Monday, February 16, 2009

The Rising: Sens 2, Preds 0

Hey Alex Auld is back! The Alex Auld that helped Ottawa string together some points in late November and early December of 2008. As effective as the Sens' up-tempo forecheck was tonight, we would have seen a completely different result if Auld didn't play as well as he could. Auld faced some bona fide scoring chances from the Predators, and was right up to task. I don't want to say he stole the game, but he was definitely accessory to the crime. He got his shutout (despite TSN's Gord Miller's best attempts to jinx his goose egg), and the Sens walked out of Nashville with two more points on their fifth consecutive win.

The suddenly sizzling Nick Foligno scored the game-winning goal off a great read and great pass from Mike Fisher (and a terrible giveaway by Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne). Since Cory Clouston took over as head coach, Foligno's been given a greater role, and has responded very well: He has five points (4G, 1A) in the seven games under Clouston, compared to 13 (6G, 7A) in the previous 48 games. This is the Nick Foligno who I signed to a lifetime contract in NHL2K9, and who Sens brass (and fans) want to see every night.

Dany Heatley has similarly stepped up his game of late, and he scored the Sens' second goal with a snipe-job in tight short side off a clean pass from Jason Spezza. He also had seven shots on the night, and had a half-decent open-ice hit early in the game. Heater's got four goals and five points in the last three games since being 'encouraged' (or gently called out) by Clouston. Nice to see the assistant captain step up and show some leadership-by-example as the Senators continue to put together a last-ditch playoff push.

Something of note that was brought up in TSN's commentary was the body language of the Senators, on the ice and on the bench. Obviously the increased intensity on the ice is well-known, but shots of the bench showed a confident group that appeared to have plenty of respect for one another, and good communication. It was in heavy contrast to the Nashville bench about half-way through the game, which was panned across by the camera and appeared completely silent with no one looking at each other, let alone talking to each other. The Sens look like a group that's maybe having fun playing the game again, which they haven't looked like for quite a while.

Penalty killers have to be given credit once again. They killed off all four fairly effectively, although Auld had a big hand in that. Antoine Vermette had a great chance short-handed when he snapped a shot at Rinne and almost tucked the rebound in, and Fisher had a short-handed breakaway in the second but got robbed by a great glove save by Rinne. One notably intimidating penalty-killing defensive pairing was Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith; needless to say, the Predators didn't get a shot on goal during the time those two were on the ice.

On Nashville's side of the ice, Jordin Tootoo was a freakin' monster tonight. He had a game-high five hits, including a couple devastating ones, and even got or made a few good scoring chances. I didn't like seeing him head-hunting, but he does one hell of a good job within his role, and even adds in some offensive flair to boot.

Can I ask that we stop ragging Fisher about Carrie Underwood? Enough with the questions. Enough with the 'investigative reporting' of Underwood being at Spezza's Christmas party. Enough with the camera shots of her trying to hide from cameras at the hockey game. Let's just be happy for two seemingly nice people who've become friends. They obviously don't want to talk about it, so fuck off already.
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