the playoff cutoff. Speaking of lines, don’t ask me what to do with Peter Schaefer because my suggestion would probably anger the NHLPA in some way. It would involve violence and BBQ ribs and a stern talking-to. “…but now you’ve got your damn unions.” Name the movie. In all seriousnes, I'm not a fan of Schaefer this season. Why are all of our long-term deals from the summer blowing up in our face?

Beavertail droppings:
1. Neil was one of our best players and he didn’t even get 8 minutes of icetime. I agree that the slow backchecking on the Afinogenov goal left a lot to be desired, but Neil is our energy player and when we should be outskating the tired team in the third period, it is a textbook Chris Neil shift that could turn it up a bit.
2. Mike Comrie needs to buy into the program and backcheck and skate hard. I like the guy a lot and I think he knows his role on this team, but we don’t want him to be the rich man’s Tyler Arnason. Get him in shape and get him working his ass off like Heatley does.
3. Mike Fisher has yet to return to his form that he showed right before the injury.
4. 33 Buffalo giveaways and we only had one even strength goal. Boooo.
5. Buffalo is either the worst team at balancing on skates or they’re divers. Since they are all NHL-caliber players, I guess that means they are all turning into little Derek Roys. I hate them all.
6. Spezza goes 20-10 in the faceoff circle; mindblowing.
7. The latest trade rumours have Ottawa looking at any of the following: Gary Roberts, Martin Gelinas, Chris Simon, Brent Sopel, Aaron Miller, Geoff Sanderson. No game breakers, but that isn’t what the team needs. Just a nice 7th defenceman and a forward with some playoff success. I’m in the majority that would love to see Roberts in Ottawa.