Saturday, December 19, 2009

Duff spends extra day in Newark, Sens still lose.

I've spent the past two weeks outside of Newark on business and made the executive decision to stay an extra night to catch our heroes take on the Devils Friday night at the Rock. Obviously, I'll never pass on getting a chance to see the Sens play, right? But a win wasn't in the cards here.

If the Buffalo game was an example of how to play without Spezza, this game was one where we saw just how much we need him. 0 for 6 on the powerplay, including a 1:22 two-man advantage, was the difference. Forget the heartbreaker Salo-esque goal that Elliott let in to put us down a pair, it was the lack of a leader on the powerplay that I noticed the most.

Some will argue (effectively) that Alfie runs the powerplay, or Kuba, or Kovalev. I will say that they are critical elements in the equation, but it is Spezza's vision from the circle that starts the cycle and creates chances. Without him we're passing back point to point without the major threat of feeding it down low. 5 on 3 situations should be a goal 100% of the time and it is alarming that we've struggled so badly with it. I know we were playing a semi-decent goalie, aka the best in the world, but to not score in that much time is just plain dumb.

I'm still not sold on Karlsson, either. He sat idly by why Pandolfo scored what turned into the game winner and there is nothing he can do about it. He's small. He can handle the physical stuff decently, as evidenced by his battles with Langenbrunner, but I'm not completely sure why he's here ahead of Lee (I know he's hurt, but Murray chose EK before Lee's injury). I don't think he has earned a free pass and feel that from time to time, we are praising him for just not playing poorly. He needs to start helping this team!

Not much else to report on the game. It was entertaining and I thought we slightly outplayed and outchanced them. As was the case v Buffalo, we've gotta bury our chances! I know we've played two straight Olympic starting goalies, but our scoring chances are strong enough that these pucks need to find twine. Have we not seen what happens when we leave the result to goaltending? Time to finish, fellas.

Back at it tonight v the Wild and their new equipment. What a weird story!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sens Win! Pynch eats his words...and who's carrying the torch?

Did the Sens review the last ASB post in preparation for tonight's match against the Slugs? In my own personal dream world, I'd like to think so. But in reality, I'll eat my words and give credit where credit's due. If you scroll down, you'll read that I thought Ottawa's lack of offense was due to a lack of confidence in their goaltending. Well, as you saw tonight, Ottawa had their offensive swagger while the BE Keeper made big saves when needed. My own words taste delicious in a divisional win.

Anyways, a few quick thoughts...

- Elliot has 2 shutouts in 4 games. Nice! But don't expect him to keep his starting job once Leclaire is healthy. Snoopy is the better goaltender and constantly gives the forwards that confidence they need (I stand by it). Still, kudos to Elliot for a solid performance.

- Clouston looked once again like the saviour tonight. The typically high scoring and division leading Slugs had few shots and few chances against a system they couldn't solve. Not to knock Spez and Foligno, cause I'm big fans of both, but the Sens made it hard to miss them tonight. Great played, and coached, game all around.

- Breaking it down, our defence was rock solid tonight. Few mistakes and solid execution made Buffalo look like a non-threatening team all night.

- My only issue with tonight's game was scoring. Not offence, but scoring. Offensively, we might have had more chances than any game this season. And not only were the numbers high, but the quality of the chances were huge. The fact that our two goals weren't on their best chances is a little off setting. But, in a night like this, I'll move on and be pleased with the chances we had, those of which I was complaining about not getting 48 hours ago. Plus, I can't overlook that Miller is easily the best goaltender in the NHL this year. I've seen the numbers, but after watching tonight, I'm convinced.

- Take two: our forwards played very effectively tonight. I don't think there was a standout and aside from Ruutu's PIMs, I don't think there is anyone in the bad books. I'm interested to see who our friends at Silver Seven call Sens Zeroes in tonight's game.

- Campoli! A shoutout is deserved (in my humble opinion) to Camps who hasn't played forward since he was 5 or 6, according to him. I tried to watch him with each shift and he didn't seem out of place. Plus, he was able to chip in on the point on the PP. More than that, I also thought he brought a lot of energy to the 4th line. Good job that will hopefully continue as Foligno's out "indefinitely".

- To that point, Winchester and Regin stepped up big tonight in roles where they needed to. The top line is obviously less threatening without Spez, but Winnie played well and looked as if he might gel effectively in the games to come.

In a game where Clouston didn't name names, but said everyone needed to 'be better', we were better. We looked like a team united playing an effective system. Good. Now that we have that solved, let's practice putting the puck in the back of the net. Ok, ok, a bit unfair, but if we play like we did tonight and convert on those chances? I'm very happy.


Untraditionally, I'd like to quickly comment on an unrelated (slash, it's loosely related) topic in the sports world. On Saturday, Brian Burke will carry the Olympic Torch through Toronto. So, Burke is the Leafs GM. Fine. But he's also the GM of the American Olympic hockey team. Does that seem weird to anyone else but me? Aren't the Olympics in Canada? Aren't Canadians (both athletes and non-athletes) supposed to be honoured as torchbearers ? I'm confused. Please help!

While we'd prefer to read your comments on tonight's Sens game, and please let us hear them, we'd also appreciate any ideas as to the aforementioned torchbearer selection. It's just plain bizarre to me.

And, and, and, and GO!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is Leclaire the Key to our Offense?

Who wants to talk about the loss to the Leafs? I don't. Spezza was awful (yep, awful), Picard's a defensive liability and I hate Phil Kessel. But then again, I don't want to talk about the game, so I'll stop.

Wait. I have to talk about it to introduce my point, but only from a macro level.

Watching the game, I was continuously frustrated about our lack of offence. Listening to the Leafs feed, don't let Joe Bowen fool you that the Leafs defence is good. Leafs fans will say they are, but I'm not buying what they're schlepping. Instead, I believe our offence is bad...lately. Despite our offensive talent, we haven't seemed to have offensive excitement in recent games. A few good chances a game but not the flash that I think we are capable of - especially from our top two lines.

But why oh why do we seem to be clutching our sticks tight? It's easy to blame Clouston. Maybe he needs to work on the PP or try another coloured shirt than purple or orange, or is it violet and rust? Does he have a closet of those shirts? I digress. You could blame our D men for not being super good, but that's too easy and ruins my point. But I believe there is a strong link between our offence and our goaltending.

A few posts ago, I compared Elliot to having effective stats. And at the time, I wasn't wrong. And before the BE Keeper lovers set the stingers on me, I'm not here to rag on Elliot. But I am using stats that aren't in his favour. I must point out now that there are flaws in my argument. My stats are not in depth but are from a bird's eye view. This isn't golden but I'm not grasping at straws either. This is valid. Bare with me.

Before Snoopy was injured (and including the game that he was freaksihly injured), Ottawa was 12-9*, with 66 goals in 21 games.

After Snoopy was injured (not including the game that he was freakishly injured), Ottawa is 4-7*, with 26 goals in 11 games.

*Stats don't include OT wins

So what?

Goals per game with Snoopy = 3.14
Goals per game sans Snoopy = 2.36

I'm no mathmagician, but in the world of averages, this is crucial. With Leclaire healthy (I realize he wasn't always in net) Ottawa was averaging nearly a goal a game more than they are with Elliot at the reigns. Since his injury, we've only scored 4 goals in 2 games (and that's our goal maximum) twice - and that was against the lowly Hurricanes and Ducks.

With Leclaire healthy, we all saw a team that was willing to take offensive risks, rushes and chances but could rely on a guy who could make big stops and win games. We saw a more confident team with some flair and swagger. A winning team! Now, with every game Elliot plays, we appear to be less and less of a threat on the scoreboard. To me, this is a team that is well aware that a 2nd stringer is in net and are playing like it. A team that is gripping their sticks too tight and playing without a safety net. And yes, a losing team.

I like Elliot, I do, but as a back up. I just hope this is Leclaire's only injury of the season. If not, our boys need to play a little more desparate and let our keeper do his best to do his job. Hopefully when Snoopy returns, our team get exhale a little and focus on scoring more than the chance of getting scored against.

3.14 to 2.36. Ouch. We need more offence if we're going to stay in the playoff hunt. Confidence in goaltending = confidence in scoring. Am I wrong? Let's hear you. Or am I right? Then I really want to hear you!

Aaaaaaaaaand go!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big Week for Sens

Sorry for the lack of blogs from me lately (and thanks to Pynch for carrying the load).

This is a huge week for the Sens, not because the playoffs are close or because we're trying to snap a losing streak. It is huge because there are two key divisional games followed by a game in Newark that I'll be attending.

First, we have the Leafs on Monday. For the past five years, this hasn't been much of a contest. Either they are out of playoff contention or we're both out of playoff contention. It is no secret that the Battle of Ontario has become important only to people in...well, Ontario. That being said, I still get excited for these games because I see it as a game that we should just never lose. Toronto, while playing stronger over the past few weeks, should be our doormat. It is a team with one strong forward and so long as we stick our shutdown pair on Kessel, there shouldn't be an issue. Toronto will have line change advantage, but it shouldn't be a major problem for Clouston to get them on the ice, though we'll probably take a too many men minor for good measure. It would be nice to put this one away and get the week off to a nice start.

Buffalo games are always fun, too, as we have one on Wednesday. Buffalo is the division leader and boasts a top flight goalie in Ryan Miller, who should be in nets for the Slugs. I saw the Sabres beat the Rags at MSG on Saturday night (great rink, by the way) and they are skating well. Defensively, they keep you to the outside but they aren't as fast on the blueline and guys like Michalek and Fisher should be able to work their way back in to the front of the net. Beating the Slugs would give us a nice winning streak (assuming we handle the Laffs) and be a good barometer for this point in the season.

Friday night, I'll be risking my safety and health and going to the game in downtown Newark. I've been in NJ for a week and will be here this week for work, so I'm pumped about being able to sneak in a Sens game. The Devils have played us close (they play everyone close) and nothing is a guarantee against the greatest goalie in the world. It should be another interesting test for the squad before coming home to host the Wild on Saturday. 4 games in 6 nights is always a tough test but it doesn't make the wins any less important.

Remember, to be on pace for the magical 94pts in April, I said we'd need to have at least 50 points by the end of 2009. We have 36pts now and 10 more games this month. 7-3 is my math and it is no walk in the park. Winning at least three of the four this week would be a nice touch, eh?

Have a great week!