Wednesday, September 24, 2008
That is the kind of player the Ottawa Senators need Chris Neil to be every night. Sure, it's nice that he scored two goals, but that's not the only reason. Neil hit players, wrought havoc in front of the net, forechecked hard, fought well, and--most importantly--didn't take penalties. No stupid penalties, anyway, because he did get a five-minute fighting major. If there is going to be room for Neil on the team, this season or in the future, he'll have to keep going that way. Any goals he scores are a bonus.
Speaking of goals Neil scores, the first was off a scrum in front of the net, and the second was a very skillful tip on a Filip Kuba shot. The final score was 3-1 in favour of the Senators, which made the Flyers look good after they were outshot 34-11 by Ottawa. Although Martin Gerber's mask looked really good, he didn't get tested very much at all, only surrendering one goal off a pretty good shot from Philly's Darroll Powe.
Getting back to Kuba, both he and Jason Smith played well tonight, assisting on the Sens' second and third goals. Both were also +2, each took a two-minute minor penalty, but Kuba had about 5 minutes more in ice time (largely due to powerplay time). I didn't like Kuba in his first game, but he looked pretty good tonight, so I'll sleep easy.
The big guns came to play tonight, too, although they didn't make a dent on the score sheet. Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson all played well defensively; with the emphasis on playing a rounded game, we might see more games without one of those three on the scoresheet. Jesse Winchester, who once again played on the top line with Spezza and Heatley, did manage to pot a goal--albeit a flukey one of a Philadelphia defender's skate. He once again fit in well with the other two, and threw three hits while notching two takeaways.
If Winchester played well, Nick Foligno played outstanding. He once again (somewhat) subtly ran the opposing goaltender, generating some drama in front of the net. His forecheck was tremendous, and he kept plays alive on several occasions--including Winchester's goal. Cody Bass looked solid, as well, and made sure the Flyers weren't taking any liberties with anyone.
On defence, Brendan Bell looked a little nervous tonight. His game was passable, but not great. If he's going to make the Sens, he's going to have to work on his defensive game. Brian Lee had a pretty good game, though, and made up for a lacklustre effort in his first matchup. Anton Volchenkov was as you'd expect, and Luke Richardson played his typical, barely-noticeable (in a good way) game.
Neil and Matt Carkner both dropped the gloves in this game. I didn't see the Carkner bout (which was against Powe), but Neil was pretty even in his bout with Aaron Asham (I'd give the decision to Asham, though, who got a few more good shots in). If Carkner is to make the Sens it will be as an enforcer, so he had to prove he could toss them tonight, and he did.
So the Sens have Thursday off, and then begin a home-and-home series in Montreal on Friday. They come back to Ottawa on Saturday, and these should be some good games between two teams who should be battling for the Northeast Division all season.