Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'll take Amusement Parks for $600, Alex

Answer - Six Flags, Wonderland, Scotiabank Place.
Question - What are places to find roller coasters?

The Sens home opener of the 2009-2010 season was defintely a roller coaster ride. It went up, it crashed down. Provided butterflies of suspense, screams or rushes and the ultimate climactic thrill. I feel a little queezy but happy I was along for the ride.

Now that we've survived the rush and are back on solid ground, let's talk about the ride.

Cheezy analogy? A little over the top? Sure. But can you disagree? Tons of ups and downs, a strong lead, a blown lead, some chances, some scrambles and an OT winner. A great game for a first timer at a home opener.

But not ideal for us. Let's make like a 90s song and break it down.

I want to start with Ottawa's second line. I have high aspirations for Foligno and high hopes for Fisher and Kovalev. Throughout the game, I had a knot in my stomach when these guys were on the ice. Kovalev - who I thought showed brilliance on Tuesday - gave us a classic Enigma game tonight. It's as if there was no sense of urgency and felt he could turn the switch off while we cruised to a 2-0 lead. As a result, his crash and bang linemates were left behind in an awkward situation. Maybe Fisher was trying to do too much as a result, but I found him turning over the puck and making bad decisions all too often. You might be ready to knock me out right now for calling out Fisher, but don't worry, I'll get back to him later. In any case, this line (and by that I mean our second, whatever that turns out to be) is crucial to our success. (Note: I'm not commenting on Kovy's missed chance in the 3rd. In fact, that wasn't a missed chance but a brilliant save.)

What I really like about this team is the balanced attack, but without a productive second line, we'll be left with no nails and on the end of one goal losses all season. An unproductive second will burn us. Let's hope we find a productive one.

Other red flags on the night, aside from those in the stands (hiyoo!) - another 2 goals in 60 mins and, more importantly, a blown 2 goal lead. Sure, we scored 3 tonight but the offence has to get going within the first 60 mins (see 2nd line comment above) if we want to make the playoffs. It's early, I'm not worried, but I'm just saying. That last sentence also applies to this... the blown two goal lead. Way too many defensive breakdowns tonight. Kuba was out and we spent time on the PK, but we shouldn't be giving leads to the Isles. Again, I realize it's early and I trust Clouston will tighten up moving forward, but it's a flag.

And then there's out favourite rookie, the teen dream, Erik Karlsson. I'm not knocking the kid just yet, I have a lot of high hopes for him, and I've never played a home opener in the NHL - but the kid needs to settle down. God love him he tries his best. The irony? Sometimes it seems his strong efforts are his downfall, trying to do to much leading to mistakes. I'm not calling him out here, and I suspect he's quickly learning game by game, but hopefully he settles down in games 4-10 to ensure his spot for the season.

Had enough lows? Let's hit the highs!

How about that 3rd line? Chris Neil was my guy tonight! He made me happy we resigned him. I hate to mimick Brown and Galley's comments, but for me, Neil was super effective tonight. Making hits and creating chances. And it wasn't a solo effort! While he didn't score, Cheechoo was effective tonight as well. He got an assist on Carks' goal and helped create Regin's by keeping the D busy while Regin was left all alone for an easy tap in.

The Cargo Express, the Furious Freighters - ATrain and Big Rig. After a slow season, these two appear to be back to their old ways of shutting down the opposition. Philly's playing the pure veteran leadership role while Volchenkov's hitting everyone. Who feels bad for rookies crossing ATrain's tracks? Not this guy. And sure Okposo scored against Anton, but that goal would've left Pronger and Chara looking for their jocks.

Carks! Who doesn't love the hometown boy (I took my G2 test in Winchester, it's close enough). AHL lifer, makes the team on hard work and (dare I say) truculance, and scores his first NHL goal in the home opener? Simply awesome. More importantly, our made-it-as-the-7th-defenceman has played solid for three games straight with no major gaffes. While this guy has a long season ahead, he's quickly becoming a fan fave. And a love it. Kudos to our fans for a standing O after Carks' first ever. Good on ya.

Snoopy. He didn't steal this one, but kept us in it. A few big saves at crucial moments and a couple goals against that would've beat anyone. How about that pad on Tavares. Anyone miss Vermette? I know I said our second line production is crucial, but Pascale is the master key to success.

And, the climax? Fisher's shot. I told you I'd get back to Fisher. But in this case, it's his shot more than anything. What a blast. Let's hope this gives him a boost to kick his game into high gear and lead that second line.

So, in summary, we won. Phew. There were a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and I didn't even get to our first line (Alfie, Spez and the Watermelon Warrior will be unreal soon, mark my words), Donovan (who's earning his 4th line spot shift by shift)or Campoli (who I'm waiting to see more from). In all honesty, as much as I'm an optimist, I think there were more lows than we like.

We had a big win. A crucial 2 points. We're 2-1. Two squeakers against non-playoff teams, one loss against one playoff team. We're good but are we tough to play against? I'm not sure yet. What do you think? Keep in mind, let's not be victim of Premature Evaluation. On a positive note, let's remember, it's early!

After a long post game report, I'm hungry, tired and a little out of breath. But before I go, I need to express my biggest concern of the night (and it's not the contraversy of the off-the-mesh goal) - we didn't sell out. Ouch.

So you have our thoughts. Now for the fun, over to you. What do you think of Fisher, the Freighters and our near capacity crowd? Picard gave scares at the end of the second, our first line didn't score but Spezza's effectively killing penalties and playing sound D and Kovy's helmet is loose. Let's hear you! Sock it to me!


duff said...

What's up with kovalev's helmet? Was it a home opener ploy to get his hair on tv? Is he trying to steal some women from the Fisher Fan Club? Nah, he doesn't have those dreamy eyes, right Grapes?

Anyway, nice to get a win with no points from the top two lines. For that reason alone, I won't complain about the win. Secondary scoring and goaltending has been our achilles heel since Boots Havlat left us. Nice to have both last night.

So there are two trains of thought - we're a supersound defensive team that holds opponents to 2 or less goals a game and the system works against all teams; or, we got away with two mediocre efforts and will get burned against real NHL teams. To avoid the dianosis of Premature Evaluation, I'll until after we play the Pens next week.I'm hoping we're just a great bachchecking team that collapses well.

And I can't wait for Watermelon Warrior to bury one.

Where the hell were the fans last night? Tavares in town, home opener, and we don't sellout? Shame. This is why we get made fun of.

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