Random thoughts during a three-day break without games.
1. A reader said that this is the most negative blog on the Sens out there. It hit home. When I've been writing some of these blogs, it has occurred to me that we're taking shots at guys when the team is winning. Truth be told, I just think it is hard to write the same stuff over and over about how Elliott is playing well, Karlsson is neat, Clouston rolls the lines, etc. We'll give guys their due and never shy away from praise, but that doesn't mean we can't point out that Jonathan Cheechoo is a truly awful player for us this year.
2. On a happy, positive note, I've really been satisfied with Filip Kuba's play lately. It doesn't get much airtime because people are so impressed with Karlsson (with reason). I have found that Kuba's last three games have been his three best. In the defensive zone, he is far more assertive in front of the net and he is really getting into the lanes a lot better. An active stick from a talented defenceman is a beautiful thing and Kuba has shown why we re-signed him. I know he hasn't been amazing start to finish this year, but he's really shown signs of improvement, likely related to the hand/wrist injury finally healing. I remember when we re-signed him at the deadline and it was met with a collective feeling of indifference. When you think about it, getting him back at his salary was probably still a better option than trying to overspend in the summer on UFAs like Komisarek. Kuba was our best option given the circumstance and I'm happy that he's playing up to it now.
3. Does this season have shades of the Cup run year in which we were mediocre/bad for a long time, then ended up battling with Pittsburgh for the 4/5 spot and being unable to catch the runaway Slugs for the division lead? Obviously, we're not the same team as that year and I'm not trying to compare rosters, but I'm just pointing out that in the magical season, it was mid-January when we started taking off and winning games with regularity...
4. Snoopy is back. Like most fans, I would really, REALLY, like to see him string together a few good starts, whenever he may get them. Naturally, Elliott will get the starts and Snoopy will get in as needed. Given his injury history, which is evident this year, combined with his inconsistent play lately, it would make us feel much better if he started rising to the occasion like his other colleagues have done between the pipes. In the meantime, I have no problem riding the hot hand of Elliott, even if Erin Nicks is waiting for his inevitable collapse (now THAT is a negative blog...)
5. I listened to some soundbytes from Phaneuf and Ron Wilson today at the Leafs practice. Pardon my bias, but this just doesn't look like it is going to work out well. The way that Coach Wilson spoke about his new dman, it was as if he was trying to immediately put some positive reinforcements in the big guy's head. "Ahhh, the Western Conference is so relieved that he's gone now.....ahhh, the New Jersey Devils are probably reminding each other to keep their head up or else they'll get pasted....ahhhhh, I wish I could adopt him as my son because he's incredible." Listen here - I think Phaneuf is a solid player with great potential. I think there is clearly something wrong with him that would entice Sutter to basically trade him away as a salary dump, considering his new players are not likely to last through the summer. There is definitely more to this than meet's the eye. I acknowledge that the guy has incredible potential and if he mirrors Pronger at all, then the rest of us are in trouble. But it is a bit weird that nobody on the Flames side is upset at the trade. Even when we traded Heatley away, we at least recognized that we'd just lost the greatest scorer in team history. Nobody in Cowtown shed a tear for this. In fact, the only tears on Sunday were from Phaneuf himself.
I'm also curious to see how he handles the speed of the Northeast Division. I know that Edmonton has some fast guys and the Sedin aliens are quick, but us, Montreal, and Buffalo are all built around team speed. I know that if you get on the trolley tracks, Phaneuf can kill. But if we keep to the outside, then I think the only hits that Phaneuf will see will be in the back rooms of the Brass Rail. Booyah!
In all sincerity, I hope that the Leafs and their truculence can reignite the rivalry a bit, even if they are in a battle for last place from here on out. If their defence plays to its potential and Monster stands tall, then we can have some great games against our old foes. I don't know who'll score for them, but that's not our problem. Speaking of scoring, does Burkie really think he's going to Kovalchuk this summer? Didn't that not work out with the Sedins? It says here that Kovalchuk gets his payday in Atlanta as Waddell cannot risk trading away his star. Hossa and Heatley were never the guy in Atlanta, but Kovalchuk is the captain and the face. If it costs $10M, Waddell will pay it. Sorry, Toronto.
Great games coming up - Buffalo on Wednesday, Vancouver on Thursday, and the Stajan-less Leafs on Saturday. If that's not enough fun, we have the Phaneuf-less Flames next Tuesday, followed by the Wings, Caps, and Isles before the break. Wouldn't it be great to win 5 of 7? That would give us 76 points, ahead of my barometer of having 70 points at the Break. For those that hadn't read, I said we need to have 70 points by the Olympics to be on pace for 94pts and the playoffs.