Tuesday, November 4, 2008

FISHER SCORES! And Sens 2, Caps 1 (OT)

You could actually see Mike Fisher go through three distinct emotions after he scored the overtime game-winning goal against the Capitals Tuesday night:
  1. Disbelief: "Did it actually just happen?"
  2. Relief: "Holy shit, it actually just happened!"
  3. Love: "Daniel Alfredsson, never leave my side again."
You could tell by the effort he'd put forward in the last few games that Fisher's first point was going to come soon enough, and he broke his slumb in style against the Caps. He started the scoring by threading the needle through the neutral zone to get the puck to Dany Heatley after Heater had left the penalty box; Heatley scored, and Fisher had his first point of the season. (Heatley now has a goal in 4 consecutive games.) With a couple of really, really close calls for Fisher after that, the (previously-) goalless one followed Alfredsson and Filip Kuba on a 3-on-2 break. Kuba passed the puck to Alfie, who did a behind-the-back pass to Fisher, who put it in the empty net. Sens win their first overtime game of the year, and have now won 100% of the games in which Fisher scored. I like those odds, as long as he keeps scoring.

Some other players had great games, too. Like Alex Auld, who was outstanding--especially when he made a kick-save on Alexander Semin in the third period. He was among the league-leaders in both goals-against average and save percentage before going into the game, and improved his numbers with a 26-save performance. You can really see how the team responds to having a goaltender they can trust to be consistently solid behind them, and it's nice to get back to that.

Really, every player looked good on the game. It was a solid team effort, of the type that Craig Hartsburg would have liked the Sens to play 82 times over--but I'm sure he'll settle for the 70 remaining games this season. Although Chris Neil made a costly mistake in the second by not getting the puck out of the zone (resulting in Tomas Fleischman's goal), Jason Smith was caught flat-footed out of position on that same goal, and Alex Picard looked soft on the puck at times, the team still held it together.

Importantly, all four lines generated chances. We all knew the fourth line of Dean McAmmond, Shean Donovan, and Nick Foligno--dubbed the 'O-Line' by the Ottawa Citizen (Dean-O, Don-O, Folign-O)--was going to put pressure on the Caps, but the other lines pulled their weight for a change. Jason Spezza was buzzing for the top line, Fisher really had the second line going, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu made things difficult on the third line, and the whole fourth line was abuzz. Sure is nice to see, and was one of the main reasons the Sens got 44 shots: Every skater with the exception of McAmmond and Jason Smith had at least one shot on net. The only reason the Caps made it to overtime was goaltender Brent Johnson, who had an incredible game.

Disturbingly, the Sens went 0-for-5 on the powerplay, including a 1:57 5-on-3 and a four-minute double-minor to Sergei Federov. The powerplay was good when the team was playing poorly, and now the opposite is true. But the Sens had some chances on the powerplay, none better than one off Heatley's stick where he couldn't quite tuck in the cross-crease pass.

With a record of .500 now, the Sens wait for the Philadelphia Flyers to get into town on Thursday. And it'll be on TV (Sportsnet again), so thank goodness for that.
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