Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weak: Sens 1, Panthers 3

That was a frustrating game. It's no longer inconsistency between games for the Senators; it's now inconsistency within one game. You've got to wonder how a team can come within a couple shots of a franchise worst shots-for (3 shots, with the record being 1) in the first period (especially after being reamed by their head coach), and then set a franchise best in shots (26) in the third period, a stat the guys on TEAM 1200 mentioned. It really makes you wonder.

I'm not going to try to defend Martin Gerber tonight. Contrary to his effort against Detroit, he didn't do anything to keep his team in the game tonight. The first goal was bad luck, and he had two or three players sitting almost on top of him, but it was stoppable. The second goal was inexcusable; it was a rocket by Nathan Horton, granted, but all Gerber had to do was stand up and play positionally and it would have bounced harmlessly to the corner. The third goal was certainly stoppable, too, even if Cory Stillman was allowed to walk out of the corner right on Gerber. It's going to be hard to win any game with that kind of goaltending.

Beyond goaltending, though, there are problems with this team. One is the work ethic, with different players showing up to play on different nights, resulting in a dysfunctional game. Craig Hartsburg is trying desperately to change this, but this team will be in trouble if his 'accountability' tactics don't work.

A bigger in-game problem, however, is the defenceman: The corps as a whole has become much slower than in recent years, and is rarely able to get pucks cleanly up to forwards. The finesse players on our team are effective when they have the puck, but if every pass is rimmed around the boards, it's pretty easy for opposition players to read and react to that. Bringing Luke Richardson in tonight didn't help mobility, speed, or offensive abilities; questionable move, to be certain. Still, despite Filip Kuba's ongoing assist-streak (six games now!), and Alexandre Picard's potential (potential some people might wonder about after his giveaway tonight), this group definitely needs some help. Big time. I'm not sure how soon Bryan Murray might be able to work out a trade to acquire a player of this calibre, because they're hardly dime-a-dozen, but the sooner the better for this team.

Back to this game in particular: Some individuals looked pretty good. Obviously, good on Kuba to continue his point streak. Antoine Vermette responded to some recent criticism (at least within the blogosphere) by playing a solid game, and leading the Sens with seven shots on net. Although Picard had that one very, very terrible gaffe, he played pretty well on the powerplay and was tied for second on the team in shots (5). Daniel Alfredsson was his standard Alfie, and also had five shots on net.

The line of Jesse Winchester, Nick Foligno, and Jason Spezza looked like it might have something if Hartsburg's willing to give them some more time. Winchester's puck control and ability to work along the boards will have to pay off sooner or later. Foligno took two penalties, both as a result of his high-level of intensity in the game--there aren't penalties you like, but those are penalties you can live with. I was especially impressed with Spezza, who demonstrated some good physicality, a willingness to battle, and he had a few takeaways (although only given credit for one). He responded, and hopefully he keeps it up. Counter that with Dany Heatley, though, who was lacking a certain panache tonight. If they could both get going, and both their lines could get going, then this team would be in a much better situation.

How aggravating is it to see Stillman, who the Sens had every chance to re-sign (I think), score a goal and an assist for the Panthers tonight? At about $3.5M per year, he's really not that expensive, either. Might have been tough to swallow the three-year length, but it sure would have been nice on a night like tonight.

I don't know what to think. Maybe after seeing Alex Auld on Friday I'll have a better idea; I wonder if Gerber is running out of chances with Hartsburg. He's already run out of chances with most Sens fans. I'm hoping Shean Donovan draws back in, because it must be frustrating for Dean McAmmond playing on a line with two brick houses in Chris Neil and Christoph Schubert. Plus he's actually playign the kind of game Hartsburg is asking people to play, so benching him kind of sends the wrong message.
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