Sunday, March 30, 2008
Recently, though, he's been tremendously ineffective. The problems have been there all year, but they've been especially evident since Neil returned from his latest injury. Watching Thursday's game against Buffalo, Neil routinely shied away from hits, and was almost always outbattled in the corners. If blame is to be laid on any one player for the game-tying third goal against the Sabres, that blame lies with Neil.
Neil's stats line over the five games since he return tell much of the story: No goals, one assist, -2, 25 penalty minutes, and averaging less than 10 minutes a game. He's accumulated 13 hits in that time, which is pretty good, but he had zero in the most recent game against Boston. He's had three shots on net total.
I've really begun to notice that when Neil tries to provoke an opponent into taking a penalty, he often ends up getting called for one himself. Many questions arise: Is Neil happy with the team? Or his teammates (his scuffles with Ray Emery and Wade Redden earlier in the season come to mind)? With his role? Is he fighting a nagging injury? Is his mental game in it? Is he simply overcomplicating his game? I don't know the answers, but he'd better diagnose his problem and fix it before the playoffs come around. The Sens can't afford to be killing off stupid penalties or covering for Neil if he continues to lose battles.
If Neil fails to return to his old form, it begs a question in the off-season: What do you do with a $1.2M grinder who fails to grind?
Saturday, March 29, 2008
It's 3-0 right now for the Boston Bruins. I'm not watching the game because I'm at work. But Shane Hnidy just scored a short-handed goal on the Senators. It was his second goal of the season, and allowing him to score, and while shorthanded to boot, rivals the 5-0 loss to Toronto as the lowest point of the year in my opinion.
Is anyone watching the game right now? What the hell is going on?
"He's a good guy. I don't think he's a stand-up, 'rah-rah' type of guy. He's a leader on the ice," said Ray, a commentator on Buffalo Sabres broadcasts on MSG. "And, I think that's a big part of the problem with that hockey team up there.
"Even when I was (in Ottawa), there was no one person who would stand up and take charge and you know, bat a head when it needed to happen. They're all right, they're very close friends ... Alfie's a great player when things are going easy. And, it just seemed like when the Sabres sat back a little bit and fell asleep a little (Tuesday in Ottawa's 6-3 comeback win in Buffalo), it gave him that little bit of life he needed and he went from there. But where was he in the first two periods?"
"He's not (the answer)," said Ray. "Everybody thought as soon as they named
him into that position (as No. 1 goalie), he'd come around. He hasn't done it.
He's fighting everything, every puck that comes around ... He's not the guy."
Friday, March 28, 2008
Since the Sens lost however, the lead in the Ottawa Sun was "Just when it looked like they might finally pave their rocky road to the post-season, the Senators blew a 3-2 lead in the final minutes of the third period and lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place last night."
Let's not let the outcome of the shoot-out determine our feelings about the players' efforts during the game.
The Sens played well, creating offensive chances throughout the game and showing sparks of both physicality and dominating talent. Cory Stillman continued his strong play, but left the game due to a leg injury.
I'm not sure where people are coming up with a 'strong game' from Martin Gerber. I didn't see anything but bouncing rebounds and holes in his game. I think it's time for a rest.
Biggest surprise of the night: JASON SPEZZA SHOOTS THE PUCK! I was expecting a no-look drop-pass to nobody, but instead the notorious play-maker sets himself up for a nice 5-hole goal. Rookie Brian Lee was the pass-option in this 2-on-1, maybe if it was Dany Heatley, Spez would have passed. Just a theory.
...and speaking of the General, I may make Wade Redden the Nancy Kerrigan to my Tanya Harding, just to give Lee as much icetime as possible. It was also reported during the broadcast that Lee will stay with the Sens throughout the playoffs. Wicked.
Also from the Ottawa Sun:
THE BUZZ: Another sign of spring approaching: Senators defenceman Wade Redden got his barbeque dug out of the snow the other day. On the menu? Homemade turkey burgersWhy does Chris Stevenson know these things?!
How does Chris Stevenson know these things?!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Ottawa Senators might have lost their latest game against the Montreal Canadiens 7-5, but that didn't stop the Sens' AHL affiliate to give the Hamilton Bulldogs a good beating Wednesday night.
Brian Elliot stopped 39 of 40. Josh Henessy, who's been having a relatively quiet season down in Bingo (quiet enough to not get recalled by the big club), had four goals and one assist, while Lawrence Nycholat also had a five-point night.
Nycholat is having a very productive season, at least offensively. He's currently third on the team in scoring, with 12 goals and 36 assists in 69 games. Denis Hamel is the team's leading scorer with 31 goals and 52 points in 59 games.
Alex Nikulin scored two goals and set up another in the Hamilton win Wednesday. He's fourth on the team in points, while fellow Russian prospect Ilja Zubov has 15 goals and 22 assists in 69 games in his first year in North America.
The Binghamton Senators are currently trailing Hershey by two points for the final playoff spot in their division.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
With that in mind, I'd like to follow up the Sens Army exclusive scouting report from Colgate Maroon-News sports editor Paul Kasabian with two more interviews, first with Maroon-News hockey writer Ruben Leavitt, and afterwards with Winchester's teammate (and Ottawa-native) Tom Riley from the Colgate Raiders.
First off, I asked Leavitt the same four questions which were posed to Kasabian:
- What kind of game does he play? Is he a finesse player, or a power-forward?
What is great about Jesse is that he can be both a finesse player and a grinder. He has amazing hands that can fake a defenseman out of his jock, but his lower-body strength is such that he is not afraid to take the puck behind the net and to battle along the boards. Many of his points have come off the cycle down low. I would rank his finesse and battling capabilities as basically even. He's not a terribly big guy, so I wouldn't necessarily label him as a power-forward.
- Does he see any special teams ice time?
Jesse sees plenty of special teams ice time. His unit with Tyler Burton and Peter Bogdanich was the #1 unit for the PP, and Jesse was consistently put out for the PK as well (he and Tyler would split time, either he or Tyler would make up half of the #1 PK forward line, the other would be put out second).
- How does the coach/how do his teammates speak about him?
The coaching staff and Jesse's teammates give nothing but high praise for Jesse. They are all extremely proud of his accomplishments and can't wait to see him playing in the NHL. They think he is a great leader--vocal when he needs to be, but more that he sets the tone. I have seen him on numerous occasions come out for the first shift of a game or the first shift of a period and lay a heavy hit to get the Raiders going.
- I've heard he might be NHL-ready already; what are your personal opinions on that statement?
I don't know if I'm the most qualified person to assess whether Jesse is NHL-ready, but I can say this: He has a good head on top of those shoulders, so I think his hockey smarts must be NHL-ready. He's a great two-way player, and was one of the leading scorers in one of the toughest leagues in the country. I think he'll make a great addition to the Senators.
"Winch is a talented player with a great sense for the game. His main strengths are his skating and his strength. He dominates players in battles along the boards and has breakaway speed. He was our captain and leader this year. Great guy and I can't to see him play for my favorite NHL team."So, everyone asked seem to be saying the right things about Winchester, and I'm looking forward to see him play a game or two for the Sens. Considering Murray's ability to sign free agents out of college--including the likes of Chris Kunitz and Dustin Penner--things looks pretty promising.
Will Bryan Murray stick with Martin Gerber between the pipes? It's a difficult decision. Ray Emery helped his team advance to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and is the most successful playoff goaltender in Senators franchise history.
Gerber appears to be the #1 goalie right now, but has started 12 consecutive games and will surely need a game or two off to rest before the playoffs. That gives Emery his final chance to show that he is the true playoff starter.
If Gerber starts the playoffs for the Sens and does anything but win the first round for the Sens in 5 or less game, many will be calling for a change in net -- even those who have based their newspaper columns on chastising Emery all season. Just watch.
Gerber has not looked great in net for the Sens recently, giving up rebounds aplenty, and allowing second-chance shots to find the back of the net with ease. Emery must get his chance soon.
I hope he blows it. The Sens need a clear #1 to believe in and depend on for the playoffs. If it's Gerber then so be it.
God help them, God help us all.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Almost to a man, the defence played great. I'll start with Brian Lee, because he's going to have a lot of people saying, "Wade who?" pretty quickly if he plays like he did against the Sabres for every game. He ended up playing over 18 minutes, including some powerplay and penalty-killing time, took two shots on net and had two others blocked--including one which broke a stick and gave the Sens some great sustained offensive pressure in the second. He looked incredibly composed, and you could see him communicating with teammates while on the ice, which was awesome. He played Derek Roy perfectly on a one-on-one, and put Roy down on his can to boot. Plus he stopped a certain goal with his foot in the second period. I hope Lee sticks around for the playoffs, because if tonight is any indication, he can definitely contribute.
After Lee--whose nickname, as declared on Scarlett Ice, is "General"--the rest of the D played pretty well, too. Especially Anton Volchenkov, who scored his first goal of the season off a howitzer and added a couple assists for good measure. But especially Mike Commodore, who finally looked a little better, blocked five shots and threw two hits in over 21 minutes (unfortunately his consecutive point-scoring streak ended at two games). But especially Andrej Meszaros and Chris Phillips. Luke Richardson was pretty quiet, but I guess you should expect that from Richardson.
Strange but true: Mike Fisher, Cory Stillman, and Antoine Vermette all had more ice time than either of Dany Heatley or Jason Spezza. It's just something we haven't seen much of, but considering the way Heatley and Spezza played in the first two periods, they didn't really earn much ice time. Daniel Alfredsson didn't even lead the forwards in ice time (Fisher did), but his two goals were a couple of beauties and his assist on Volchie's goal was a great cut-cross-cash sequence (i.e. cut away from the Buffalo defenceman, pass across the ice to Volchenkov, who cashed in the winning goal).
Randy Robitaille was once again invisible. I don't know if that was why he only got 5:20 of ice time, or because he only got that much ice time, but coach Bryan Murray warned him that he's not got any spots locked, so if he wants to stay in the lineup when Chris Kelly comes back, or even when Cody Bass comes back, he's going to need to do more than he did. And Chris Neil, the next lowest player in terms of ice time on Ottawa, didn't take a penalty! Hooray! He actually drew one, too, so he was +1 in penalties drawn/penalties taken plus/minus rating.
In the nets, Martin Gerber did not look good on Roy's first goal. He had no chance on the second, or on Jason Pominville's goal, but he looked downright terrible on the first one. He amde some key saves, though--29 on the night--and I think he earned the start on Thursday against the Sabres again.
But hey, it's a win, right? Even if the team bombed the first forty minutes, it's a valuable two points on the way to clinching a playoff spot. Go Sens go.
Either coach Bryan Murray knows that Redden won't play, or he has been planning to insert Lee in place of Luke Richardson. I assume, however, that it's a measure to replace Reds in the lineup. Which is appropriate, because Lee will be expected to replace--at least partially--the loss of Redden in the off-season.
I am now 99.9% certain that Redden won't be back next year, so I'm just going to assume that Lee will take his spot. Or Andrej Meszaros will take Redden's spot, and Lee will jump into Meszy's role.
Colgate finished 8-9-2 in ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) play this past season, and Winchester was second on the team with 37 points in 40 games.
Now, being the proactive and interested Sens fan that I am, I e-mailed the editors at The Colgate Maroon-News, the prestigious student newspaper of Colgate University. Expecting a response within a week, I received one--and the promise of a second--within twelve hours. Incredible. So, thanks to Sports Editor Paul Kasabian at the Maroon-News, here is a scouting report on the newest Senator for your reading pleasure:
- What kind of game does he play? Is he a finesse player, or a power-forward?
I'd say he's a power forward. Winchester is not afraid to get in the defensive zone and hit a guy. He's a gritty, hard-working player, someone Sens fans will fall in love with. In fact, he led the team in penalty minutes for almost all of the season until Brian Day eclipsed him in the last game of the season when he got a 10 minute penalty and got thrown out (Winchester finished 2nd with 51 PM). However, there are finesse aspects to Winchester's game. I'd love it every time he got the puck in the offensive zone because he is a great puckhandler, probably the best on the team. He's a good two-way player, I'd say.
- Does he see any special teams ice time?
Yes he is on the primary power play unit and was 2nd on the team in PP goals with 3 and first in PP points with 13. He sees the ice when the team is shorthanded as well.
- How does the coach/how do his teammates speak about him?
He was the team captain for a reason. From what I've heard, he's a great guy and a great teammate. Formed a great bond with the other seven seniors on the team, and the team chemistry from what I saw was excellent. Coach [Don] Vaughan speaks highly of him as well every time he speaks about him. Ruben [Leavitt, men's hockey beat writer at the Maroon-News] can give you more information about this since Jesse is his year and the two know each other.
- I've heard he might be NHL-ready already; what are your personal opinions on that statement?
I don't think he's NHL-ready at this moment, but I definitely do think the Sens should keep around for longer than a year. He just needs to work on finding a way to put the puck in the net more often, as his shot percentage was 5.5%, below team average. With a season, maybe two, in the minors working on improving that shot percentage and getting some more goals, Jesse can definitely come out and help the Sens win a Stanley Cup. Although I don't think he's the next Jason Spezza, I think NHL teams need tough forwards like Jesse to win a Stanley Cup. You've got a good player on your hands.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Wow. Just... wow. I can't believe how ugly those first two periods were. And more frustrating was how well the team played in the third period. Why not just play that way all game long? I have to admit, I was watching the game with some friends, and I stopped watching once it was 6-1 and watched a few episodes of The Office. The American edition. Steve Carell is hilarious. We checked back with 10 minutes gone in the third, and it was 7-4. So we watched the rest of the game, which ended 7-5. A lot better than the 7-1 score going into the third.
I'm pretty sure this loss wasn't because Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond were out, even if those two are valuable contributors. If it was, we're in trouble for a while. I hope Cody Bass plays tomorrow, because he's a Kelly-esque hard worker.
Is it wrong that I laughed when Wade Redden trip himself and smashed into the boards behind the net? He's a great person in the community. He gives a lot back to the city. He might be a good leader. But he's been terrible for most of the last two seasons. His tripping and smashing into the back boards, turning the puck over to the Habs for an easy goal, is a microcosm of the season we've seen from him: a complete disaster. At this point, I don't think Bryan Murray would want him back even if Reds agrees to sign for $1.5M or something ridiculous.
Where the hell did Randy Robitaille learn to play that hard? Maybe we should scratch him every other game, so he always feels he's got something to prove. NHL.com only gave him one hit, but I saw one shift where he had at least two, and he finished with two assists and was +2 on the night.
The Sens' powerplay was terrible. Eight powerplays, including a 5-3 in the third that could have made it a tie game, but they bombed. I'm not sure what the problem is. Certainly frustrating is seeing Jason Spezza or Dany Heatley trying to stickhandle through the neutral zone, have the puck knocked back, and havign to regroup and try again. Although dump-and-chase on the powerplay is ugly, it might be necessary. Puck movement in the offensive zone--when it is eventually gained--is usually fine, but shots don't get through. The powerplay's been clicking the last few games, but not tonight.
The floodgates have opened offensively for Mike Commodore! The man has two assists in the last two games. Outstanding. Also of note: Martin Lapointe got a goal and an assist and now has five points in 12 games with the Sens. Andrej Meszaros shot 13 towards the net, even though 5 got blocked on the way. He's continuing to improve, despite his -2 rating tonight, and he might be priority number one this off-season.
The goaltending situation got a little cloudier. When Martin Gerber allowed three goals in the first period, including some poor ones, and Ray Emery came in for the second, I thought there was some drama. Then Emery allowed four goals in the second, including some poor ones, and it addressed no concerns. Then Murray announced that Gerber would start again tomorrow in Buffalo, and it might be his last chance to prove he can be the starter. Although Emery will be tagged with this loss, Gerber has played poorly in three of the last four.
I don't know what else to say. The CASH line combined for 6 points, with Daniel Alfredsson getting three assists. Although Heater's Drive for Fifty campaign is getting less likely, his two goals tonight brough the season total to 39, so six games to score eleven more goals.
Tomorrow's game against the Sabres can go a long way in helping me forget tonight's. But right now, the assignment I have to write--which is due tomorrow--will be extremely difficult due to all these distracting questions about my team's playoff hopes. Do the Sens have no consideration for the lives of their fans? So selfish.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The more interesting part is that Murray said no one would be called up from the farm to fill in his spot. That means Randy "belongs in Russia" Robitaille will likely be back in the lineup. Okay, I guess. If that's the plan for the playoffs then I would say give Cody Bass a try before the end of the regular season.
Due to some injury-related administrative details, Bass is with the Sens for the rest of the season and won't be sent to the Baby Sens. So give him a shot.
The Kelly injury also means that Christoph Schubert should expect more time on the pk as a forward.
Last night I was surprised to see Mike Commodore and Luke Richardson killing penalties, not the roles I expected them to fill. But I suppose that some line juggling can be expected on the pk units as Kelly ate up a ton of that time.
They terrorized the Leafs for the first 20 minutes of the March 22 5-4 loss, but left the first period up by only one goal. It should have been three.
If you were at the game, as I was, you would have heard a steady increase in the instances of "motivational mumblings" as the game wore on. You know, those things that people say in the crowd that are said loudly, but no one is really meant to hear.
"C'mon Fisher - get 'er done"
"Awwwww Redden, you're garbage! Hit the guy!"
"Alfie, you're the man - put the puck in the net"
And I mumbled the following:
"Murder him! When you get the chance, smash his face in!"
These sayings are a measurement of crowd frustration. As the team begins to suck, people say these things more.
Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel "Boooooo...yaayyyyyy..ooo....yyyyyy" Alfredsson played well together throughout the game. The real story is, however, the second line.
Chris Neil, Mike Fisher, and Cory Stillman took an entirely different approach to scoring goals, and it seemed to work for most of the night. I don't think the team missed Randy Robitaille in the least.
Reading my own comments here, offence doesn't seem to be the problem. Defence was the problem. The huge, gaping, undeniable problem that pulled the Senators into a deep chasm of self-loathing and "what-if" statements.
As in, what if Ottawa hadn't surrendered that goal late in the second period? What if Spezza had netted one of his many chances? What if the team didn't take that stupid additional penalty?
So much could be said about this game as it summarizes the Senators searching for the meaning of their season at this point. Lack of discipline, lack of leadership, lack of direction.
There is one question that can be answered tonight however:
Are the Sens ready for the playoffs? Not by a long shot.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I'll start off with Randy Robitaille. He wasn't bad tonight; he was just Randy Robitaille. Which means he shied away from all physical play, was soft on the forecheck, controlled the puck well but was unable to make time and space that he needs to make plays. When he plays alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, those two are rendered less effective in the offensive zone because the opposing team can allow Robitaille some leeway and focus on checking Heater and Spezza more. And in the first period especially, it was evident that the two marquee guys on that line were getting frustrated. Robitaille's role on this team is quickly diminishing with the acquisition of [Cory] Stillman, and I have a feeling he might be the odd-man out when Chris Neil is ready to return.Okay, that's enough of me patting myself on the back. Although I am impressed with myself...
I've been pretty hard on Robitaille all season, although not nearly as hard as Jeremy Milks over at Black Aces. I disagree with the harsh tone of Milks in his most recent post, though:
Randy Robitaille has been coasting with the Senators all season long, showing no physical commitment or emotion or doing anything to diminish his reputation as a wallflower.Bryan Murray went out of his way to bring in Robitaille, a local boy, from Russia and Murray even gave him a chance to play on the first line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
His game is very well-suited to the European style, and he would have flourished had he stayed in Russia. I have a feeling he'll be missing a lot of time leading up to and in the playoffs, and I think the team will be better for it. But that's not a shot at Robitaille; it's just a statement of fact. He's a middling player who can do time in the NHL, but can't be counted on for sustained production. Best of luck to Ropes, but I think his time has run out with the Sens.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I'm happy that the boys put together a win, but the Sens should realize that a team like the Blues should not even compete against a team as talented as Ottawa. A 3-2 squeaker is unacceptable.
Now that the team seems more organized and has a #1 goalie, it's back to basics (again) for the Senators: Killer Instinct. The ability to sense weakness in other teams and then capitalize on it. You could see the lack of this quality in the Sens last night when Barrett Jackman took a 4-minute penalty, and Ottawa couldn't put the puck in the net to seal the game.
Although I heard the fans chanting 'ALFIE! ALFIE!' at one point in the game, I didn't see much from the Golden God this game... maybe someone can point that out for me.Everyone knows how the captain was crucial to the Senators' playoff success last year and it would be nice to see him heating up instead of turning invisible at this point in the season.
And speaking of heat, no 50-goal season for Dany Heatley this year. With only 8 games left in the regular season, Heater's got 36 goals. Not a bad total for your average player, but this guy's going to be making $8 million over the next few years. Let's hope he's saving some talent for the Stanley Cup (Finals).
The biggest problem for the Sens was defensive coverage. Both of St. Louis' goals were of defensive gaffes, where a cross-ice pass forced Martin Gerber--who played well and had little to no chance on the two goals--to stretch out, but was unable to stretch far enough. The first one was all thanks to Wade Redden, who gave the puck away and then gave up his check (Jamal Mayers), and it was Mayers who tipped the puck in.
I don't know that Redden had a bad game, though. He had three or four terrible shifts, though, and they were really terrible, so it made his whole game seem abysmal. Also struggling on defence was Mike Commodore, again, but there are signs that show he's on the verge of coming around. One good sign was a decent pairing of Commodore and Christoph Schubert, which is an experiment I maintain Bryan Murray should try for a game or two. Luke Richardson could probably use some rest, anyway.
Speaking of Schubert, he had a solid game whether at defence or on forward, and I'm not just saying that because of the goal he scored. His goal was huge, though, and that fourth line of Schubert with Dean McAmmond (who had a beauty pass for Schubie's goal) and Shean Donovan (whose forechecking never seems to cease) is turning out to be just as useful as the fourth line Murray constructed in last year's playoffs. Which will be valuable. On defence, Schubert--who was playing with Redden on the powerplay--actually looked really good controlling the puck along the blue line with the man advantage, and when he was killing penalties with Commodore he looked positionally solid.
Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov played as reliably as they seem to do on every night, and both finished +2 in less ice time than they usually have to play (largely thanks to Barret Jackman's four stupid penalties). Volchenkov blocked three shots, and added an assist for good measure.
The best defenceman of the night, though, was Andrej Meszaros. He threw two huge hits (and three total, according to NHL.com), played more ice time than anyone else on the Sens, threw two shots on net and blocked a Blues shot, too. His powerplay control was great, and he was bumped up to the first power-play unit alongside Cory Stillman for good reason. He appears to be regaining the form of his rookie season (knock on wood), and it couldn't come soon enough.
Well, enough about defencemen. (If you couldn't tell, I was once a d-man, which is why I talk about them so much.) Now I'll move onto forwards. This is going to be a long post, I guess. It's because it was the first game I've seen in quite a while.
I'll start off with Randy Robitaille. He wasn't bad tonight; he was just Randy Robitaille. Which means he shied away from all physical play, was soft on the forecheck, controlled the puck well but was unable to make time and space that he needs to make plays. When he plays alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, those two are rendered less effective in the offensive zone because the opposing team can allow Robitaille some leeway and focus on checking Heater and Spezza more. And in the first period especially, it was evident that the two marquee guys on that line were getting frustrated. Robitaille's role on this team is quickly diminishing with the acquisition of Stillman, and I have a feeling he might be the odd-man out when Chris Neil is ready to return.
Part way through the game, the CASH line was reunited, and it seemed to reinvigorate Daniel Alfredsson. It's obvious that he benefits greatly from playing with Spezza and Heatley, and those two use his skills well. And while playing on a line with Stillman and Mike Fisher, Alfredsson looks a little out of place; those two have a chemistry that is independent of Alfie, and I think that Neil might fall on the second line with Stillman and Fisher when he does return. Speaking of Fisher, he played incredibly, despite the fact that he had no points. On his way to recording a game-high seven hits, Fisher suckered Jackman into a penalty, and then the former rookie of the year (why did he ever win that?) Jackman took an unsportsmanlike penalty, to boot. A team composed of six Christoph Schuberts on defence and twelve Mike Fisher's on forward would be a lot of fun to watch.
The third line was outstanding. I'm not sure what it is, but Martin Lapointe seems to have changed the play of Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly, and I think this line is really making a case to get themselves a lot of bonus ice time at even strength situations. While Lapointe's skill set is limited, he has a pretty good shot, and his speed and tenacity on the forecheck mean a lot of pucks get coughed out into open spaces, where Vermette or Kelly are often buzzing around and are able to pick them up. This line was the best through two periods, maybe through the whole game. While I'm unsure about Lapointe's role on the powerplay, he sure is a sucker for punishment--he must have taken a dozen cross-checks while standing in front of the net in the second period.
The fact that nine different players registered a point for the Sens is a good sign to me. Although it was only Hannu Toivonen in nets at the other end, the knowledge that each line has the potential to contribute offensively was a huge part of last year's team's success, and is a necessary asset going forward.
One final note: I never gave Eric Brewer much credit, but he was the most effective St. Louis player during the game. And Paul Kariya was invisible except for a couple of shifts in the third period. And that's probably enough rambling "insight" for one day. I'm sorry if it was too long. If you think it would be more effective to write in bullet-point format, let me know.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
First off, thanks to the Blues for beating the Canadiens last night, even if they did allow Montreal to get one point out of the loss. Should the Sens beat the Blues, they would move within one point of Montreal for the lead in the Northeast, and within one point of New Jersey for first in the Eastern Conference.
As for the Blues season so far, they started out gangbusters, but have really fizzled in the second half (sound familiar?) and are 2-7-1 in their last ten games. They are, however, a perfect 4-0 against teams from the Eastern Conference, which should serve to motivate the Sens to keep on their toes for the game.
Ottawa won the last meeting between these two teams (on March 20, 2007; exactly one calendar year before this year's meeting, oddly enough) by a score of 4-2 in St. Louis. Antoine Vermette scored a goal and two assists, and was first star of the game, and Martin Gerber stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win.
What else can I say, really? St. Louis sucks. Ottawa better not lose, because getting shut out by the worst team in the league (Los Angeles) was bad enough.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
- Corvo: 15GP, 6G, 9A, 15Pts +6, 4PIM
- Eaves: 9GP, 1G, 3A, 4Pts, -1, 2PIM
- Stillman: 17GP, 2G, 12A, 14Pts, -5, 8PIM
- Commodore: 17GP, 0G, 0A, 0Pts, -8, 20PIM
This trade wasn't made for "right now", though. We won't really know the true value of Stillman and Commodore until the playoffs. Stillman, while playing alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher, helps form what many say is the best second line the Sens have ever had. When (or if) the going gets tought for the top line in the playoffs, he will be a valuable asset. As a point-man on the powerplay, he brings some offensive perspective and allows Alfredsson to play down low in the zone. His experience and presence in the dressing room are also intangibles people are giving a lot of value to, so I won't discount them.
Commodore, it is obvious, has struggled the most since the trade. When play tightens in the playoffs, though, his size will become that much more important, and his sluggishness will become less noticeable (or at least that's the hope). Most of all, his ability to throw a big check at some forwards gives Ottawa a nice complement to Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips.
Although time will tell, I'm hoping that the trade works out more for Ottawa than for Carolina. I wish Corvo and Eaves all the luck in the world, except when they're playing against the Sens.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Obviously, not the team's best effort on offence or defence. Martin Gerber made plenty of saves, but still managed to send every rebound towards the stick of a Carolina player... maybe hold onto those next time?
Antoine Vermette especially aggravated me as I watched the game. He seemed to want to make the highlight reel every time he touched - and lost - the puck. Stupid decisions like this, and Jason Spezza's inability to dump the puck into the opponent's zone, made generating offence difficult.
Joe Corvo scored three goals and made Bryan Murray generally look like an ass for trading him, but I'm sure he'll give away that many pucks leading to opponents' goals in the next few games. Such is the nature of Joe Corvo.
Stupid penalties and a walking disaster named Wade helped the Canes secure their lead in the third. Nearly the entire team can be faulted for the penalties in this game, but there's only one Redden; the man who can fall in the offensive zone, but still back-check hard enough to scoop the puck out from behind Gerber.
Can we have a do-over in this Chara-or-Redden deal? I'll would still take Stillman over Corvo.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The one thing I noticed from this 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens, after missing out on watching many games over the past week, is the defensive coverage being much better. I'm not sure if the offence improved at all, but the defence had their shit together.
...the Sens are still getting most of their scoring from Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, but it seems like the Cory Stillman/Mike Fisher/Daniel Alfredsson combination might be taking some time off their shoulders finally.
Spez and Heat played slightly over 20 minutes while Stillman/Fisher/Alfredsson played 15 each. That sounds like a #2 line to me.
Martin Gerber? Listen to me man. Don't mess this one up. You're the man. People have faith in you right now and you could be the Sens #1 goalie come playoff time AS LONG AS YOU DON'T MESS IT UP! If you go ice cold for the next three weeks I will personally find you and kick your ass*.
Too bad the Sens can't carry this momentum into a game in the next couple days, as they next play on Sunday. Three of their next 9 games are against the Habs, and the Sens have won all but one of the meetings between the two teams so far this year.
*Not an actual threat.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Stevenson said Alfredsson was working diligently on his sticks, and was being put through the wash along with Brian McGrattan and Nick Foligno--the likely scratches if Alfie returns--by assistant coach Greg Carvel before the game.
Nathan Sandals, Managing Sports Editor at The Michigan Daily newspaper, gave us the following scouting report on Caporusso:
Even if his future at Michigan is bright, the Sens could always use a player with the ability to score timely goals. Special thanks to Nate, and if you're interested in reading The Michigan Daily--a pretty darn good read--you can check it out here.
Louie is one of a great group of freshman forwards at Michigan. He has centered the third line for most of the season. His role is as a playmaker. Louie has impressed onlookers this season with his ability to score timely goals, as evidenced by his game winner against NotreDame in January with 20 seconds left.
Coach Berenson has been very impressed with Louie as he has been with the entire freshman class. Louie is one of Michigan's best faceoff menand he has caught up to the speed of the college game very quickly. Louie missed six weeks in November and December with a knee injury but he came back and managed to score a goal on his first shift back.
Louie's future at Michigan is certainly bright. He is an intelligentand friendly kid who has quickly been embraced by the coaches, histeammates and Michigan fans.
Louie's role is as a playmaker on Michigan's third line, which he centers. Louie is an offensive stalwart with a knack for timely goals, none bigger than his game-winner against Notre Dame in January, which was scored with twenty seconds left in the game. Louie has seen sometime on the power play and the coaches consider him one of the team's best faceoff men.
There's also a great interview on the U of M athletics website, where Caporusso talks a bit about his favourite players and how he feels about being drafted to Ottawa:
- » On who he likes to watch ...
"I like Mike Fisher (of the Ottawa Senators) a lot because of his heart. He goes on 90 percent work, and 10 percent talent and that is unbelievable. He is not the most talented guy, but he goes all out every game. That's what it's all about... "
- » On being picked by the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 NHL Draft ...
"That was probably one of the best times of my hockey career if you include getting into Michigan. I wasn't at the draft. I think Ottawa really liked my character. In my interview they really liked the way I spoke. I told them, 'If you don't take me you're going to regret it.' I think they understood that. Then they took me. On that day I was pretty excited. It was almost like I was in a dream."
EDIT: Nathan sent me further information, so the report has been updated.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I'm feeling a serious disconnect from my team, and it's been reflected in both posts on this website, and the number of people visiting it.
While Martin Gerber has been rising to the #1 spot, Sens fans have only heard about it through daily updates on TSN.
I've been unable to determine with my own eyes whether or not the Sens have been playing better of late, and whether or not they're missing the injured Chris Neil. Has Bryan Murray been making a difference behind the bench? How the hell do I know?
Ottawa's next game is tomorrow, March 13 and I've been looking forward to it for far too long. And now the good news: the Sens next four games are on TV.
- Powerplay went 2-for-3? Awesome.
- Defencemen seem to finally be able to know how to handle a 2-on-1, obeying the basic principle of defence--take the passer, allow the goalie to handle the shooter. Since Gerber's shown the ability to make the first save, defencemen--and Cory Stillman, when he's on the point--feel comfortable covering the passer.
- The team is winning.
- Big players are scoring: Mike Fisher last game, Heatley tonight.
- The team is no longer hollow without Daniel Alfredsson. With the captain's health in question, it's good to know the team can string together a couple of wins without him in the lineup.
- Only two players had more than 20 minutes in ice time, Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips, and they barely went over. With more players getting equalized ice time, third- and fourth-liners are getting more comfortable with their roles and first- and second-liners are getting more rest in preparation for the playoffs.
Sorry about the long post. I've been so inconsistent with posts recently, so I figured I would say as much as I thought about the game. The win sets the team up for a huge game Thursday against Montreal, with the lead in the Eastern Conference--or at least the Northeast Division--on the line.
Monday, March 10, 2008
An article on TSN talked about the fact that The Gerber's started the Sens' last six games, and Emery's thoughts on that:
Once again, Rayzor is saying the right things for the media. I've also been hearing on the radio that he's been backing up that lip service with solid work in practice and off the ice, though, which is different from earlier in the season. Emery also looked as happy as The Gerber did after the Sens win over Phoenix, which is awesome to see.
Despite a 1-2-1 record on the team's Western road trip last week and just two wins in his last five starts, Gerber has been the Senators' best player lately. And Emery shares that statement wholeheartedly.
"Gerbs has played well," he said Monday. "I think the team's starting to play better and that's all that matters."
The Gerber has been playing well. His rebound control continues to be something people look at as a weakness, but it seems to be getting progressively better. And as team defense continues to improve, the ability of players to clear those rebounds before opponents can get to them will become a necessary support system . Marty doesn't seem to have a problem stopping the initial shot, which is usually what you ask of a goalie.
Whether The Gerber carries the starter's mantle into the playoffs or Emery gets a shot and runs with it, it seems like either goalie is happier with Murray's system than the win-and-you're-in system of yore. Fans are, too.
Can we say that the goaltending controversy is over? Here's hoping.
EDIT: The minute I posted this I saw this article on the Sens official website, all about The Gerber's improved play.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
The Sens finally got a win on this western trip from hell, beating the surprising Phoenix Coyotes by a count of 4 to 2.
Mike Fisher opened the scoring for Ottawa, tallying a short-handed marker in the first frame. Blake Weeler and Peter Mueller replied for the 'Yotes in the second, before Fisher scored his second of the night.
Dany Heatley then gave Ottawa the lead on the power play early in the third, and Antoine Vermette rounded out the scoring.
Very important win for the Sens in my opinion. They really needed to get back on track. An all-round impressive effort, save for the all-too-common defensive brain-cramps, notably from Christoph Schubert--whose gaff let Mikhal Hanzal in alone on Martin Gerber.
The Gerber, to his credit, had a great outing. He stopped 33 of 35 shots, including the breakaway where Hanzal tried a Marek Malik-esque between-the-legs move, but The Gerber simply did not bite.
Perhaps it would have been nice, to break a slump as the one Ottawa was in, to see them really dominate and run up the score a bit more. It was a hard-fought game against a surprisingly competitive Phoenix hockey club.
Phoenix is sort of like the Chicago team no one knows about. They are stacked with young talent, and are starting to get their act together. Especially impressive were the performances by Mueller and Hanzal.
There are conflicting reports as to what the jersey will look like. The strongest rumour I have heard was about a return of the black template, I presume with gold piping or something.
Another rumour has the Sens introducing (get this) a gold jersey, with "Sens" spelled out diagonally in front, Rangers-style. Scary.
I'd definitely be more in favour of a black uniform. And perhaps the Sens could use that mysterious redesigned 2-d logo that has only appeared on some Sens memorabilia so far...
An anonymous fellow blogger has a great website he set up called NHL Tournament of Logos. He started the blog to discuss the major make-over the league underwent this summer. You can view his blog (including an entry about said golden sens third jersey) right here.
First up: That awesome fight from the stat of the year, where Richie smoked Brandon Dubinsky...
Awesome. Now a bunch of random links:
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Senators just lost 2-0 to the worst team in the league. By the transitive property, does that now mean that the Senators are the worst team in the league? At times, it looked like it. Notably in the second period.
Why the crap was Dean McAmmond scratched? Great call, Bryan Murray. It paid off in spades. While I agree that Brian McGrattan can be useful to get into games--and the fight he had tonight showed that--D-Mac's versatility is useful. A lot more useful than Randy Robitaille, who can't play defense, can't play physical, can't kill penalties, and can't really do anything aside from drift around the ice.
I'll point out a couple of good things about tonight's game. Martin Gerber played pretty darn well. He let in one goal, which was on a 5-on-3, and was a nice play by Anze Kopitar. Other than that, he stopped 30 of 31 including some pretty darned good chances. Andrej Meszaros looked alright, and he was really pissed when that empty-netter was scored--he slashed, hooked, and high-sticked Patrick O'Sullivan on his way to the net, and then hit him after he put it in. I can't blame him for being pissed. Although he's on a hell of a cold streak, Mike Fisher led the team in shots (five) as well as hits (six).
Bad stuff... whatever. Apparently Murray's policy of keeping ice times equalized is out the window. McGrattan only played 2:42, and Nick Foligno only played 5:59. On the other end of the scale, Dany Heatley played 24:33, which was higher than any other player on the Senators, including defencemen, and second-highest in the game to only Jack Johnson of the Kings. Second highest one the Sens was Jason Spezza, with 23:32. I understand you want to get some goal scoring, Bryan, but these are a lot of the mistakes that John Paddock made during games. Foligno, in his limited ice time, might have had the Sens' best opportunity to score.
That's all I can say, really. I guess congratulations have to be given to Erik Ersberg, who stopped all 40 Sens' shots to shut Ottawa out in his fourth career NHL game (and first career win). Good for you.
For the record, this is only frustrating because--as we all know--the Sens are still a good team. So Murray just has to figure out what the crap is wrong, figure out how to fix it, and then have it fixed within the next couple of weeks to make sure Ottawa makes the playoffs, and then make some waves when the team is there.
Gah... I'm going to bed.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Competing against some very good Western Conference competition, Ottawa is not getting blown out of the water.
In their game against the Ducks, the Sens we generally man-handled by a bigger and meaner team, but they didn't take it lying down. They created some great offensive chances before the game got out of hand and occasionally gave the Ducks a scare.
In San Jose, Jason Spezza scored two goals, but the team gave up a goal with 3 minutes left to allow the Sharks to force overtime. The Sens gave up 30 shots in the process and probably gave up about twice as many scoring chances.
Tonight, Ottawa takes on the worst team in the West, the LA Kings, who, for all intents and purposes, play every game without a goaltender.
Dan Cloutier? I thought he died in that grease fire back in '82. (I'm not including him in the labels because I presume we'll never discuss him again)
In good news, Cory Stillman is playing well since being acquired, with 10 points in Ottawa's past 10 games. Nice one Murray!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
You'd like to think referees are pure professionals, and aren't affected by what happened on prior nights. But history has shown that they do use their authority to make a point. As a Sens fan, I've felt the Sens have gotten the short end of the referee's stick some nights. That's why I've put Stephane Auger on notice. But a lot of that might have to do with my bias. Even trying to account for that bias against Anaheim, though, it's hard to believe that the refereeing was anywhere close to equitable.
It will be interesting to see if the referees for tonight's game against San Jose will retaliate, and show Murray--who wasn't suspended or fined--that he's got to take it easy on them.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I will just post some general notes, and hopefully come out with some more detailed retrospection tomorrow. Unless someone else managed to watch the whole game (Ben? Simon?).
From the get-go, Chris Pronger missed the game with a broken jaw. Apparently his wife saw him hitting on Hannah Montana, so she punched him. Good for her. The only bad thing is that Daniel Alfredsson didn't have the opportunity to take a slapshot at Pronger's shins, which I would have loved to see.
Speaking of Alfie, we can add one more building to the growing list that boos the captain whenever he touches the puck. It just means that we're going to cheer louder when he gets back, Ducks fans. Apparently Alfie went out with some injury mid-way through the game, which is scary for all Sens fans. It was some upper-body injury thanks to a slash from Francois 'asshole' Beauchemin. Hopefully it's nothing serious.
Two scary moments in the first when on consecutive shifts Sens defencemen left the game off dirty hits. Anton Volchenkov took a dangerous hit from behind from Rob Niedermayer, and Garry Galley lambasted the referees for letting it go. The next shift Andrej Meszaros was tripped up after he got past his check, and went hard into the corner boards. Both players returned for the second period, though, so that was a plus.
Then I fell asleep in the third. The most exciting period, where the Bryan Murray got a ten minute misconduct and was ejected for abuse of the officials?!?! GOOD! They deserved it! And this, according to the Ottawa Sun, is why he got kicked out:
“I just kept telling (Wes McCauley) it was a bullshit call. ‘That’s a bullshit call you made. He said, ‘Say it again and you’re gone,’ so I said it again,” said Murray.Anaheim is the dirtiest team in the league, and their average of 18 minutes per game is probably lower than they should be getting. How does Ottawa only get three powerplays against the most penalized team in the NHL? I'm looking forward to seeing that video show up on YouTube. And Martin Gerber fought back against some of the Ducks? Awesome.
Speaking of The Gerber, he played a solid game. Three goals on 31 shots might not be the greatest, but he put up with a lot of shit and still made key saves in the second and third period. The guys on the Team 1200's post-game show said they'd be 'shocked' if he didn't start next game against San Jose, so good for him.
Statistics: I'm just looking at the ice time right now, and it's pretty amazing that Ottawa's lowest player in terms of ice time still had 10:02 (it was Shean Donovan). And Shean-Don was effective, that fourth line of him alongside Dean McAmmond and Christoph Schubert had some of Ottawa's best chances in the first two periods.
I can't wait until other teams realize that Anaheim doesn't play hockey; they play some hockey/UFC fusion sport where all that's illegal is fish-hooking. So give Corey Perry a few extra shots. Slash J-S Giguere when he makes a save. Use the oldest, moldiest gloves you have and give Mathieu Schneider a nice facewash. Smoke Randy Carlyle, aka the Penguin, aka Lobster Boy Grady Stiles Jr., with a snap shot into the bench. If the Sens meet Anaheim again in the playoffs, they'd better learn to step it up even more than was done tonight.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Later I recruited two passionate Sens fans, Peter and Kyle, to help me with some writing. Kyle stopped posting because he's on his way to becoming a very rich engineer, while Peter has stuck around for the past year writing way more than should be expected of an unpaid volunteer. And now we got Simon (pronounced "sea-mun" haha) contributing his own brand of kickass Sens news and analysis.
Together, we've helped grow this website a lot. The site recently had its most hits to date on trade deadline day, meaning the site is still gaining popularity and continuing to strengthen its place in the Senators fans online community.
As soon as our google advertising revenue hits $100, we're all going out for beers. Hopefully, the site doesn't turn two before then.
I would also like to point out that the Sens Army Blog officially out-lasted John Paddock.
Assuming that, since Buffalo has two games (and potentially four points) in hand over Carolina, the Southeast Division is very close to having no teams statistically qualifying for the playoffs. So why is there divisional priority seeding?
The traditional argument, as I understand it, is to give the divisions some raison d'être, some reason for even existing. But we're now questioning the existence of a measure that is in place to solidify the existence of something that is already questionable. Circular reasoning at its finest.
So why is divisional seeding there? Is it to guarantee that teams in southern U.S. markets are always in the playoffs, in the hopes of promoting the game? Or is there some other reason? I don't know. Maybe anyone who's reading this can enlighten me.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Sometimes I really wonder what Sun Media is thinking. I mean... look at this photo of the Ottawa Sun's three major columnists, from left to right, Don Brennan, Bruce Garrioch, and Chris Stevenson, promoting the new Off The Posts feature. These don't look like people who'd write something I'd want to read.
Stevenson just looks like a doofus. Unfortunately, he looks the most normal out of all of them. Garrioch looks like Happy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fame. And Brennan just scares the shit out of me... he looks like a serial rapist, and he has the orange jumpsuit to prove it. What the hell were you thinking in taking this photo, Sun Media? You don't have the resources of CanWest, maybe, but don't you have enough money to pay for a professional photo shoot that makes your columnists look relatively normal? Or don't you have the common sense to realize there might be a reason why these three individuals are print journalists, and not television journalists? The camera is not friendly to them.
Finally... Off The Posts? Isn't that just an admission that every single one of your columns is off-target? It means you missed the net, idiots.
GAH! Oh well. Now I'll just check to see which hot girls I've received a smile from on LavaLife today... ooooh, seventeen again!
''I should have pulled him off the ice in some of those practices where he wasn't working.''
Emery's work ethic has often been questionned. But more importantly, when he came back from his wrist injury, Ray Emery expected to be handed the number one job right away. That's when the shit hit the fan, if you will, for Emery, the team and Paddock's job.
As Mike Milbury said repeatedly during TSN's trade deadline coverage, part of a head coach's job is to keep his players' focus in check. The Emery situation became a distraction for the team, and Paddock quite simply couldn't handle it.
It's nice of Paddock to admit to his mistake, even though it's too late, obviously. It further proves to me that the right move would have been to go with one of Martin Gerber or Ray Emery and run.
Apparently, Bryan Murray was very close to dealing for Nikolai Khabibulin, but the Russian keeper's back problems put a stop to talks. Maybe it would have been a good move to put Emery on waivers, the way Brian Burke did with Ilya Bryzgalov.