Nice game today and another nice road win. What has been most impressive about this 6-game winning streak is that we're beating tough teams on the road. In the first half of the season, we weren't good against tough teams and we weren't good on the road! And now look - we're sitting in 5th place with a six point edge on the playoff race. In a related story, the Sens haven't lost a game since I predicted that we'd miss the playoffs! You're welcome, everyone.
Erik Karlsson continues to impress me. I'm no pro scout and can't say for sure how good he'll be. I think his size will always hold him back from being a true number one, but he can definitely turn into a great number two guy like Brian Rafalski. In fact, I think when we talk about small offensive defencemen, Rafalski is a pretty great role model. Karlsson's best asset right now is his skating. Sure, he is handling the puck better and is being smart in the offensive zone, but he has learned how to move around in his own end and it has made a world of difference. He looks poised out there and isn't a liability. Case in point - he was out there in the last minute with Phillips to hold the one goal lead. Great stuff.
It was great to see Jason Spezza back out there today and he held up his end of the deal by potting the winner. All three of our star forwards have scored a goal in their first game back. For all of us, the Sens don't seem like the same team when Alfie is out of the lineup. While I'm part of that group, I also feel the same way without the Spezz Dispenser. I don't know why, I just love the way he skates, his vision, and his puckhandling. It is a comforting feeling to see him out there again and gives us added hope in the playoff race.
Finally, it is pretty neat to see how annoying we are to play against. Not just in the neutral zone, where we stick check the hell out of our opponents, but in our own zone where we collapse on the puck like something we've never seen. And of course the forecheck is brilliant. The way we play in all three zones add up to one thing - we are damn annoying to play. In games like this afternoon, and over the course of this winning streak, we play up tempo for 60 minutes and don't step off the gas. If you want to take the puck from us, you'd better be prepared to work your ass off to get it from us. When you do have the puck, we're going to pick your pocket or paste you into the glass. If our opponents aren't up to the task, it just adds up to another W for the good guys.
I really hope this keeps up into February and the Olympic break. We have 3 games left this month and 7 games in February. Some opponents are tough (PIT, WAS, etc) and we mix in some more travel. Sitting at 60 points now, I said we need to be at 70 points by the Olympics to be on pace for 94 and the 'line'. If we play .500 hockey from now until the break, we're back on track and I'm on pace to eat my words. To be honest, nothing would make me happier than to sit here on April 10th and say that I was once again wrong and that we're gonna give a run in the postseason.
Great to have you back, Spetz! Let's keep it up, boys.