Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sens drop two in a row

On Saturday night Ottawa lost 4-3 in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks because of goaltending. The other team got it, Ottawa didn't. It wasn't the first time this season that's happened.

Nikolai Khabibulin looked great while Ray Emery was not playing anywhere near his best. The Bulin Wall stopped all seven of Daniel Alfredsson's shots, and three of five from Dany Heatley. When players like that get stoned, a goalie is one. Rayzor, on the other hand, appeared sluggish--it kind of looked like his pads weighed 200 pounds each--and it looked like he might still have some nagging injury holding him back. I'm sure if he was given the opportunity to play a few games in a row he could bounce back--Rayzor's certainly not a bad goalie, although he didn't look good against Chicago--but the way Martin Gerber has played in his last five games (including the 3-2 loss to Atlanta, where he stopped 42 of 45) The Gerber has earned the start tonight in New York.

Going back to Heater, he was apparently credited with 10 scoring chances. Incredible. He played a great game tonight, and he was rewarded with two goals. Alfie had all sorts of chances and shots, but Khabibulin was always there to stop him. I'm sure Alfie's getting frustrated after missing the net as time ran down on Thursday against Atlanta and then getting stoned repeatedly by Khabi to end his point streak at ten games.

After Heater, Alfie, and Jason Spezza (who also had a grest game), there was no consistenet support--which has been the case for a few games now. At times Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan looked like they could help, as evidenced by their assists on Heater's first goal and D-Mac's big short-handed tally, but they were only given 6:57 and 2:49 respectively to work with. Meanwhile, Antoine Vermette--who's been disappointing the last couple of games-- and Randy Robitaille--who has shown improvement, but not enough-- were awarded with 19:27 and 17:40 minutes of ice time. M.C. 'Ammer and Shean Don, along with Brian McGrattan (20 secons of ice time), were blamed for the 'Hawks first goal, and were left on the bench most of the rest of the game because of that fact. When Chris Neil takes two stupid, completely useless penalties, the second of which gets the 'Hawks back in the game, he should not be getting almost twelve minutes of ice time. And Neil should never play on the powerplay; while he's useful while standing in front of the net, he's a liability when breaking into the zone because he can't control the puck to save his life.

I'm really beginning to question John Paddock's tactics over the course of this season. Okay, not beginning, I've been questioning him for months now. Continually playing struggling players (Robitaille, Vermette, Chris Kelly) while benching those who are working (McAmmond, Donovan, McGrattan) and over-playing the first-line guys (Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson) is not at all proactive, and will more than likely hurt this team in the long run. No matter what Paddock says about 'doing what it takes to win,' I don't care about the regular-season. I want this team to have what it takes to win in the playoffs, and if that means playing McGrattan 10 minutes a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, let him have it.

On the other side of the puck, Chicago was great to watch. I had no idea this Patrick Sharp kid was that good, although I'd heard of him, but he had a great game. Obviously, so did Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but that was to be expected. And then there's Khabibulin, who kept the 'Hawks in it through to the end. Once Cam Barker, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith really develop into the defence corps they appear destined to become, this team will be something else. Didn't see much of Martin Havlat--aptly nicknamed "always injured" by Ben--because he got injured in the second period and left the game, but he did have one or two good chances. Every time I see Mach 9 (or is it Mach 24 now?) come back from injury with guns blazing, I think, "Man, it would be nice to have him here still... " and then I remember how unreliable he is because of his injury problems. When he's healthy, though, he's one of the most exciting in the game.

(P.S. Sorry about the lack of update from the Atlanta game. In my opinion, the Sens made three mistakes--Donovan, Christoph Schubert, and Andrej Meszaros--and paid for all three of them. The Gerber played well enough to keep the Sens in the game, but certainly didn't steal anything.)
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