Sunday, March 14, 2010

Where do we go from here?

The good news is that there are two healthy NHL-calibre players waiting in Ottawa for Tuesday's game. The bad news is we really, really need to win Tuesday night's game.

One of our fun things to do as fans is to dream up the forward lines. I've never done it much for the main reason that Clouston changes them up so damn much, but I think it is simple going forward. The top line needs to stay together - they are the gamebreakers, as evidenced by the insance coast to coast job that Spezza put on last night. Michalek is like a junior Heatley in that he seems to only produce on passes from Spezz Dispenser. Alfie, he's just our best player so we might as well leave him at the top.

In my opinion, Kovalev doesn't deserve great linemates just yet. He had chemistry earlier with Regin and Shannon but the trio has struggled post-Break. Let them work through this and find their game again. The other reason to leave it alone is because a line of Cullen/Fisher/Foligno would be a thing of beauty. Hard workers, fast skaters, and an ability to score. Foligno isn't a great backchecker, but the other two can pick him up. These are three guys that will go to the corners and into the blue paint and get us those dirty goals while giving the top billing some rest.

That leaves the fourth line for Kelly with Ruutu and Neil. As Nik pointed out, Cullen is restricted by being with any of those guys. This would make up a terrific fourth line because they'll hit, they'll work hard, and they'll backcheck (Kelly and Ruutu, at a minimum). I'm comfortable with these guys on the ice late in the game if we get stuck icing it or pinned in our zone. Chummy is first out of the press box, before Winchester.

As decent as Sutton has been since his acquisition (not perfect, but decent), one of the benefits is that with Campoli still out indefinitely, we can still bump Lee out to the press box. I have stuck up for Lee since he stepped on our ice, but he's neither an offensive dman or a defensive one and so he's kinda just a body out there that is prone to mistakes and penalty calls (although I didn't think his penalty last night was that bad).

But what about actually winning games? Listen, better we lose these shit-shows in March as opposed to April. I don't want to back into the playoffs, but we have a baker's dozen of games to figure this out and need to play around .500 hockey. Sort out the lines, untangle the disgusting powerplay, and grind out some tough wins this week.

And goaltending - forget salaries, just play the guy that is going to give you the best chance to win. Even though I thought Snoopy made some amazing saves last night, it is still Elliott that is ending up with the wins. Goaltending will keep us from becoming a contender, but all we ask of these guys is to give the skaters a chance to win and Elliott is doing that right now.

To cheer you up, eight of the final 13 games are against non-playoff teams.