Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Being a Sens Fan

There you have it, in 63 minutes, we all see first hand how our season is likely to go. There were moments of brilliance, like Spezza flying end to end before flipping it back to A-Train for one of three tying goals we had. There were moments of humiliation, like Picard tipping it into his own net or the Kelly turnover behind the net (those are two of many, many turnovers and I'm sorry for picking on those two alone). Reasons to cheer and reasons to scream. Yep, that's what we're in for all year long. We are not a first place team but we are certainly far from a last place team. Much like we did in this game, we're going to have to fight for our lives until the bitter end, though we hope for a slightly better result than we saw tonight.

It is hard to really touch on all the highs and all the lows because there were just so many twists and turns tonight. Let's try and rattle off a few and you guys and girls can all add your own in the comments.

Things we can hang our hats on

1. Even though Jason Spezza had a few dumb passes in this one, he still flew on the ice. That was easily the fastest he has looked all season and he continues to backcheck harder and harder. I couldn't care less if he doesn't score a single goal all year if he plays like he did tonight (he'd also be on pace for 200+ assists...). Again, not excusing the dipsy doodles in the neutral zone, but he hardly looked like a guy with a nagging back problem. See that, Stevie Y?

2. Pascal. Can we honestly say enough about this guy? I have never before had great things to say about a goalie that just let in six goals, but this one easily could have been 10-0 after 40 minutes. Pascal is such a calming influence out there that it allows the defencemen to use their natural instincts to play to their fundamental ability instead of trying to overcompensate for a weak goalie that they don't trust. You can absolutely tell out there that those skaters know what they have in their nets. He's been very sharp and if he keeps this up, he'll be a huge reason for us making the playoffs.

3. Chris Campoli played his best game of his season. This goes beyond his goal on a 5-on-3 because those things should be automatic. He was second only to A-Train in icetime, putting in over 24 minutes and really looked like he had settled down when he was away from Karlsson. That isn't an intentional knock on the kid, and I know it is still early, but it does need to be pointed out that good players have looked bad when playing with Karlsson so far. I still believe he could do for some AHL time because expectations are unrealistically high (he's not a top ten pick, he's tiny, he needs to be in an environment with less consequence where he can get his mojo back). Full disclosure here, I'm a Campoli fan and think he rounds out our top four (I know that isn't a popular belief). Tonight, he proved that he can handle those minutes and that responsiblity.

Things that make you want to pull your hair out

There were a bunch. The first period was utterly disgusting. Top to bottom, the skaters looked like hell. The only notable performance out there was Snoopy, who for 40 minutes managed to keep this ONLY a three-goal deficit.

1. Turnovers. For the love of Pascal, can a brother get a breakout pass? In the first period, our best chance at getting the puck out of the zone was when the freaking linesman was fishing it out of our net for a centre ice faceoff! Unacceptable performance from professional hockey players. Picard, Phillips, Carkner, Karlsson, Campoli, Alfredsson, Fisher, Kovalev, Kovalev again, Kelly, those are guys that I can think of off the top of my head that turned it over in the first period alone in our end. Snoopy kept us in this.

2. Alex Kovalev, L'enigma. Alright, I'm not going to be the type of fan that does the 'I told you so' each time Kovalev and Carkner have bad games because I truly love these guys and want to see them succeed. I just thought Kovalev as awful tonight. Careless with the puck in all three zones. I get it, though, that's what he's going to be like all year. Then why did we give him $5M? I'm sorry, Sens fans, but for that amount of money, you have to be held to a much higher standard than a guy like a Carkner or a Shannon or anybody else making in the thousands. He's our third highest paid player and he played like hell tonight. It is fair as a fan to call him out for it.

3. Sorry to say it, but Alfie was off his game tonight. I know he finished with two assists (both second assists), but the puck wasn't staying on his blade tonight. Love the guy, but again, as a fan we're allowed to point out the highs and lows and this was an off night for the saviour.

4. Alex Picard stunk tonight, and he ruined Matt Carkner's night. He scored the first two himself on Leclaire and turned over the puck for the third. Picard finished a minus-3 while Carkner was a minus-4 and took the overtime penalty that led to the winner. I'm not going to get too down on this pairing because it is just one game, but now you'll excuse me when I don't soil myself if they have one good game, okay? They're regular players, both that have not played a full NHL season. They'll have great nights (and they have so far this year), and they'll have awful nights. Don't be shocked when I don't rush to the Sens Store for a Picard jersey if he has a multi-point night. Remember - I'm a Sens fan, too, and want nothing more than for all these guys to be superstars!

5. Picard and Cheechoo were notably benched late in the game. We expect that guys like Ruutu and Kelly are going to see less ice in a crazy third period when we need goals, but Cheechoo was pulled off the top line after 20 minutes and I don't remember seeing Picard hardly touching the ice in the third period. I do like how Clouston will send a message, though I don't want him to do it based on salary. If Kovalev is playing like shat, sit him down. This isn't the guidance counselor's office and we aren't handing out stickers. If you stink, you sit. Picard should know to get his stick out of the way of that shot and if he thought it was a pass, then he needs to clear it to the corner, not bury it in our own net.

6. One more - the penalties! Phillips missing the window on a clearing attempt right after we've tied it up is brutal. Then taking a too many men penalty is inexcusable! 4 guys out there at one time, folks, this isn't your first rodeo. We miraculously escape by getting a shortie of our own (Phillips comes back and TOTALLY redeems himself), then Carkner does the old 'kneel down behind the guy and flip him over' play. I have no problem with getting aggressive in the offensive zone, but it was a poor decision and we either would have lost on the 2-on-1 that he created for the Preds, or like we did on the ensuing powerplay from him taking the man down. Bad penalties at bad times and we made their powerplay look legit.

For practice - discipline and breakouts.

On a final note, so we can end this sandwich on a high, you've gotta love how they fought back so hard with five goals in the third period. It shouldn't have gotten so out of hand, but they tied it up three separate times in the third and earned a tough point that will go a long way in April when the dust settles. Commendable effort from the boys in the third period, especially that sickening wrister from Foligno. I love that kid! Also, we're now 0-2 without Chum Donovan.


pynch said...

Quick couple of additional comments...

I was out of town today and just finished the game on PVR. There was a lot of fastforwarding so I didn't have to listen to Dean Brown talk about how amazing we are (cause I'm sure he did). Fact is, we didn't deserve that point tonight.

The first period was hard to watch. "Hello puck, nice to see you, but I don't want you." That seemed to be the case for the Sens tonight. Can anyone say puck possession? I think CC will at practice tomorrow. And the defensive zone coverage! Geez, let's not feel bad for the Preds guys. That period was simply awful.

The second got better, but I agree with Duff that we should've been heading into the third down 10-0. I know he let in 6, but Snoopy was a critical reason for the one point tonight.

The third period was great for those families who make it out for one game a year. I feel great for those people. And, of course, I'm pleased that we took advantage of a clearly tired Preds team who flew in from Boston last night. I was sick with the penalties we took to squash some chances, but glad we didn't give up at all.

We got a point that we didn't deserve. Good for us. Again I agree with Duff that Boston is a very, very important game for us. Beating Boston will allow us to beat a truly top tiered team for the first time this year. Sure they are without Savard and Lucic, but they're 2-0 without 'em. Let's get 2 pts this weekend boys.

Final note, I don't think I saw Cheechoo from the 2nd period on. Maybe I was too tired to notice him, but either he got a serious benching or he's hurt. Does anyone know any better?

pynch said...

Commenter's note: I mistakenly said the B's were 2-0 without Savard/Lucic, but still, 3 of 4 isn't bad. We need a win on Saturday.

Also, how the hell did we have two many men on the ice, at that point in a tie game? What the hell was Ruutu doing out there??? Clouston's been good, don't get me wrong, but that was a major coaching gaffe.

Master Of Puppets said...

I was at the game on free tix (got back what I paid in spades). Right on all counts. Kovalev stunk (Pepe le pew is my other nic for him - some nights he'll charm the drawers off the most prudish chick and others he'll stink up the place).

Alfie actually played well - he skated hard and tried to make things happen as he does. I was sitting on the Preds end so I didn't fully see all of the bad plays - Picards were very noticable. I noticed Cheechoo's absence as well, maybe hurt? He wasn't skating overly well either, but does he/will he ever?

Spezza made some bad giveaways - that luckily didn't end up behind Snoopy. But he looked good and made some great plays. Foligno's goal was damn sweet. Bring it more Nick, that was a thing of beauty.

My first game since being back in Ottawa (2 years) and it was worth every cent of what I paid. :)

Glad we stole another point ...

Master Of Puppets said...

Ruutu played a bit of PK with Michalek (2nd unit I think) during the game maybe that was the gaffe, they were trying to juggle the units with faster more offensive guys up front and forgot to tell Ruutu to sit tight. Or the english used was lost on him.

Anshu said...

A few quick points of my own:

I'm also a Campoli fan and would like to see him in the 3-4 pairing with Kuba.

When Kuba is back from injury, I have to think Karlsson is the odd man out, and in the long run its probably better for him.

I'm also thrilled with the way Spezza is playing a much more complete game than I've ever seen him play before. No more floating through the neutral zone, never backchecking, etc, etc. Now he plays hard like he's in it to win it.

I love the fact that the team never gave up, despite the fact that most of their problems were self-inflicted. The mistakes you can correct. Its the heart and determination that's great to see.

Cheechoo had been playing progressively better the last few games IMO, so I'm thinking his benching may have been more injury related than because of his performance in the first period, but I don't know either way.

I'd be ok sitting Shannon to get Donovan back in the lineup.

Anonymous said...

You may want to try and actually listen to Dean and Gary once in a while, Dean is generally considered one of the better play by play guys. They both commented on how Ottawa didn't even deserve the single point.