Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All The Way Home: Avs 3, Sens 2 (OT)

Wow. The Senators had 15 points on the road in their first 25 road games, but got nine on this five-game road trip. Says a lot about how this team's been playing of late, and for anyone to get 90 per cent of points available on such a disjointed road trip has to come (all the way) home feeling pretty darn good about their trip.

Ryan Shannon made this game for the Sens. He scored the Sens' two goals, one on a sneaky shot and the other a top-corner wrister from the point. He looks a little unusual playing the point on the powerplay, but it worked tonight. Shannon didn't make much of an impact in his first stint, but his recent seven-game stint under Cory Clouston has re-energized his line with Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno, and his speed is lethal.

In nets, Alex Auld made some big saves tonight, and was one of the main reasons the Sens walked out of the game with even one point. He stopped 24 of 27, including one terrific chance Ryan Smyth had in alone after a lucky home-ice bounce off the back boards.

For obvious reasons, ice time was pretty evenly distributed amongst the players tonight. It's a pretty important coaching tactic when playing the second game of a back-to-back, particularly in the mile-high city of Denver. No one had less ice time than Jesse Winchester's 10:52 (and he still had three shots), and Mike Fisher led the forwards with 18:28 on the night.

Could Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have been more invisible on the night? Apparently Heatley had three shots, but they couldn't have been very good scoring chances, and the only moments I noticed Spezza were when he looked for an open pass with futility, eventually to lose the puck to an Avalanche player--such as what happened on Colorado's second goal, when Spezza lost the puck and then offered absolutely no defensive coverage when backchecking. They had one shift with any semblance of intensity, and that was with five minutes left in the third; and it didn't even generate a shot on net, as Heatley sent his one chance wide. But then Spezza's inability to get the puck in deep and severely lacking defensive coverage were the chief reasons for Wojtek Wolski's overtime winner. Need more offence than that from these guys, especially in such a difficult game.

In his 1,000th career NHL game, Jason Smith played an effective game. He had 18:11 of ice time, usually with Alex Picard, and he bailed out his younger defence partner a couple of times. And he even had a couple shots on net. As for Picard, I`ll give the guy a break because it was his first game in quite a while, but he didn`t look very good on the whole.

Got to laugh about Chris Kelly's continued offensive drought. The guy doesn't have a goal in 13 games including the Colorado game, and only has six on the year. He had Ottawa's best chance to go up 3-2 with about 80 seconds left in the third, but his clean shot from the slot went high and wide. Coupled with his empty-net post-clanger last night against Nashville, the guy's got to be damn frustrated.
So now it`s back home for a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Should be a good game, as both teams are pretty hot right now.
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