Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Terrible: Habs 4 Sens 0

No sense pulling any punches: The Sens got pwned by the Canadiens Tuesday night. Although a few Senators had a good game, the team as a unit was bad. There was no semblance of cohesion or structure, and if history serves, Craig Hartsburg will be calling out a few more players after this game.

Story of the game was Montreal's penalty killing, or possibly Ottawa's inept powerplay (especially that second unit). Carey Price was great in their net, too, but more than that was the short-handed goal for Chris Higgins (one of his three goals on the night) and consistent offensive pressure while killing penalties for the Habs. It turned the momentum around big time.

I don't know how the Sens can fix their second powerplay unit, but you can't throw Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Nick Foligno, Chris Phillips, and Christoph Schubert on the ice and expect much in the way of offensive pressure. Vermette is everywhere, but nowhere when you need him, Foligno looks lost (probably because he's trying to do too much), Fisher is just running guys over but can't get the puck to anyone, Schubert will either miss the net or have his shot blocked and turned into a rush the other way, and it's sad to say that Phillips kind of looks like he fits there the most. Jesse Winchester got some PP time later in the game, but he's not likely the solution, either. I don't know what is, but there's got to be something better.

I don't want to pick on Schubert, but I think he might have had his worst game tonight. He was caught high on the first goal against, and lost the puck on the second one. His defensive responsibility is not sold on me, and I can't say I know why Brian Lee isn't up here playing as the sixth defenceman instead of Schubert. Stats say he had four shots on net, which is more than I'd thought, but he also had three shots blocked and two missed shots. He wasn't impressive tonight.

It was a tough game for Foligno, as well. It's never easy for a young player to be demoted from second- to third- to fourth-line minutes, but Foligno is just trying to do to much. And it's costing him, as he was -3 on the night, -10 on the season, and his production has seriously tailed off. My diagnosis is for him to simplify his game; play positionally, forecheck, and throw the puck on net. His line has a very simple prerogative, so he's just got to keep it that way, too.

Biggest jackass on the night was Jarkko Ruutu, and I am glad he's on the Sens. It's a lot more fun when that guy's throwing elbows at your opponents rather than your favourite players. And it's hilarious watching him skating off the ice, waving to the opposing fans sarcastically. Hilarious. Hilarious because no one got injured, that is.

Jason Spezza responded tonight. I'd argue that he wasn't what was wrong with that line in the past few games, either, but he definitely wasn't the problem on this night. He looked pissed, and that's how he should play. He had gusto, tried a hit, crashed the net, led the team with four shots, and still found time to make some pretty passes without any giveaways--unfortunately his linemates, Dany Heatley and Antoine Vermette, couldn't back him up.

The best line was, once again, Fisher-Winchester-Daniel Alfredsson. They didn't get anything done goal-wise, but they combined for seven shots on net and were effective when they were on the ice. At times, Fisher was just ploughing through Habs defenders, and it was some incredible strength.

The best player for the Sens, however, was Alex Auld. He kept the Sens in the game in the first period, when they were outshot 11-3 and had no business being in it. His stats will take a hit after letting in four goals, but this loss was far from his fault--and it could (and perhaps should) have been a lot worse.

It looked like the Sens had turned a corner, but then they turned right back around in tonight's game. Montreal is one of, if not the, best team in the Eastern Conference, but that doesn't excuse the sloppiness with which the Senators played tonight. Should the team get back to that system Hartsburg has in place, they'd be much more competitive with the best teams in the league.
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