Wednesday, October 31, 2007
One question that comes to mind: If not for the terrible scheduling from the NHL, would Spezza's injury still have occured? If the team were playing more games Spezza would be in better game-shape, but the fact of the matter is that Spezza has been riddled with minor injuries throughout his career. He's missed games from hip, chest, knee, and now back injuries since 2005.
Most people remember what happened last year when Spezza missed 14 games in January; Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson picked up and moved on, and the Senators turned a corner on the season and started winning games consistently. People were questioning the worth or necessity of keeping Spezza if the team was doing better without him, but he caught on quickly and was a contributing member of the team when he came back.
Spezza is day-to-day and likely won't miss much action, but what will happen on the top line? Randy Robitaille practiced with Heatley and Alfredsson, but it's not for sure he'll be there come game time. As you can see in the game tracker (unless I've changed it), I think Antoine Vermette would look good up there, but his play with Chris Kelly makes it difficult to split those two up. Dean McAmmond, who will play his first game of the season returning from his concussion/shoulder/head injury, would look good on the top line except he's probably not totally ready for it yet.
I guess we'll see who plays there, but Atlanta played well against Montreal on Tuesday so the Sens have to expect a much different Thrasher team than their 4-8 record shows.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
They went 2-1 this past weekend, in large part because Denis Hamel woke up: he's got 6 points in his last two games (3G ,1A versus the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Penguins, 2A versus the Rochester Americans) to give him 9 points in 8 games on the season.
Defensive prospect Brian Lee is tied with Hamel for the team lead in points with 1 goal and 8 assists in eight contests. The Russians aren't far behind, Alexander Nikulin leading the way with 7 points (1G, 6A) and Ilya Zubov close with 6 (2G, 4A).
The B-Sens have two games this weekend, on Friday against the Bridgeport Sounds Tigers (3-4, fourth in the East) and Saturday against the Syracuse Crunch (3-7, sixth in the North).
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The Sens were outshot 18-5 in the first period for another slow start, but Martin Gerber was good enough to stop a few pucks and keep Ottawa in it. Andy Meszaros scored in the second to give the Sens the lead, only to have Brian Gionta tie the game a short while later by banking a shot off Gerber's pad into Anton Volchenkov's feet and then into the net. Then Shean Donovan decided he liked the attention he got after a goal last game, so he scored again. And Big Fish Mike Fisher added a goal to make it 3-1, and the win was capped off with an empty net goal from the man himself, Alfredsson. Then he fell at centre ice, probably because Jon Bon Jovi ruined the ice with his pre-game concerts.
Of course, some honourable mentions go to Chris "the franchise" Kelly, and I want to let Volchenkov know that we don't blame him for knocking the puck into our own net. Patty Eaves had a good game, too, and he hit the post early in the game.
Look for Ray Emery to start next game against the lowly Atlanta Thrashers.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Sens Army: What's wrong with Martin Brodeur this season?
Historically, Martin Brodeur is known to be a slow starter. He started last season at 5-4 while allowing 26 goals over the first nine games. This season, he was forced to start seven consecutive road contests against fierce competition. Of the seven games, five were against 2006-7 playoff teams (Rangers, Senators, Lightning, Thrashers, and Penguins). He finished with a record-breaking 48 regular season victories this past season, after an average start. In 2005-2006, Brodeur started out 4-5 and the season before that, he was 4-3-2 before securing 38 victories on the season. I am not worried about his rather slow start, as we see from his historically weak starts, yet big finishes, when it matters most. He is still Marty and one of the game’s greatest goaltenders. There are definitely others out there playing superbly and it’s possible that Brodeur’s age and his wear and tear are taking a number on him. I’d still rather have him in net than anyone else out there. (I am more worried about the Devils defensive unit, PP, PK, and inability to score).
Are you missing Scott Gomez?
The Devils are missing Scott Neidermayer and Scott Stevens, not Scott Gomez. They are generating plenty of offensive chances and they’ve had many power plays where they could not find the net. Gomez was known as a passer, not a scorer, and besides… is he really getting paid $10 million for an average 60-point scorer? That means Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, and Martin Brodeur are making more right? Guess again. He was a member of two Cups, won rookie of the year honors, and is a pretty good player. I definitely would not have signed Zubrus over him even thought the money was nearly half the price. I am disappointed that the Devils did not sign Daniel Briere, as I believe that he is worth the $10 mil per year jackpot. Sweet Lou Lamoriello had other plans, ones I am almost starting to question.
Who is the Devils' most underrated player?
Jamie Langenbrunner- He is the point man on the power play, a veteran of this game, and is going to be a huge part of the team when he returns from groin surgery during the offseason. He had seven game-winners last season, including 22 power play points, en route to a 60-point campaign. Are there others who can be on this list? Truthfully, I need to see them better before changing my mind.
Where do you expect the devils to finish in the conference this season?
Where the Devils will finish in the conference this season- that is a difficult question to answer. From their poor start and heavy Eastern Conference competition this season, they can finish out of the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years. Knowing this, the odds are that the Devs will place in the bottom half of the eight teams who qualify for the playoffs. I just cannot see them missing the postseason, even with an inefficient defensive core and inability to score goals on offense.
After the sens whopping the devils last year in the playoffs, how do you
expect to beat the sens on Saturday?
I respect the Senators greatly for what they did to the Devils last postseason. Let’s not forget that the Sens got their asses kicked by the Ducks in the Stanley Cup (when it mattered most). The playoff games were closer than the 4-1 series dictated. Four of the five games were decided
by one goal.
In regards to your question, the Devs will need to generate many scoring opportunities, step up their penalty kill, and use the fans as momentum, while playing in the Prudential Center for the first time ever. The Sens are a well-balanced team, up and down their roster. In my opinion, they are the best team in the NHL right now. To upset the Sens, Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta, and numerous others must be on their “A” and not “C” game, from start to finish. Head coach Brent Sutter must find a way to neutralize Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza, who have already combined for 36 points in the first nine games (8-1-0). To be honest, they remind me of the famous saying referred to Michael Jordan. “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” The same holds true for these fine gentlemen, who have excelled in the league with their lightning-fast speed, quick release on their shot, and terrific passing skills.
That's all folks! Go Sens!
Friday, October 26, 2007
After Ben's post about how unreliable the reports of Peter Forsberg's increasing interest in the Ottawa Senators, I'm going to talk about how unlikely it is that he will sign in Ottawa, regardless of whether or not he wants to. Reports are that Forsberg is seeking a three-year deal worth $5M a year. Aside from the fact that it would be a huge gamble to sign a player with chronic injury problems to such a hefty contract, there's no way of knowing whether or not this is the dominant Peter Forsberg of old, or just and old Peter Forsberg.
In essence, it all boils down to the realities of the salary cap. While it's true that we don't know what exactly the cap number will be for 2008-09, this much we do know: That the Sens already have $35.789M spent in contracts on 13 players, leaving between $15-17M to spend on another 9 players, plus buffer room to account for injuries, callups, and possible trades.
And that nearly $36M doesn't include the following players: Jason Spezza (between $6.5-7.5M a year), Chris Kelly ($1.5-2.5M per year), Patrick Eaves ($1-1.5M per year), Shean Donovan ($1M per year), Wade Redden (who knows... $3.5, if we're lucky), and Andrej Meszaros ($1.5-2.5M per year). Even if you take the lowest of those numbers, it leaves a number of $50.789M on 19 players.
It's a fact that whether or not Forsberg is brought in we will lose players. We're lucky this team has stayed a consistent as it has in recent years. The problem with those six players above is that they've all got something important. Spezza might give away the puck a lot, but you can bet there are 29 teams hoping Ottawa waits so that they can issue an offer sheet. Kelly is a third-liner, and it's true that $1.5M is a lot for that role, but he's so damned good at killing penalties and he seems like a natural leader, so it'd be smart to keep him around. Donovan isn't irreplaceable, but he plays smart and isn't too expensive (and he might take a home-town discount). Redden is the city's whipping boy, but he's still a good defenceman who eats a lot of minutes; who can step up and fill that void? Finally, Meszaros has a pretty good market value because of his potential, but do we want to let that go?
It is inevitable that someone will have to be traded. Two first-string goalies is a luxury we will not be able to afford next year, so either Martin Gerber or Ray Emery will have to be traded. There's a possibility for some movement on the blue line, too. Were Redden to agree to a trade, I'm sure he could move, but if not Joe Corvo is making some good coin for a number-five defenceman, even if he is an offensive specialist.
If the Sens were to sign Forsberg, it would give two bona fide scoring lines and offer that depth that has been so important. But it would cost the depth that gives Ottawa the ability to roll four lines against even the league's best. I guess Bryan Murray will have to decide what is more important.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
When they're nothing to report on, find or make something to report on.
This, I'm sorry to inform you, is the cause of the recent speculation regarding Peter Forsberg's possible signing with Ottawa.
The journalists are bored, so they call up Forsberg's agent and get him to say the words "Ottawa" or "Senators" in any sort of context, and then they print.
ie: Forsberg says he wants to be "in Ottawa".
This is the sad truth everyone. Sports journalists, stop playing with our emotions.
PS: I appreciate "Save Saylor's" and "Ian Mendes'" truthfulness when speaking with student media, and I hope they continue to do so - those guys rock.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
24. NYR @ PIT - V (2.10 odds) - O (1.80 odds)
I'm picking the Rangers to win this, although I think it'll be a shootout. That's why I'm also going to play Over/Under in this game, and pick it'll be over the 6.5 mark they give. It should be a close game, but I don't think the Rangers will lose a fourth in a row, nor do I think the Pens defence will be able to handle Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and Jaromir Jagr, and Marc-Andre Fleury isn't good enough to steal the game.
26. ATL @ TOR - V+ (3.00 odds)
Atlanta has to win at some point, and what better time to start than against the Maple Leafs? If I were a betting man, which apparently I am, I would say it'll be low-scoring, but these teams have allowed more goals than you can shake a stick at, so it could be a shootout, too. But hopefully not a shootout as in after-overtime-it's-still-tied shootout, but a so-many-goals-I'm-losing-track shootout.
31. COL @ EDM - V+ (2.00 odds)
The Oilers are getting no luck. They've been losing games. They've been losing players. The one big free-agent signing, Sheldon Souray, is unjured. According to hockeybuzz.com, they've lost another defenceman. But Colorado's good, and Ryan Smyth might score a few goals to soften the blow for Oilers fans. If their team's going to lose, at least it was because their hero beat them.
I'll bet $5 on this ticket, making the payout $113.40 if everything goes right. Here's hoping.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Obviously, any Senators fan already knows this. He is the quintessential Mr. Senator, and has been for years; since Alexei Yashin ruined his reputation by holding out in 1999-2000, and maybe even long before that point.
He's not only an all-star for the team, but for the whole league. I want to mention some of the awards he's won or been nominated for:
- Won Calder Trophy in 1995-96
- Fourth in voting for the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2005-06
- Fourth in voting for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2005-06
- Second in voting for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2003-04
And this year he's on pace for 119 points (which are Art Ross numbers, Sidney Crosby got 120 points last year), 55 goals (Vincent Lecavalier won the Maurice Richard with 52 goals last year), plus he's an early pick for the Hart Trophy and maybe the Lester B. Pearson. I'm not trying to overstate things, I realize it's only 9 games into the Sens season, but I just want to illustrate how Alfredsson is getting better with age. As you can see in the two charts provided (in blue and yellow in honour of his Swedish homeland), a minor dip last year may certainly be countered with a significant jump this season.
Speaking of Sweden, a lot of Alfie's successes have come on the international stage, too; silver (1995) and bronze (1999) in the World Junior Championships, silver (2004) and bronze (2001) in the World Championships, and gold (2006) in the Olympics where he was an alternate captain. Plus he won the Elitserien Championship with Frolunda during the lockout season of 2004-05.
A lot of people have been suggesting that his Olympic gold and Elitserien title have taught Alfredsson more of what it takes to win, and that seems to show in his post-lockout leadership. Not to suggest that Alfredsson wasn't a great leader before, but making it to the Eastern Conference Championships in 2005-06 and then the Stanley Cup Championships in 2006-07 show he's become even stronger, especially at times when he seemed to will the Senators to win.
Take, for instance, the Game Five win over Buffalo in the 2007 ECFs. Going into overtime, Alfredsson decided that it was time he became the first European captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, and made it happen. Or think back to Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals, as every fan in attendance started a chant of "AL-FIE! AL-FIE! AL-FIE!" and the captain responded, getting the Sens started on their way to their only victory in the SCFs. Even in Game Five of the SCFs, despite the fact that the Sens lost, it wasn't for lack of effort from Alfredsson. Especially when he saw how dejected Chris Phillips looked after scoring on his own net, Alfredsson made a goal happen to lessen the distress--one of his two on the night.
And Alfredsson doesn't seem to have lost anything over the off-season. The way he's played in the nine games so far, this should be the best campaign yet, and I can't wait to see what that will mean for his leadership and for the Senators' success. It will definitely be fun to watch, though.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I noticed a lot of former Sens making headlines, especially last night watching the league highlights. Here are a few examples from last night's games:
- Patrick Lalime (1999-2004, 283 GP), Chicago: win versus Toronto, stopped 28 of 32 shots
- Vaclav Prospal (1997-2001, 213 GP), Tampa Bay: 2 goals, 1 assist against Atlanta
- Bryan Smolinski (2002-06, 171 GP), Montreal: 1 goal against Buffalo
- Brian Pothier (2002-06, 146 GP), Washington: 1 goal against Pittsburgh
- Pavol Demitra (1993-96, 59 GP), Minnesota: 1 goal against St. Louis
- Dominik Hasek (2005-06, 43 GP), Detroit: win versus Phoenix, stopped 29 of 31 shots
- Mike Comrie (2006-07, 41 GP), NY Islanders: 1 goal, 1 assist against New Jersey
That includes a quiet night for Todd White (2000-05, 230 GP) and Marian Hossa (1997-2005, 467 GP), who played for Atlanta against Tampa Bay. Radek Bonk (1994-2004, 689 GP) also played last night, getting no points in a game where his Nashville Predators got shut out by San Jose.
I also saw in The Hockey News that Magnus Arvedson (1997-2003, 393 GP) has recently taken over the head coaching job for Mora IK of the Swedish Elite League at the ripe young age of 35. Good for Arvie, I loved his hustle.
And apparently both Randy Cunnneyworth (1994-98, 276 GP) and Kevin "Sandwiches" Dineen (1999-2000, 67 GP) are in the running for the now-vacant Atlanta Thrashers head coach position. (Dineen is nicknamed Sandwiches for a reason; ask me why in the comments if you care to hear the story.)
Another piece of noteworthy news was the very strange coincidence of Martin Straka (1994-96, 49 GP) of the Rangers breaking his finger trying to block a shot from Zdeno Chara (2001-06, 299 GP) now of the Boston Bruins. Weird!
A few notable season-firsts in this game: First goal for Shean Donovan, first points for both Brian McGrattan and Randy Robitaille, first point and then first goal for Christoph Schubert, and, of course, first win for Ray Emery.
Patrick Eaves had an outstanding game. He seems to realize that there is some serious competition, not only for ice time, but even for a roster spot. If he wants to stick around on this team, he'll have to continue this type of play to prove he's a second- or third-line player. He generated quite a few chances, played with an aggressive forecheck, and offered a dandy screen on Schubert's goal. He's also a class act; remember how he was the one Ottawa player standing guard around Dean McAmmond when Deaner was injured? Well, today, he was standing right by David Booth when he injured his neck, talking respectably to Olli Jokinen--probably about how he was reading to sick kids or old people in the hospital last night, or something.
Another player who impressed me was McGrattan. While he certainly looked a little tired in the third period--although he only played 5:16--he made stuff happen. He and his linemates, at the time Schubert and Donovan, had a great shift which ended up drawing a penalty on Ruslan Salei. A few minutes later, McGrattan sped down the wing like I've never seen him skate before, and got a decent shot on net. He threw a solid hit on Ville Peltonen, which also knocked the (terrible, terrible) referee over, which was a bonus. The best play, though, was when Grats entered the zone, dropped the puck for Schubert, and it eventually led to Donovan's goal. Great play; McGrattan obviously realizes he's got to add something to his game, and he's apparently been working on it. He wants that roster spot. I was disappointed he got little ice time in the third; does anyone else believe he might deserve more opportunities?
According to an NHL.com article I've heard about, McGrattan is trying to emulate Chris Neil in a transition from enforcer to power-forward. Well, Neiler had a strong game, too. He made all sorts of plays, including one Savardian spin-o-rama to get around the defence. I just wish he didn't have cement hands so he could score on a few of those. In 14:05 of ice time, he got 3 shots and 3 hits, to go along with an assist on Mike Fisher's goal (which opened the scoring).
As mentioned, Booth injured his neck when he was hit awkwardly by Anton Volchenkov. Although Volchie was assessed a 5-minute major and a game misconduct, I think it was merely bad luck. Booth was trying to cut in on Volchenkov, and the Soviet Hammer couldn't stop himself mid-check. I don't foresee any further discipline; Booth is apparently alright, Volchenkov has no priors, and he's known as a clean physical player. A note on Volchenkov's performance, it was very strong, as he'd recorded one hit, two blocked shots, an assist, and was +2 in only 9:22 before being ejected.
Nick Foligno was also hit into the boards awkwardly, and hurt his neck. He left on his own steam, but didn't come back into the game. The Team 1200 said he'll be fine, which is great news. I just don't understand why there was no penalty on Branislav Mezei for his hit on Foligno, while Volchenkov got 15 minutes for his hit. They looked eerily similar. For the record, it was and obvious accident, and Mezei was out of position seeing if Foligno was okay when Fisher scored only seconds after the hit.
Funny (although extremely stressful at the time) mistake by John Paddock after the Volchenkov penalty was over; because no one was serving the 5 minutes in the box, Paddock must not have noticed the penalty was over, and the Sens ended up playing short-handed for an extra 53 seconds. It was absurd... I tried getting a 'One More Player' chant going, but no one joined me. And for all my voice could muster (seriously, I've lost my voice), Paddock couldn't hear me. Finally, Daniel Alfredsson flipped the puck into the Florida bench to get a whistle, and get things organized.
Speaking of Alfredsson, he was amazing--once again. He scored the butter goal, making it 4-1. I won't write too much, because I'll be writing an entry sometime this week about Alfie. I've got to find something to write about in the week off.
Best player for Florida, aside from Tomas Vokoun: Jay Bouwmeester. He played pretty well, much better than I'd expected. I'll revoke my harsh criticism of Bouwmeester, for now, although I stand by my statement that The Hockey News' rankings were terrible.
And, in case you're wondering, Rayzor played well. When Ottawa started slow in the first, he kept them in the game; they were outshot 7-2 at one point, before pouring it on big time. He also made a solid glove-save, proving his wrist is in good shape. If not for Vokoun's 43 saves, though, this game would have been more of a blowout.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I think this is an excellent move by Sens head coach John Paddock. After a weak goal in the first period, I think that Gerber lost some of the magic that had made him so effective in other games. This magic was a faith in his own abilities, a lack of pressure to perform, and genuine confidence from his teammates.
Putting in Emery for tonight's game takes some of the pressure off Gerber, and puts it onto a goalie who can better handle the spotlight. Emery has lost some of the sparkle of being a second-year miracle man, and he now has to prove himself - not only to be a true #1 goalie for the whole year, but also to battle for that position from a much different perspective than last year.
So I applaud Paddock for having some insight and some foresight into the goaltending situation. If Emery wins convincingly tonight, then there will be a whole new spin on the goalie saga that will brew (hopefully positively) throughout the season in Ottawa.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I'm not sure if a Leafs fan made it to make fun of Sens fans, but I think its hilarious. I's a lot easier to laugh at your own player scoring on his own net (even if it is Chris Phillips in the Stanley Cup Finals) when your team is doing well than when your team is struggling. Take the Bryan McCabe thing, for example. The best part are the Daniel Alfredsson praises ("How do you like that slap shot to the chest!").
Just a warning to anyone who's watching, it is mildly disturbing. But extremely hilarious.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Congratulations to Nick Foligno on his first goal. Even though your post-goal jump wasn't the best, it was still fun to watch, for sentimental reasons.
Of course Daniel Alfredsson played awesome. If he plays this way all year, he'll have a Hart Trophy to put beside his Calder Trophy, and--if his three assists tonight have anything to say about it--maybe an Art Ross in there, as well.
Wade Redden played well at times, but not so well at other times. He scored a pretty weak goal on Carey Price, and got an assist, so I guess it was good, all in all.
Speaking of Price, he played well, but that's exactly why I questioned Guy Carbonneau's decision to play Cristobal Huet against Florida and throw Price against three of the best scorers in the league. Price seemed well-balanced after the game, but Ottawa's shooters just have a way of scoring on most goalies no matter how well they play (knock on wood). Although Carb's Guillaume Latendresse/Steve Begin experiment seemed to work.
Those of you who watched the game may have noticed two Senators not playing in the third. The first was Antoine Vermette, who apparently had back spasms. He didn't go to practice on Tuesday, and I wouldn't be surprised if he took Saturday's game against Floria off to make sure his back is all good. Maybe someone from the farm, like Alexander Nikulin or Josh Hennessy, will get the chance, since I don't think Dean McAmmond is ready to return yet.
The second was, for some reason, Luke Richardson. I thought Richie had a pretty good game, but for some reason John Paddock decided to bench him in favour of Christoph Schubert (who was bumped back to defence) nearing the end of the game. The only reason I can think is that the Habs are a pretty fast team, but Richardson plays a defensively sound game, and has rarely been out of position so far this year. I understand wanting to move Schubie back, but I would think benching Joe Corvo, who's often times unreliable defensively.
Although Martin Gerber played well, his rebounds just give him so much extra work. But as long as he keeps winning, I'm fine with it. I wouldn't be surprised if Ray Emery was given the start on Saturday against the Panthers, though, just to get the opportunity to some real game-action.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Since there is so much damned time between games, it means I'll have time to assemble a (hopefully) decent game-preview regarding the Sens and Habs in Ottawa on Thursday night.
The first of eight games this season; Ottawa won the season-series last year 5-3, outscoring Montreal 31-24 in the process. In 2007-08, Ottawa's 6-1-0 (12 pts), and Montreal's 2-1-2 (6 pts).
- This will mark the debut for the newest Senator, Randy Robitaille. Robitaille has just re-joined the NHL after scoring 9 points in 14 games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the RSL. It's unclear where he will play in the game; he practiced on the second line on Wednesday, but common thought is that he will line up on the fourth line.
- To make room for Robitaille, it appears that Christoph Schubert will drop back to defence and Luke Richardson will be the odd-man out. I don't know why, as I've been quite impressed with Richardson's play so far, but I guess John Paddock has his reasons.
- Despite the fact that Ray Emery is ready to play, the Sens are going with Martin Gerber in nets. More on that in the last post.
- It's been five days since the Sens last played. Will the layoff be too much?
- The Sens have the best penalty-killing percentage in the league at 96.97% (32-for-33). They are 22nd on the powerplay, going 5-for-34.
- Among Sens players, Daniel Alfredsson has the most career points against the Habs, with 22 goals and 49 assists for 71 points in 57 games played. Dany Heatley has 30 points (10G, 20A) in 25 games and Jason Spezza has 26 (13G, 13A) in 26 games. Plus Spezza annihilated former Hab Sheldon Souray. Let's never forget that moment (not that Jubille Jewellers would ever let us).
- Carey Price will make his second NHL start against Ottawa. Sure, he got a victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the best player in the NHL, but Ottawa's got a lot of big guns. I hope they are firing on all cylinders.
- After being scratched on Tuesday, both Steve Begin and Guillaume Latendresse will be back in the lineup against the Sens. If head coach Guy Carbonneau's plan worked, they'll be a pain in the Sens collective butt.
- After questioning Carbonneau's tactics, Alexei Kovalev apparently had a heart-to-heart with his coach. We all know Kovalev's bi-polarity; he can either respond negatively and do nothing, or positively and act as a one-man wrecking crew. Time will tell.
- Montreal is tenth on the PP with 5-for-24 and 23rd when short-handed, killing 20 of 25 penalties.
- Kovalev leads all active Habs in points against Ottawa, with 43 (16G, 17A) in 53 games played. Then, to my surprise, is former Senator Bryan Smolinski with 33 points (16G, 17A) in 33 games. Saku Koivu is third, with 28P (8G, 20A) in 44GP and defenceman Patrice Brisebois is fourth, 10G, 16A, 26P in 41GP.
“In some ways, it’s like why change at this stage?” Senators head coach John Paddock said after another brisk team practice Wednesday morning. “(Gerber) has deserved to play based on his play. It’s not like we’re 3-3 and we’re looking for a change or a spark.I like this move. I think the Gerbinator does indeed deserve to continue playing. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if Emery plays on Saturday against Florida. A weaker team might be a good opportunity for the brass to see whether or not Emery is back in game form, and discover what to go on from this point forward.
In other news, Randy Robitaille cleared waivers and will debut for the Sens on Thursday. He seems overjoyed. He'll apaprently be making $600k this season.
“It’s fortunate for myself and my family that we ended up in a good spot here,” said Robitaille. “I’m excited to be a part of this organization … what the Senators mean to this community is something special, and I’m excited to be a part of that. And it definitely makes things easier living at home and having the support of your family and friends.”It's unclear at this point who won't dress. Paddock said Schubert might move back to defence, but I don't know why he would scratch Luke Richardson at this point in the season. Especially since Brian McGrattan has really no use playing in a game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Yet another Ottawa native being signed by the Sens... booyah. Fellow SABer (Sens Army Blogger) Peter and I discussed the news. Some interesting points came up:
- This could give us a very fast third line with Dean McAmmond, Shean Donovan and Robitaille.
- This will surely mean the end of Nick Foligno's stint in the big leagues.
- Robitaille probably didn't leave Russia to play for the baby Sens, so we think he'll be sticking around the big team. If that really doesn't work out then I guess he'll be placed on waivers.
- Alexander "Sputnik" Nikulin wrote a new blog entry about his first North American pro goal. He also mentioned Ray Emery's games on the farm, noting that while Rayzor wasn't outstanding, he was classy. Apparently Sputnik's also received a shipment of his favourite type of stick;
"I'm happy that I received some of my favourite sticks, which I'm very much used to, I even scored my first goal with one of them. Hopefully it won't be the last, either in the AHL or in the NHL."
- Since Brian Elliott is back on his way to Bingo, the B-Sens released Joel Martin, who'd served as Jeff Glass' backup. They'll run with Elliott and Glass as the tandem.
- Mattias Karlsson, Ottawa's 4th round pick in 2003, played his first game for Bingo on Saturday against Hershey. Scouting report by Tim Murray: "Moves the puck well. Power-play type guy. Just hope he can bring a bit of offense to a group that's holding our sticks too tight right now, and having a hard time scoring." He was -1 with 2 shots in his debut. He had 32 points in 44 games for Bofors IK of the Swedish league Allsvenskan. At 6'2 and 192 pounds, he's apparently able to play physical and not afraid to hit.
- Blue-chip prospects Nikulin, Brian Lee, and Ilya Zubov are all tied for the team lead in points with Danny Bois, who I guess is still a good prospect.
- After fog problems on the ice for Bingo's home opener, management has initiated a "The Fog has Cleared" promotion, offering ticket rebates. Hilarious.
- Nik Dimitrakos is leading the team in goal-scoring. I think that was the intention of signing him, so it's always nice when something works out.
- Binghamton (1-2 on the year) will play two games against the Norfolk Admirals (1-3) this weekend. Although Emery stole the show in their first win, Elliott has a pretty good shot of stealing a game or two at the AHL level. If Denis Hamel can pick up his scoring pace, the B-Sens will be fine.
Monday, October 15, 2007
"A goalkeeper shall be assessed a minor penalty when he throws the puck forward towards the opponent’s net. In the case where the puck thrown forward by the goalkeeper being taken by an opponent, the Referee shall allow the resulting play to be completed, and if goal is scored by the non-offending team, it shall be allowed and no penalty given; but if a goal is not scored, play shall be stopped and a minor penalty shall be imposed against the goalkeeper."National Hockey League Official Rules 2007-08,
Rule 67.3 (page 91), emphasis added
- The Sens are gone on a team-building trip to the Muskokas or something. Must be nice. Apparently there will be some scrimmages while they're there, and some rounds of golf.
- Dean McAmmond participated in his first full team practice since the Steve Downie incident, which is awesome. The sooner Deaner's back, the better.
- According to Bruce Garrioch, the Sens are going to sign Randy Robitaille as soon as he is released from the Russian team he signed with. I wonder if they are as pissed at him as we were at Alexei Kaigorodov last year. Probably.
- Scott Niedermayer is coming to Otttawa. Don't ask me why or how, but if it happens, you heard it here first.
- Ray Emery's wrist is back in fine shape, apparently, so he's ready to dress come next game. I'd say Marty Gerber will start against Montreal on Thursday, but Emery might make his first start of the season against Florida on Saturday.
- If the trend oof inconsistency (OTL-L-W-L-W-L so far in the season) continues, the 2-3-1 Leafs will at least get a point against Buffalo tonight. While stranger things have happened, don't count on it.
- Andrew Raycroft is starting against the Sabres. If you ask me, goaltending was the least of Toronto's problems last year, and they just made it worse with the Vesa Toskala addition.
- After injuring his knee in a practice, Alexei Ponikarovsky is close to returning, but won't be rushed. He won't play against Buffalo.
- Now that Matt Stajan has scored a few goals, idiot Nick Kypreos wants to trade him for--get this--grit. This is why the Leafs are in the position they are in now; trading away young guys to get old men like Gary Roberts. And it's also why Ben still doesn't watch Sportsnet.
- Mats Sundin is on pace to get a career-high 137 points. I guess bringing in Jason Blake was a good thing. Plus he's playing incredibly well.
- Guillaume Latendresse, whom I thought was embraced as the francophone saviour of les Habitants, looks like he's worked his way out of the lineup (according to TSN). I respect Guy Carbonneau, but why would he bench fan-favourite Latendresse? This team is in a priveleged position of appealing to all francophone players not named Danny Briere if they market the team right. Maybe if he got more than 10 minutes of ice time a game and some powerplay time he'd be getting points, Carby.
- Speaking of Carbonneau and players who are being embraced as saviours by Habs fans, why isn't he giving Carey 'the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden' Price another start? Cristobal Huet is going to play Tuesday aginst Florida, but wouldn't the lowly Panthers present a pretty good game for Price to play in? I guess Carbs is saving him to play the Sens, including the three leading scorers in the NHL. That'll be great for his confidence.
- I don't know why I hate the Sabres so much, but I do. Probably as much as I hate the Leafs.
- Jocelyn Thubault is starting against the Leafs. That's a slap in the face if I've ever seen one. I hope Jason Blake gets a hat trick of hat tricks. Nothing against Thibault, but I see Buffalo as a bigger threat to Ottawa's Northeast Division title, plus Blake's a pretty respectable character.
- After losing the first two games the Sabres have won the following two by a combined score of 13-3. But they were against Washington and Atlanta, so do they really count? No. So maybe tonight's contest against Toronto will be close.
- Apparently the Bs are looking at, and possibly close to, signing Danny Markov. Word on the street was that Ottawa was looking at him in the off-season, but there's little to no reason to sign him considering the depth Ottawa has on D.
- Tim Thomas, the goaltender with the ugliest helmet in the league, has outplayed newcomer Manny Fernandez, and has so far retained the starting-goaltender moniker.
- Milan Lucic is playing well for the Bruins, and TSN.ca is reporting he's been promoted to the third line. I wish he was on Ottawa. His play in the Super Series against Russia was pretty stellar; he's the kind of left-winger I would like to play with Christoph Schubert. Or Daniel Alfredsson. I don't care.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I don't know what the difference is between last season and this year; is it:
- More confidence?
- Better goalie coaching from Eli Wilson?
- A better off-season workout?
- The fact that you have little to lose?
- An attitudinal change?
- More sound technical abilities?
- The lust to drink from Stanley's cup?
Last night Gerber's play was out of this world. Anyone who hasn't seen the highlights should check them out; especially that 5-on-3 where the Gerbinator made an incredible save, picked up the puck with his blocker-hand, and threw it down the ice. Only to have the Rangers re-enter the zone and force him to stretch his legs so far across the net that every man--and most women--cringed with thoughts of how much pain we would experience from that sort of athleticism.
Also impressive was Luke "one-punch machine gun" Richardson. Played pretty well in ten minutes of ice time, once again doing the simple things to avoid making costly mistakes. But what was incredible, though was his knock-out punch on Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky. Holy crap.
Dubinsky, a fresh-faced 21 year-old playing in his 11th NHL game, had no idea what he was getting into when he challenged the 37-year-old Richardson in fisticuffs. He found out soon enough, and then forgot about it right after, because he was completely knocked out.
It looked alright at first for Duby, he had a few rabbit-punches on Richie and knocked his helmet off, but he let the old man get him up against the boards--big mistake. In what I'm pretty sure was Richardson's first punch of the fight, he smoked Dubinsky right on the kisser, and you could tell right away by the way he collapsed that he could hear bells. And on the off-chance you didn't know right away, you could certainly tell when he was trying to stand up and didn't look like he had the use of his hands. And then when the trainer was trying to get him to the dressing room, he got lost.
In other news, Brian Elliott is back on his way to Binghamton. Best of luck, Ellie, you did well while you were up here.
That's probably because Ray Emery's on his way back up to the big team. After failing his first test, Emery did well in the second game of his conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators, stopping 46 of 48 shots, bringing his AHL GAA in two games up to .930; not too shabby. Awesome stat on the post-game show last night; Ottawa's two top goalies combined for 82 saves on 85 shots last night, which is awesome.
I don't know what the hell I'm going to do all week since the Sens don't play until Thursday. Maybe make some trade/signing speculations/ruminations.
One stand-out statistic for the Sens would be that Spezza and Alfredsson were -1, while Patrick Eaves, Chris Kelly, and Antoine Vermette were all +2. I guess that just describes how crazy this game was, and yet the Senators still pulled off the win.
Now that the Sens have a few days off, the hockey pundits will have time to come up with some speculative news about whether this team is somehow better than last year's, and whether Gerber can somehow reclaim the #1 spot.
Ray Emery intends to make the 'tender competition interesting after bouncing back from a disappointing loss for the 46-save performance, giving the baby Sens a 5-2 win over those tasty Hersey Bears.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Especially impressive; Erik Cole. Apparently one of few true powerforwards in the league today, he looked pretty powerful. Cam Ward looked alright, too.
The speed and transition of the 'Canes are really what killed the Sens, especially since Ottawa played six games in nine nights, including a game the night before in Atlanta.
Despite what Team 1200 host Glen Kulka seems to think, playing six games in eight nights will inevitably wear a team down, so they won't be playing their best on the final game. Kulka suggested that fatigue was merely an excuse;
"Excuses are likes butt-holes, everyone has them. But not everyone uses them."Constipation aside, I think the Sens are entitled to use an excuse right now. After a 5-1 start, I'm not ready to call into the post-game show and call for heads to start rolling.-Glen Kulka, the Team 1200
Despite the loss, Martin Gerber looked alright. His kryptonite was still rebounds, but once he makes the first save it's up the the guys around him to clear the front of the net.
The late-game comeback was also impressive. Although incomplete, those two quick goals--by Mike Fisher and Joe Corvo--late in the third had me pretty excited for a comeback. Although it's disappointing that we haven't yet seen a full sixty-minute effort from the team, it's nice to know we can stay in the game until the guys decide to start playing.
Daniel Alfredsson obviously had an awesome game again. Hart Trophy candidate, for sure. And Antoine Vermette for the Selke, too.
EDIT: For the record, even though I tagged this with 'Idiots in the media', I don't think Kulka's an idiot. He's a little irrational and sometimes he says cliches that are meaningless, entirely out of context, or he mixes metaphors, but he's not an idiot.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Calm down, Emery superfans. It's not because of Brian Elliott's strong performance last night or Martin Gerber's solid play all season to date. It's just a conditioning stint.
Apparently Rayzor's going to get two games to get back into NHL-game shape, Oct. 12 against the Syracuse Crunch and Oct. 13 against the delicious, delicious-sounding Hershey Bears.
They might be the most-watched B-Sens games in the history of the franchise. I wish we could get them telecast in Ottawa... any Bingo natives who're able to torrent the game, please, let us all know so we can download the game and watch it.
So what this means is that Emery's about ready to get back and see some action. Will there be goaltending moves? Will Rayzor be given his job back, no questions asked, or will he have to earn it? Is it now Emery's job to lose? How will he react to that situation; Gerber had a job to lose last year, and he lost it like nobody's business. Will one of the two guys be traded?
It would be a shame if the Gerbinator got traded now, since he hasn't even had an opportunity to don his new mask in a game. And if Emery's traded... I don't know what I'd do. At this point, though, both guys have relatively low salaries for a starter, and relatively high market values, which means good things for the Senators.
If Emery comes back in the same form he was for most of last year, these are good times for Sens fans. In that the team's got a wealth of goaltending talent. Sweet.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
John Paddock must be feeling pretty darn confident right now. After all, he did start the Senators' third-string goaltender against a not horrible Atlanta Thrashers team.
Brian Elliot played a strong game in net, making 28 saves, and many players not named Spezza, Heatley or Alfredsson contributed offensively. Those players would be Joe Corvo, Antoine Vermette, and Chris Kelly.
Thanks to these contributors, the Senators took the game by a score of 3-1.
As I mentioned in a previous blog comment, Vermette seems bent on raising the value of his next contract this season. Rather than complain until he got on the 2nd line, like Peter Schaefer, Vermette is proving that he deserves to be there by bringing the speed and skill that we've seen flashes of for his whole career.
On the downside, Dany Heatley failed to collect a point for the first time this season. On the plus side, he's still on pace for 114 points, including 57 goals.
Personally, I'm feeling pretty good about hanging on to BOTH Emery and Gerber for the rest of the season. Although the strong play of Elliot seems to go against my Gerber-supporting blog from June.
And in crazier news, the Sens and Penguins will open the 2009-10 NHL season in Prague. I will now dubb it the Pittawa Senguins European Adventure. Undoubtedly, one of these teams will escort the Stanley Cup to Czech Republic. I'll bet on the Sens, again.
PS: Brian Elliot is now officially nick-named "Ellie".
Monday, October 8, 2007
In what was the first game I was able to watch in its entirety--I missed the first three thanks to unfortunately-timed classes and weddings/wedding preparations--I was treated to a strong performance. Well, a strong two periods, anyway... that third period wasn't quite as strong.
You know who played well all game? Martin Gerber. Good for you, Gerbinator, make it as hard as you can for Bryan Murray to decide what to do once Ray Emery comes back from his injury. And for the record, I hope you are actually expecting a new Sens-themed mask, because I love it when goalies get new masks.
Also, no matter what Ben says, Andrej Meszaros has improved since last year. While Wade Redden has also improved, there were a few moments where Meszaros bailed him out--although Reds bailed out Mesz a few times, too, so they're even.
You know who impressed me most, though? Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette. What an incredible synergy these two have... my goodness. And somehow Chris Neil almost manages to keep up with them when they're in the same line, forming perhaps Ottawa's most consistent and certainly the most energetic line in tonight's game. These two will also not make Murray's off-season very easy.
You know who was alright? Luke Richardson. Not nearly as slow as I would have thought, and he played over 12 minutes of ice time without a mistake that I remember.
Oh yeah, and the CASH line did alright. Three assists for Jason Spezza, a goal and an assist for both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson. Not a bad night, I guess.
Also, I'm sure Sens fans can forgive me for cheering when Karel Rachunek got an assist. I liked him when he was here, and was devastated when we traded him for *shudder* Greg deVries. Maybe we'll re-sign him if we have to move Joe Corvo this off-season--although I like Corvo, too.
So, 4-0 to start the season. Not too shabby.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
What is Martin Gerber trying to pull? First he says he wants to be traded and then he starts playing like he wants to be the starter after all.
The black mask remains, stating that Gerber wants to be traded, but one must wonder if the Sens would play Ray Emery even if he were healthy.
Sens fans, let's just be happy that Gerber is playing well, earning his cheque and preventing a defensive crisis in Ottawa.
With Saturday's 2-0 shutout of the New York Rangers, Gerber may be creating a goalie crisis in Ottawa later, and raising his market value in the process - and I'm all for it.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Dany Heatley, the Senators newly-minted $45-million man scored two goals and collected another assist to lead his team to a 4-3 win.
The weirdest thing about the game was Wade Redden's fight. Where did that come from? Perhaps the frustration of nearly being traded in the off-season and being harassed at all angles by the Ottawa media (including this blog) is finally getting to him.
I must add that Martin Gerber played very well and made some key saves, perhaps ones that he would have missed last season. With Ray Emery sidelined indefinitely, Gerber will have to be good or else the city will go into a desperate tail-spin of "Stanley Cup Finals Hangover" panic.
One Sens player that really frustrated me was Andrej Meszaros. He has not yet bounced back from last season's poor performance, and he will have to improve if he wants a new contract at the end of the year. At this point, I wouldn't mind seeing him leave.
In tonight's game in Ottawa, I would like to see the Sens beat the Leafs Vesa Toskala in net. Then Toronto would go into the aforementioned tail-spin, minus the "Stanley Cup Finals" part.
Well, so far anyway. Granted we're one game into the season, but I loved the way Wade Redden played last night.
By the way, Ottawa won the opener 4-3 in overtime, with Dany Heatley scoring the tying and winning goals. Keep it up and you might earn that $7.5M, Heater!
Back to Redden; two fights? Hell of a way to start a year. Especially since he came pretty darn close to winning both of them. Good for you, sir. Along with two fights, official stats give him one hit, although he had more than that. He also had two blocked shots in 22:11 of ice time.
If his play continues, I hope he's willing to sign a contract similar in term and figure to Chris Phillips' 3-year, $10.5M deal. I also kind of hope he doesn't have to fight to many more fourth-liners, but you've got to do what you've got to do.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Word on the street is that the Heatley camp and Sens GM Bryan Murray agreed to the deal only a few hours before Heatley's self-declared negotiating deadline.
Terms of the deal are not quite disclosed, but TSN.ca is reporting it's a six-year deal worth $45M; and average of $7.5M per season. It also includes a no-movement clause (so Heater can't be traded, demoted to the farm team, or have his contract bought out without personal approval) and also means that Heatley will not become a free agent this off-season.
What does it mean for the future of the Senators, though? Even though the 2007-08 regular season is still 40 minutes away as I'm writing this, I'll go ahead and speculate what might happen in preparation for the 2008-09 season.
The Sens have eleven players under contract for 08-09, with cap-hit in brackets (source: NHLnumbers.com); Heatley ($7.5M), Daniel Alfredsson ($4.339), Mike Fisher ($4.2M), Martin Gerber ($3.7M), Chris Phillips ($3.5M), Joe Corvo ($2.75M), Ray Emery ($2.75M), Anton Volchenkov ($2.5M), Chris Neil ($1.2M), Dean McAmmond ($900K), and Christoph Schubert (also $900K). The total of those eleven is $34.239M.
Compare that number to this year's salary cap of $50.3M, and the Sens have about $16M left to sign a number of important restricted free agents, notably Jason Spezza, but also including Antoine Vermette, Patrick Eaves, Andrej Meszaros, and to a lesser extent Brian McGrattan. Spezza is the foremost concern amongst that group, and could certainly command a figure somewhere between Alfie's and Heatley's salary numbers.
When it comes to unrestricted FAs, there's Chris Kelly--who might look for $1.5-2.5M a year--as well as Wade Redden. If Redden doesn't take a serious pay-cut, from his current $6.5M down to somewhere nearer Phillips' number, he definitely won't be back. Even if he does, it depends on whether or not Reds returns to form this season. Shean Donovan and Luke Richardson are also both UFAs, but Richardson could certainly retire, and Donovan may even sign for less than his current $925K to stay with this team.
Ottawa then has $16M to sign 11 players. Trading a goalie would free up a couple million, but there's still the need to have an adequate backup, and I'm not sold on prospect Brian Elliott. Even to sign depth players it would be a stretch to get eleven for $16-18M, and re-signing from a pool that includes Kelly, Spezza, Redden, Eaves, Vermette, and Meszaros. We've known it was coming for quite a while, but it will be an interesting year for Murrray.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
On October 1st, Senators of Ottawa club of hockey have chosen the final roster for the team, appointing five players on their branch of insignificant league in Binghamton. Defenders Brian Lee and Larry Nycholat just as forwards Denis Hamel (the not big surprise there), Ilya Zubov, and Alexander Nikulin all will go.
That it means, draft-choice in volume 2006 of the project, Nick Foligno, earned a spot of the roster during a season, and good for him. I imagine, that he will play on third- or the fourth-line, or if he does show some offensive skill then can be advanced for a second- or even a role of the first-line. It also means, that Luke Richardson will play as the seventh defender of Ottawa, and that Christoph Schubert could play very well be starting defenceman to begin a season.
Unfortunately, two strong Russian prospects of Ottawa, Zubov and Nikulin, both withdraw to the farm. Apparently Nikulin has chosen not his contract to return to Russia, and will report to Binghamton. On blog of Nikulin, he has told, that he expected to make the team of Ottawa:
"To tell the truth, I counted on spot in the basic roster. Also, I consider, I can benefit Senators."It is probable, that Russians sent to Binghamton for some reasons:-Alexander Nikulin
- To study English language.
- Further to adapt to North American game.
- As there was only one spot of the roster, holding Nikulin and Zubov--as two friend Russians--on the same team together possibly will help their progress.
- The senior Senators require the help of depth, not such big help with grace and scoring.
- Binghamton really requires the help of a scorer.
“I feel that I have played pretty well when I was here. It would be desirable, and hopefully they are able to call to me if someone will be injured or something as this."Apparently the line of CASH--Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza--it is reunited (and it feels so good) for the beginning a season. I do not know why, but it matters not. John Paddock is primary coach, and I am simply a fanatic.-Brian Lee (in English, then Russian, then English again)
Allow me to call Heatley's bluff. I don't think a little thing like a self-imposed, non-binding deadline would stop a superstar from signing a $40+ million dollar deal. It is a shameless bargaining tactic on the part of Heatley's agents and the Senators, I'm sure, see it for what it is.
Other than that... woooo! Go sens! Kick some Leaf ass!