Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ugly welcoming party: Sabres 5 Sens 1

Well, that was an ugly game in most respects. Ottawa's powerplay was next to useless at 1-for-7, and the team only managed 11 shots in the first two periods. Even with 15 in the third, the Sens looked like they were once again too little, too late, and Ryan Miller played a good game in net for the Sabres when he had to.

As it so often does with this team, the fate was in the hands of the top line. Daniel Alfredsson, naturally, had some great tempo, but Jason Spezza wasn't making the passes he has to and Dany Heatley was sluggish and, when the opportunity to shoot came up, he couldn't take advantage. The defensive tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov--neither known for their offence--had as many shots (six) by the end of the night as the CASH line did, which isn't how you win games.

The new guys looked alright. Cory Stillman's by no means a power-forward, but he was in forechecking at times, and looked to have some chemistry with Mike Fisher. It's obvious that there is a hole on the right side for that line, though; neither Chris Neil nor Randy Robitaille are cut out for duty on a secondary scoring line. A good start for Stillman to get an assist on Ottawa's only goal.

As for Mike Commodore, he also came in as advertised. Better than I'd expected, actually, and he jumped into the play at times and had a couple of shots. He made an impact, hammering Clark MacArthur solidly with a hip check and blocking a shot on the same shift (flashes of Volchenkov). His toughness in front of the net was good, too. Although he finished -2 on the night, the first goal he was on for was off an unlucky bounce, and the second was the inconsequential fifth goal for Buffalo.

Whether it was thanks to Commodore's presence or a just a change in attitude, Wade Redden had a great game. He was moving his feet, he was up in the play offensively a lot, and he made some of the great outlet passes we remember from earlier in his career. I was disgusted to hear fans actually booing Redden when he touched the puck near the end of the game (unless it was just general booing of the team, which is still pretty stupid); you're booing a guy who wants to stay in your city and play for your team. Thinking back to a player who refused to play in this city and for this team (Alexei Yashin), we should be happy guys want to be here.

On the subject of puck-moving defencemen, Andrej Meszaros looked alright, too. He made one big gaff in the first period, but other than that he was solid defensively, had a few great shots, including the one which Robitaille tipped for Ottawa's goal.

The goaltending situation will be interesting for tomorrow. While five goals against doesn't sound very nice, only two were stoppable goals; the first had was a wicked shot by Tomas Vanek that had Ray Emery off on his angles, and the fifth goal went in off Rayzor's pads. He stopped 34 of 39 on the night, but the last two games he's played were both pretty darn good. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the Sens play again on Wednesday, and John Paddock hasn't approached the goalies in back-to-back games situation consistently this season. So I guess we'll find out tomorrow, but I'll guess Martin Gerber will get the start.
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