Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sens Flame out: Flames 6, Sens 3

Alex Auld of the Ottawa Senators makes a save on Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames
Losing a two-goal lead was obviously pretty frustrating, but it was even more frustrating when you have to listen to Greg Millen Craig Simpson and Jim Hughson host a Calgary Flames love-in (especially for Dion Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla) all night long. Maybe I was just a little bit short because of the result, but did anyone else notice an obvious passion from CBCs commentators for Calgary?

Whatever. No scoring in the first. Two goals early in the second, the first with a slapshot from Chris Phillips at the point (with two goals in two consecutive losses for him, is this the end of the "Phillips mojo"?), and the second after some solid board work from Dany Heatley (I'm as surprised as you are) to free up the puck for Jason Spezza to take a shot (!) high blocker side.

After those goals, though, the Flames brought it to the Sens, and the roster holes left by Anton Volchenkov and Filip Kuba on defence were abundantly clear. Some defensive foibles and the Flames had three goals in 2:07, and the Sens were behind. On defence, it was obvious the Sens were going to have problems without the aforementioned stalwarts, who are arguably the Sens' two most consistent d-men so far this season. As good as Brian Lee has played since his recall, he played 25:18 on the night. I'll give him credit for how clean his game was, but that's just a sign of how desperate the Sens were on defence on the night.

Cody Bass tried to spark the Sens late in the first by dropping the gloves with Eric Nystrom, but he just injured his shoulder and left the game. It seems unlikely that he'll be back, but--as unfortunate as his injury is--I think Ilya Zubov (who was a healthy scratch against the Flames) will offer more of what the Sens need.

People will lay plenty of blame on Spezza for Rene Bourque's second goal of the game, but I don't think it's necessary to crap on him. As Kelly Hrudey pointed out, this wasn't a blind errant pass; Spezza simply lost control of the puck, and actually slid face-first to try and block the shot afterwards. It's shitty that it happened, but it wasn't the kind of stupid mistake that people usually rag Spezza for.

Then Alex Picard scored his fifth goal of the season to tie the game. (Five goals, by the way, ranks Picard higher than Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, and Jarkko Ruutu in goals scored this season.) One thing about Picard's goal, that you can say about most of his goals this season: Instead of looking for a perfect pass or a howitzer slapshot, he simply focussed on getting the puck on the net. Christoph Schubert could learn a thing or two from the kid, because a slapshot isn't much use if you fan on it or miss the net.

Did anyone else see Daniel Alfredsson throw some lumber towards Phaneuf after the Flames' neanderthal jumped at a Sens player in the corner (I think it was Nick Foligno)? Maybe, after getting the cold shoulder from his teammates, Alfie's trying to lead by example.

Not much else to say, really. The Sens are scoring some goals now, but they've lost the defensive responsibility that was their strong suit at the start of the season. If I've got to choose between a 2-1 loss or a 6-3 loss, I think I'll go with the latter, so maybe it's better this way.

I'm not sure when the roster freeze thaws, but Bryan Murray is sure to be making plenty of phone calls in preparation for that day. We've all heard how difficult it is to make a trade in the salary cap era, but the roster right now simply isn't working as a whole, no matter how hard the individual components might be working.
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