Friday, November 7, 2008

On a Winch and a prayer: Sens 4, Flyers 1

I wonder how much cheesier headlines can get than "On a Winch and a prayer". Probably not much cheesier, but I'm sure the Ottawa Sun could find a way. (EDIT: They did, with their headline "Just like Auld times".) No matter how much cheese you have to cut through, the final result is the same: A mostly dominant 4-1 Sens victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Speaking of Winch, one of the game's biggest storylines was Jesse Winchester scoring his first NHL goal mid-way through the second period. As Winchester cut to the front of the net, Daniel Alfredsson sent a glorious pass his way, and Winnie tucked a backhand underneath Philly goaltender Antero Nittymaki. Winchester's celebration was at least as good as his goal: He stared, dumbfounded, for a few seconds, until his right hand shot up into the air, and then his left hand followed a second later. Hilarious. Then he skated over to Mike Fisher, and was joined by Alfredsson in celebration. It's pretty amazing how popular Winchester has become, because the building got really loud when he scored--his style of play has endeared him to Sens fans.

Since being 'demoted' to the second line, Alfredsson has transformed the Senators into a multi-threat team, and ended two goalless streaks (Winchester's on Thursday, and Fisher's on Tuesday) in just a few games. My girlfriend and I were talking last night, and we are both baffled by the fact that Alfie doesn't win the TEAM 1200's Hardest Working Senator award every night. Because he's having a great season so far.

Although the Sens let up a bit for the second and third, the first period was complete dominance. They outshot the Flyers 12-3, and had goals from Anton Volchenkov (laserbeam of a shot high glvoe side) and Dany Heatley (after Jason Spezza sent him a pass I still can't comprehend). A five-minute penalty assessed to Braydon Coburn after he hit Antoine Vermette from behind certainly helped the Sens get off to a good start, but they were well on their way before that penalty. I was kind of expecting the Sens to pad their powerplay stats after scoring just 30 seconds into Coburn's penalty, but they didn't really get much of anything after that goal.

Once again, we've got to give credit to Alex Auld for the win. Although the Flyers only had 18 shots on the night, some of them were bona fide scoring chances. It wasn't a cake walk for Auld, but he provided the stability in nets that the Sens need to win games. Over at Scarlett Ice, they posted a comparison between Auld and former Sens netminder Patrick Lalime, and I think their big-body, positional styles are very similar. There's one difference, though: Auld doesn't seem to get frazzled by anything.

And is anyone else supremely please with Filip Kuba? Okay, everyone except Don Brennan is happy with the way this guy is playing. He's got 14 assists so far, and has at least one in 11 of the Sens' 13 games so far. His poise on the powerplay is great; he makes decisions more quickly han Wade Redden used to, and he makes far fewer mistakes than Andrej Meszaros did. The composure comes in handy when the Sens are short-handed, too. He's leading all Senators in ice time, averagin 24:33 per game, and is a team-leading +5. I thought he would be reliable, but Kuba has really stepped up and filled the void on the Sens' blue line.

Funniest moment of the game: When Christoph Schubert, demonstrating tremendous speed, blasted around the Flyers' D and cut in front of the net, only to overskate the puck at the top of the crease. Then he got demolished by Mike Richards. I tried not to laugh, but when I found out it was only Schubert's pride that was injured I couldn't hold it back. I've got to give the guy huge credit for his breakaway speed, and for setting up what would have been a great move. Here is the clip, for anyone who didn't see it:

Hilarious, once you realize he's not hurt badly. That's a blooper reel classic.

Anyway, the Sens play again tonight, this time against the Carolina Hurricanes. Martin Gerber will get the start, and if he has any chance of regaining the starter's role that he has lost (or even if he has any hope of signing an NHL contract next year).
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