What a holiday treat for those at the SBP last night. The game was full of controversy and excitement, and best of all 2 big NE division points for the hometown Sens. Here are a few quick thoughts, before catching a train to Centre of the Universe...
Pascal "The Grinch" Leclaire
Sure it wasn't actually Christmas, but Pascal might have a new nickname after stealing a win from the Habs this Christmas season. Alternatively, Ottawa was full of holiday spirit and in the giving mood by offering Montreal continuous scoring chances in the first. However, the Grinch played his best period in barberpole pads to escape the frame only down a goal. In my opinion, the score should, well could, have been 5-1 at the end of one, and certainly out of reach. Leclaire was fittingly acknowledged as the first star of the game and definitely #1 in our hearts.
Next up - will Leclaire's new "Grinch" nickname stick? Ummm, no, it won't.
Senior Referees make Junior Calls
I won't dwell on the called back Fisher goal at the end of the second, though I certainly would if we had lost the game. Well, maybe I'll dwell for just a sec...or two...
1. Maybe it's a rule that you can't be too deep in to the crease, that's what they're saying so I guess I'll believe it. But if you're going to enforce it, you gotta be consistent. I've never seen that call before so how does a guy like Neil know what the typical boundaries are? It's not like he was sitting on Halak! And how will this affect our traffic in front of the net from here on in? I'll be interested to see if that call becomes more common throughout the NHL for the balance of the season.
2. If you're going to start making that call, don't make it in a 2-2 game between divisional rivals who are 1 point apart. Give me a break! Halak wasn't stopping that shot if Neil was behind the net. If you're going to introduce a call, make it at a meaningless blow out game.
Oh, one more....
3. If you watch the reply, Neil was parked at the top of the crease. When moving out of the way of the shot, his right leg moved back and his skate landed well into the crease (though still not making contact with the goalie). While the goal had already been scored, this is why I believe the call was made. If Neil's leg had stayed in it's original position, that goal stands. Pretty chincy...
Anyways, like I said, I won't dwell on it. But imagine if we had lost?
On the flip side, the refs partially made it up to us by not giving MTL a powerplay chance all night. While Ottawa played disciplined, I believe we got away with a Delay of Game penalty after clearing a puck up and over the boards. Some think it was deflected before going out, I don't.
Even the linesmen got into the action by calling Ottawa offside in the first as a 2 on 1 rush was developing between Kels and Cheechoo (I think). Looking at the replay, we were onside. That halted the rush and Montreal scored their first on the next shift.
Bizarre officiating on both sides. Hey, at least it was kind of even.
Kelly wears an 'A'
I'm not sure if this has been the case since Alfie got injured, but Kels sported an 'A' last night along side usual Alternates Fisher and Phillips. Interesting choice, don't ya think? I know Kels was captain in Bingo and has leadership qualities, but he's a struggling 3rd liner. My dad, who I got a chance to watch the game with, thinks Clouston is trying to bring the best out of Kelly - and I think he's right. Interesting decision nonetheless. Thoughts?
Side note - Ottawa has not given the 'C' to anyone in Alfie's absence and I like it. Alfie's our leader and that's why we have Alternates. Duffy disagrees, which may spark a war of words to come. While I like this, I still find it absurd that Toronto and Montreal are still without captains nearly half way through the campaign. Brutal, guys.
Kovalev's Quiet Production
At the beginning of the season, we all fell in love with Milan Michalek while our excitement for Alex Kovalev declined rapidly. Taking a quick peek at the stats, I was surprised to find the following:
Michalek: 39 games, 22 points, -5
Kovalev: 36 games, 21 points, +2
Now I know Michalek's been struggling with the loss of his two linemates while Kovy's had the benefit of playing game in-game out with Fisher, but I was still surprised to see his production has picked up so much (albeit, not in the goals category). 10 points in December may not warrant $5MM, but it's certainly encouraging to see l'Enigma pick up his production as of late. Next, we need both Michalek and Kovy to actually find the twine as it seems neither have scored since Halloween.
Let's just make sure nobody pinches Mike Fisher.
Ottawa's in for two tough games to round out 2009 vs. Colorado and the Islanders. 2009 has been a year of continuous improvement for Ottawa - from the losing days of Harsburg to a winning record under Clouston. Let's just hope 2010 is a great calendar year for the Sens, especially starting with 15 games in 29 days in January. Yikes!
That's it for me. Any more thoughts on last night's big win? Let us hear you, I've got some time this week... Gotta love the holidays!