Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

1. We're on twitter. I still don't know what the feck twitter is, but we're on it. Follow us, please, so that we feel someone is taking the 15 seconds to read our hockey thoughts. Or visit it here.

2. Kovalev is not playing in Buffalo tomorrow night due to injury. Does this mean that he was playing hurt since the Olympics or will we at least use that as an excuse for his lackadaisical play since the Break? Is it bad that I'm almost excited he's out because it means Chummy will draw back in and actually skate hard and try to score? Listen here, I've made no secret all season long that I was unhappy with the Kovalev signing. Sure, he's shown flashes of skill and has really driven our team's success at times, but I just don't think $5M is fair for a guy that has played as shitty as he has been in the past month. People will be quick to point out that we should have known this when we signed him - my response is that you're right and that's why I'm still pissed that we signed him!

3. I can't tell if I'm worried or relieved that Elliott has taken the reins of our goaltending graveyard. On one hand, it is nice to know that it is no longer a topic of fodder at the water cooler. On the other hand, can you really see Elliott winning a playoff series? Winning two? I hope he has shades of Emery from three years ago - just make the basic saves and give your team a chance to win.

4. The Michalek injury is going to be a huge, huge blow to this team. I know we've won two straight, but we accomplished both with just two goals for the good guys. Michalek is our leading goal scorer and if this injury lasts into the playoffs and God forbid requires surgery, we're in some trouble.

5. On Volchenkov. If you haven't listened to the podcast that the folks at 6th Sens had with A-Traing's agent, Jay Grossman, go check it out. One thing stood out to me as I see Eklund asking fans what they'd pay him. Grossman said that Anton wants to play for a contender not just because he wants to win, but because he doesn't want to spend the prime years of his career blocking shots for a losing team. He's smart enough to know that he'll really have 5 good years left before injuries catch up. Blocking shots is hard work and it is discouraging to do it for a team that can't truly use his services in their quest for the Cup. I guess that means we really need to show him that we're a serious playoff team. And if he doesn't want our money or our team, it would seem like he'd limit his suitors to contenders, unlike some other guys that just follow the money.

6. If A-Train does leave and we can't afford Sutton (please tell me he won't be looking for $3M anymore, or else he's gone), we're going to have a thin defence. I can't imagine that Cowen or Wiercioch will be ready for the big team in the Fall and Lee is still a work in progress. Like we've said before, the East is so bad this year that you can't fault Murray for going for it all right now. We'll fault him later if the plan doesn't work, but that's why he's in the hot seat and we're at home.

7. It pains me to see that there are still tickets left for the April 10th home game versus the Slugs. Why? Because fans should know about the tribute the organization is planning for Daniel Alfredsson for his 1000th game. C'mon people.

8. On headshots - I'm fine with a rule that punishes goons for stupid hits like Cooke's hit on Savard. I'm not fine with every single effing bodycheck being debated at length for what part of the hitter was used to hit what part of the hittee. There are so many bodychecks in a game with varying degrees of impact. There is such a thing as a good hockey hit that leaves the player very badly hurt. Based on the coverage this topic has received in the past few weeks, I'm a tad worried that pundits are going to start saying hard hits are actually dirty hits because the player fell over or lost his helmet. In a relates story, I love the way Andy Sutton has played in the past two games.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What Panic Button?

For some reason, I just haven't really seemed to want to find the panic button during this insanely bad slide for the Sens. Maybe I'm reaching the level that Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown had found where we're out of towels and I'm too old to go diving into lockers. Perhaps it is just because we have seen our team collapse in so many different fashions that nothing is new to me anymore.

Make no mistake - I'm still 100% supportive of this team and still think that we'll find our way into the postseason when all is said and done. I have said since last summer that this team isn't good enough to fight for the division, but we aren't bad enough to finish below the many mediocre teams that make up the Eastern Conference. Just as I've been saying all year, we will clinch our postseason spot in the final week of the season.

What troubles me most is just the roller coaster season these boys have put together. I am very aware of the highs and lows of an 82-game season, but we're having such peaks and valleys that it really doesn't feel right. How did a team go from a brutal five-game losing streak straight into an incredible 11-game winning streak? How does the same team that won 11 games in a row go on a stretch where they win one of nine post-Olympics?

I'm not here to point fingers at coaching, goaltending, defence, scoring, special teams, etc. Truth be told, all of the facets of our game have struggled at some point during this rough patch. What I would like to see from this team in its final ten games is a little bit of fight and a little bit of pride.

I attended the game in Atlanta last Thursday and it was truly embarrassing. We tied the game on a bit of a fluke goal where the ref missed Ruutu giving Hedberg a clear elbow to the head and before the Thrashers could compose themselves, we had potted a quick pair and tied it up. But that was all the excitement we could do. I have been to many Sens games and watched hundreds more on the tube and I haven't seen such a dejected, self-pitying bunch as I did on Thursday night. The Sutton penalty was a horseshit call, but bad calls happen every game.

After the Antropov powerplay goal, the team should have found its focus and been a bit fired up, but instead we had Phillips make one of his worst giveaways onto the stick of Armstrong and the game was over. As soon as that shot made it past Elliott, I watched how the players on the ice and on the bench would react and what I saw was really discouraging. To a man, they all just hung their heads in shame and disbelief. It was not the appearance of a team fighting for its playoff lives; it was the appearance of a team that just wanted to get out of town with another loss. At what point, though, does somebody slap this group upside the head and get them working together again? On every shift, you could even see one player skating his ass off while his linemate floated through the neutral zone without a care in the world. I hear Clouston say that they are all working hard, but I just don't see all the players working hard. That's what bugged me the most.

Listen, Sens fans, they are who we thought they were (thanks, Dennis). For those that thought the 11-game streak was par and we were legitimate divisional contenders needn't look past the goaltending position to see why Buffalo is at the top and we're not. This is a scrappy group of some NHL players and some AHL players (I'm talking to you, Ryan Shannon), a makeshift defence that is showing signs of fatigue, and another failed gamble in nets. It was a crapshoot to make the playoffs from last summer and it still stands that way today. If nothing else, it will make for an exciting April. It's still too early to talk about Clouston and Murray and it is still too ridiculous to think that Mike Brodeur or Jonathan Cheechoo is the missing link. These clowns need to sort this out themselves and that's why they all get paid the big bucks, including the coach.

The call from the Euge isn't a pep talk, as they portray it in the press. It is a wakeup call that the boss doesn't like being proven a buffoon year after year when he goes on the Fan 590 singing our praises. Murray has built a team that he likes, he has the coach in place, and it is up to this group to live up to the word of the big guy in Barbados. And for crying out loud, can somebody stop a freaking puck?

Go finish hard and get that first win out of the way, boys! And because nothing cheers us up like thinking of happier times, here is yet another youtube clip from the Olympics. This one is cool because it has all the international broadcasts of the goal. I was amazed at how excited all of the other countries loved the goal. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, cheer up, and let's go get some wins. "IGGY!"