Monday, November 17, 2008

Live blog: Rangers 2, Sens 1 (SO)

The stories for tonight's game against the New York Rangers: Wade Redden hosts his former team for the first time as a New York Ranger tonight. The CASH Line has been re-united. The Rangers have been playing well this season, while the Senators have been playing poorly.

Sportsnet's Ian Mendes interviews Redden, who says he's adjusted well enough to the environment and the new team, and that New York is beginning to feel like home. Apparently he won't be giving the puck away to the Senators, which is too bad because he gave the puck to the opposition so often when he was in Ottawa.

Jason Spezza lost the opening faceoff. This hasn't started well, trade him! TRADE HIM! Just kidding. And just like that, after a 28-second shift, the CASH Line is off in favour of the new second line: Nick Foligno, Mike Fisher, and Jarkko Ruutu, who get some good pressure in the Rangers' zone. Ruutu threw a solid hit on Brandon Dubinsky, making his presence known right off the bat.

According to Garry Galley, the key to the game for the Senators is a simple one: Just play. I know you can give us better analysis than that, Galley. And the key for the Rangers is to strike early... great diagnosis. Sens powerplay as Rangers defenceman Fred Sjostrom gets two for delay-of-game. On the point for the first powerplay is Filip Kuba with Mike Fisher on the point once again tonight.Powerplay has not been pretty so far.

Brendan Bell's first powerplay chance ends quickly, as Antoine Vermette gets a slashing call to bring about some 4-on-4. Bell's with Alex Picard on the second PP unit, and Vermette is with Ilya Zubov and Nick Foligno on that unit's forward line. Solid penalty killing by Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly in particular, and the Rangers' first powerplay is as futile as the Senators'. Shean Donovan is on the PK for the first time I can recall this season, in the place of Ruutu with Dean McAmmond.

Hahahaha... good work, Ruutu. Just laid a hit that was more against Nick Foligno than Marc Staal, and drew a penalty on Aaron Voros who took exception to the intended hit. Pretty good first two shifts for Ruuuuuuu. Unfortunately he took a penalty in the process, and we'll see some more 4-on-4 play.

Ottawa's first shot on net: Ten minutes into the game, from Kelly. Followed quickly by two from the stick of Vermette, and a fourth by Mike Fisher, and somehow the Sens are now outshooting the Ranger 4-3 somehow. Thank Redden for those couple shots that Vermette got, which were pretty good chances.

Scramble in front of the Sens net, as Alex Auld lost track of a puck that was stuck in his feet. I didn't agree with what Don Brennan said about Kuba, but I'd like to see the big Czech get a bit meaner in front of the net when guys are hacking Auld.

Another thing I'd like to see is Dany Heatley getting a bit harder on the puck. He's been throwing his weight around a bit more on the forecheck, but he doesn't seem urgent enough when there's a loose puck or almost-loose puck a few feet away from him. Get your stick involved, Heatley, and cause some turnovers.

Not a pretty first period, not by a longshot. Ottawa got a few chances, but the Rangers had the better ones. A good sign for the Senators: They got into shooting and passing lanes: eight blocked shots so far, and a whole bunch of blocked passes. Three stars of the first period: 1. Vermette; 2. Anton Volchenkov; 3. Ruutu.

I have a question for the people at Home Hardware: How am I supposed to open the packaging for the Safe Cut?

Second period underway, and a great chance for Jesse Winchester as he digs for the puck in Henrik Lundqvist's pads. His line, with Vermette and Kelly, have been the Sens' best combination so far, including the CASH Line. And what a steal by Volchenkov! I never thought he had the speed to jump up and intercept a pass the way he did there, but a great read that resulted in another shot for Winchester. That line has five of the Sens' 12 shots so far.

Back to the powerplay, as Redden took a delay of game penalty. First shot of the powerplay? Solid cross-ice pass from Heatley to Alfredsson, whose one-timer was bested by some great lateral movement by Lundqvist. And with the second unit on, a great shot by Ilya Zubov walking in off the side boards and firing one right on net.

A short 5-on-3 after Staal takes a hooking penalty, but Heatley can't convert a cross-crease pass and the Sens' powerplay continues. Who was that pass to, Spezza? About ten feet away from Kuba, the (I assume) intended receiver. It's a bit weird seeing Fisher on the point on the powerplay, but he's actually been doing pretty well here.

Ooooh... pretty stupid and useless penalty there for Foligno, not the kind of play that is going to get him very much extra ice time. Luckily nothing-doing on the Rangers' powerplay, which looked even less potent that the Senators' at first, but ended with a few good chances--nothing Auld couldn't handle. One of those chances came off the stick of Markus Naslund, who's had a surprisingly (to me, at least) good season so far. Hindsight is 20/20, but Naslund might have been a pretty good off-season signing at two years and $4M apiece--I bet he would have given Alfredsson and Fisher a pretty good left winger for that second line. You may be happy to know the symmetrical PK duo of Ruutu (#73) and McAmmond (#37) has been restored.

Rumours are that Fisher may be injured; Galley mentioned his knee was being kneaded by the Sens' trainer. Updates as they are available.

Two things we all remember from Redden's days in Ottawa that he just tried for the Rangers: Meandering out of the defensive zone slowly, and then having a pass turn over as the defensive team lined up at their blue line, and the 'rim'; his favourite play, apparently, just sending the puck around the boards. An easy out for defencemen, and much-hated by wingers who have to dig the puck off the boards and passed a defender who knows it's coming.

Oh no, Fisher had to be helped off the ice and into the dressing room with that knee injury. It looked to be the result of a rut or something he caught in the ice. I didn't notice which knee was injured, but you might remember last season Fisher missed the end of the year with a left knee injury--a knee he's also had problems with in December 2006/January '07 and January '03.

DANIEL ALFREDSSON! What a huge individual effort, just like Galley said. Alfredsson worked it out of the defensive zone, dumped it into the offensive zone, won the puck back and out-waited Lundqvist until he spotted an opening. Neither Spezza nor Heatley are making much happening, but Alfredsson is going to make that line effective if he has to do it all himself. Assists to Heatley and Picard.

Holy shit, after taking the lead the Sens are really making Auld work hard to keep it. Sustained pressure pretty much since the goal at 16:13 to the end of the period, including four shots for the Rangers in that time.

The Sens scored and, finally, have a lead to play with--thank heavens. You could see the longer that game went scoreless the more it played into the Rangers' advantage, because the Sens would have continued to get more nervous. Now they've got twenty minutes to go. Three stars of the second: 1. Auld; 2. Alfredsson; 3. Donovan.

Third period underway, two chances early one, one for Winchester who cut in and just missed the puck, and Ruutu, who heeled a Spezza cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1. Then a really weak hooking call on Ruutu and the Sens are back on the penalty kill. I don't even think Ruutu really touched whoever he 'hooked', but whatever. Great save by Auld, who got square to Chris Drury on that shot. Geez, short-handed breakaway for Vermette, who finally used that speed to break free, but he got stopped cold by Lundqvist. Nice to see Vermette and Kelly re-united on the penalty kill as well as in even-strength situations. Worth mentioning that Redden did not see any powerplay time on that last Ruutu penalty; it seems Redden hasn't quite enamoured himself with fans in New York, as the Blueshirt Bulletin blog criticized the Rangers blueline as being "a corps of defensemen who have been effective in inverse order of their salaries". Which means the highest-paid defenceman (Redden) has, according to BB, been the least effective.

Well, the Sens were running around once again, and you knew that was going to happen. Momentum heavily shifted the ice in favour of the Rangers, and Sjostrom was the first one who could beat Auld. In favour of the Sens' tender, he had stopped... what, three shots before the goal? Brutal, if the Sens want to end their losing streak they're going to have to get back into this game.

Beautiful glove save by Auld, who appears to be the only one still playing for the Senators. Pick it up, fellas, because this isn't pretty.

Wow. No idea how Lundqvist stopped that one... scramble after a Bell shot, with Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza all swatting at him. Alfredsson was basically standing right on top of him, but Lundqvist was up to the task. Would have been nice to score a garbage goal like that. Spezza had a great chance, and Heatley was just stopped by Lundqvist's arm.

Galley was just talking about Redden 'putting money up on the board', some cash that he probably put up for whoever might score the game winning goal against his old team. I wonder if any Senators' players put money up on the board tonight; I'm about willing to put together a couple grand to put up in the Sens dressing room if they'd just start winning some games.

Ottawa is 'out-scoring-chancing' the Rangers by a count of 20 to 12. It would be nice if they'd put one or two more of those away. Am I bitter? Maybe. WIN A GAME! AND THEN WIN ANOTHER ONE!

Oh wow, great move by Spezza (that didn't end in a giveaway, for a change), and a pass to Vermette, who just couldn't put it away. Is he ever snakebitten. In fact, there must be a tonne of snakes in the Sens' dressing room, because everyone is snakebitten... will somebody get these motherf*cking snakes out of this motherf*cking dressing room?

Thanks to Auld, the game ends in a tie and the Sens get a point in the standings. Wicked, that point is nice. But it's lonely, get it another point to hang out with, Senators.

A lot of poor, soft passes for the Senators so far in overtime. Playing with the puck like that can be dangerous, luckily it hasn't been costly yet. Interesting 4-on-4 pairing of Heatley and McAmmond, but they don't quite look comfortable with one another. Overtime over, and here comes the shootout. Let's see if Craig Hartsburg learned his lessons from the last shootout: Use Ruutu first.

Nikolai Zherdev is up first: Shot, five-hole, scores. Sens are down just like that. Then Spezza tried the same thing for the Sens, but Lundqvist doesn't fall for it. Here comes Sjostrom for the Rangers, and he's bested by a great glove save by Auld. Here's Ruutu, who dekes himself out and then shoots from way outside. Drury is stopped point-blank by Auld, and so it's all up to Vermette. But Vermette barely even gets a shot on net, and the Sens get shutout in the shootout.

The losing streak extends to five games, although the Sens got a point, at least. Maybe I should have just watched Heroes... Credit has to go to Auld, who looked like the Sens' best player on the night. It was also a good game for Bell, whose debut was pretty strong and finished +1 with two shots--his powerplay work was good, and his defensive play was surprisingly solid. And kudos to Zubov, who played only 6:25 but still managed two shots on net and two hits--would have been nice to see him in the shootout. The Sens' best line was Vermette-Kelly-Winchester--combined eight shots and five hits--but it's too bad Vermette can't score to save his life. And it's back to the drawing board for Hartsburg, as the Sens prepare to play in Montreal on Thursday.

Wow, a 2,000+ word post. I'm sorry, it got away from me. Hopefully it wasn't terribly boring to read. And we're back to the same question we were asking before the game: Who does Bryan Murray try to trade? With a few days off until the next game, I think something might happen soon.
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