Monday, November 30, 2009

Feeling snarky and sharky

I'm sorry to prediction this one guys, but the Sharks are the best team in the NHL right now.
Sharks 5 - Senators 1

Though the Senators appear to be on the on the right tracks recently, facing the Sharks won't be just another game that requires 'grit' or 'lucky bounces' for Ottawa to pull off a win. San Jose has dominated this season with a hot goalie and potent offence. With almost 100 goals in less than 30 games, they're miles ahead of most teams in the NHL - and that includes the Sens. I would also like to predict that Dany Heatley is a jerk.
Who's going to be staying up late to watch the game? I'll just be catching the highlights. Got to wake up early and go to work. So sue me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Special K is here to stay!

Erik Karlsson is likely staying with the Ottawa Senators for the rest of the season, after playing his 10th NHL game last night in a 4-3 SO loss to the Boston Bruins, and kicking off the first year of his entry-level contract.

It's a rather surprising move. Many believed that Karlsson would spend the year in the AHL improving his game, and keeping his pay off the Sens' books. I believe a combination of factors led the team to make this decision and start the clock ticking on the talented Swede's second contract.

Why now?

Karlsson has been doing well in Binhamton, I see from his stats. Eleven assists in 12 games puts him among the team leaders (though most of the Baby Sens have played 20+ games). It looks like his level of talent deserves to be in the big leagues. (Looking down the rest of the B-Sens roster, I see a lot of long-ago Ottawa draft picks... most will turn out to be AHL lifers. Ouch.)

Recent wins may have emboldened Sens management to 'go for it' this year and bring Karlsson along for the ride... and by 'it', I mean 'making the playoffs'. Playoff prospects are looking good at the moment... let the good times roll.

Giving K-Mart (more nicknames?! Yes!) the opportunity to learn from the organizations' best defencemen may prove a valuable learning experience. If he's the best offensive defenceman in Bingo, he's not developing that aspect of his game.

What about our former golden boy?

And Brian Lee? Well, he has fallen down the depth chart for sure, but he's still on a two-way contract and could still prove to be valuable for the Senators down the road. Don't count him out yet. Many have said that he's likely to be traded in coming weeks, but the Sens don't have a ton of cap room ($1.9-million according to to accept new contracts.

WTF Jersey

PS: Did anyone see the Baby Sens' Thanksgiving jerseys? I think we have a new winner for Worst. Jersey. Ever. The bad-ass Senator guy is wearing a pilgrim hat! WTF!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quick pre-game thoughts

Tonight's game, I believe, is the culmination of a lot of hard work from Senators players over the past 2 weeks. After beating Washington, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, it seems fitting that the Sens would take on last year's Eastern Conference Champions--the tests just keep coming, and Ottawa seems up to the task at the moment.

Despite various injuries to key players, the Sens have found the depth and strength to move forward. Looking at previous games, it hasn't always been Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, or even Milan Michalek, who have been contributing the majority of the offence.

Against Columbus, Jesse Winchester had assists on both of the Sens goals. When Ottawa took on Washington, Filip Kuba collected three assists and Ryan Shannon, Winchester, and Peter Regin all had points.

I know I've said this before... but this grand scheme from Bryan Murray to add depth to the team might actually be working. Hopefully I didn't put my foot in my mouth just minutes before the game begins. Let's see...

Send me your thoughts during the game @sensarmyblog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I believe in Brian Elliott

Pascal Leclaire gets hit by a puck while sitting on the freaking bench?! No problem!

The Senators have always been blessed with all-too-talented backup goalies, and Brian Elliott is no exception. All the way back to Ron Tugnutt taking over for Damian Rhodes when the playoffs roll around, the Sens backups are always ready to take over. Ray Emery anyone?

I'm pretty sure the goalie situation known as goalie 1A and 1B was created in Ottawa. Only Canadian bureaucrats could come up with such a non-exclusive competitive arrangement.

Last season, with no NHL experience, Elliott stepped into the Sens net and was all but named the team's #1 goalie for the remainder of the season. His numbers were pretty good too. 16-8-3, 2.77 GAA, .902 save percentage.

This season, Elliott has been just as solid. 4-1-2, with a GAA below 3 and save percentage above .900--that's all you can ask of an Ottawa Senators goalie.

Besides, we all know that goaltending has rarely been the difference this season. Leclaire may have stolen one or two games this year for the Sens, but the team as a whole has dictated the course of this season so far.

Do you believe in Brian Elliott?

Jared Cowen update and interview (courtesy of FC)

When Jared Cowen was drafted by the Ottawa Senators, I immediately compared him to Zdeno Chara. Like Chara, He's a huge defenceman who will undoubtedly take a few years to develop.

Luckily, Cowen will be playing for Team Canada during this year's World Junior Hockey Championship against many of the best young players in the world. That's sure to help his development.

Zdeno Jr. has 14 points and is +8 on a solid Spokane Chiefs team, who have a record of 14-8-1 while playing in the tight WHL US-divison.

Check out Future Considerations' recent interview with Cowen on the Chiefs and this winter's WJHC.

I'm looking forward to seeing a Team Canada featuring both JC and Ottawa native Erik Gudbranson, who was recently ranked the #4 prospect in the OHL. I think they can just give us our sixth consecutive gold medal right now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Senators team replaced with 'winning machine': Report

You gotta give credit to the Sens these days, they've beaten a two (or three--writing during Caps game) of the best teams in the conference in the past week, and even without the services of their most consistent defenceman, Anton Volchenkov (with Phillips flying off the handle and scoring goals these days, I can hardly call him consistent).

Pascal Leclaire definitely beat out former Senator Patrick Lalime when the Sens took on the Sabres. Lalime had a terrible record against the Sens since leaving the team, and keeping that record up (with a vengeance) surely boosts the team's ego.

And speaking of Leclaire, he got hit in the face by a puck when the Sens played the Washington Capitals tonight. After an injury kept him out of the game, you could hear him sigh from Kanata to Orleans, "It's just one of those weeks."

Weekly roundup

With wins over the Penguins and Sabres, the Sens bandwagon has been getting pretty crowded over the past few days. It's funny how things can change from one copy deadline to the next...

Saturday - Senators look to halt bumpy start to season
Sunday - Sens show cutting edge

As hockey fans, I think we're all prone to mood swings. Everyone seems to be pointing out that the Sens are just 1 point behind the Sabres for first place in the Northeast Division... a week ago no one was doing the math. Just sayin'.

  • Patrick Lalime's career went downhill after he left Ottawa... by now he's 20 feet underground. Too bad.
  • Mike Fisher will not make Team Canada, and neither will Ray Emery, no matter how non-committal Steve Yzerman is.
  • Brian Elliott reminds me of Emery, but Leclaire in no way reminds me of Gerber. Sweet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Clouston made the right call, and so did you

Frankly, I was surprised that so many people are not buying into the potential goalie controversy in Ottawa. Good on ya.

Pascal Leclaire certianly did his part to win the game for the Ottawa Senators. He kept the team in the lead late in the game, and the goals that he did surrender weren't terrible.

He did seem to be a bit nervous though--too much sliding along the ice, peeking behind himself to check if the puck had gone through. But over all, he's silenced some doubters with his play against the Leafs last night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Intensity returns to Battle of Ontario

Ian Mendes had it right during the first intermission, "more fights than goals".

I guess that's how these two Eastern Conference middle-weights express their dislike for one another these days. Not by attempting to embarrass the other with flashy goals, but by attempting to bludgeon the opponent into submission.

But in the end, it was Mike Fisher and Pascal Leclaire that won this game for the Ottawa Senators. I'm not sure exactly what's up with Fisher and Alex Kovalev, but someone should pass the memo onto Fish that it's Kovalev who's supposed to be scoring goals, and Mike's the one who's supposed to be the overpaid baggage. Bah!

Penalties anyone? You got plenty of time to see the Senators powerplay and penalty-kill. Neither of which looked great. A little bit of magic from AK27 or Jason Spezza certainly would have made the last minutes of the game a little less stressful.

Speaking of those final few minutes. OHMYGAWDWHATASAVE. ...sorry that just all came out at once. Leclaire seemed to be scrambling too much and few of those last saves were what we would call 'standard', but they worked and preserved the win for Ottawa. Hard to argue with that.

What's easy to argue with? Shots in the third period 15-4 for the Leafs. Yikes.

Final note on Kovalev: He will be judged not by the success of his linemates but by how many goals he himself scores. With only one shot registered in this game, he's got to be a little more selfish, drive to the net a more, and be more desperate for goals. I would much rather celebrate his talents than comment on his mental game.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When it's 'Win and You're In'... you never win

Just submitted my prediction to the Citizen's gameday prediction panel. Check it out and give me your thoughts.
Senators 4 - 2 Leafs

The Leafs truly are a mess. They're playing the 'win and you're in' goalie game that killed the Senators a couple years back and got John Paddock fired. Relatively speaking, the Sens are doing fine. The recent loss in the shootout shouldn't phase the team too much and if Pascal Leclaire is back in net, he's certainly got something to prove.
...I really hope they put Snoop-Chuck back in net. We need to lean on our #1 goalie and no go down the 'goalie controversy' route that's gaining steam in some circles.

I also put a poll in the sidebar in case you have an opinion, but don't feel like typing. Hurray!

Sixty-five percent say Sens playoff hopefuls

I'd say that sounds about right.

The Sens Army Blog's most recent poll suggests that Ottawa Senators fans aren't quite ready to start planning the Stanley Cup parade route. Sixty-five percent said the team are mere playoff contenders.

In fact, only 18% of respondents would commit to the Senators making the playoffs this season. The team's play of late certainly wouldn't convert any of you skeptics out there.

With a winning percentage of .470 and a tieing percentage of .176 (the NHL really has to get rid of that shit because that just sounds stupid), the Senators are on pace for around 92 points this season.

Right now, that puts them in 11th place in the conference. Last season, Eastern Conference teams needed 93 points or more to qualify for the playoffs.

...but that's okay because Alex Kovalev is going to start scoring some goals soon... right? RIGHT?!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm selling out and need your feedback

Sorry to confront you on a Monday morning, but I have something I want to talk to you about: advertising on this blog. And no, I'm not asking for money--I'm asking for your feedback.

I've done my best to keep this blog ugly-ad-free over the past two years or so. However, I've also been successful in keeping myself very poor over the past couple of years by not taking advantage of this blog and the traffic it gets.

Google ads never got me any money, and every person who emails me and asks me to join their blog network ultimately wants me to work for a pittance (word-a-day calendar) anyway. So I'm taking advertising on the Sens Army Blog into my own hands. That means no 'Get ripped with absolutely no exercise' ads for you.

The first ad over there on the left is for my brother's blog, and he's getting it for the low price of free while I gather your feedback.

So leave me a comment and tell me what you love and/or hate about advertising on blogs.

Are they distracting?
Have you ever clicked on a blog ad?
How can I keep ads from interfering with your blog reading?

We're still in the experimental stage and I want to be up-front with you all about what's happening so that you're not all 'wtf' about it. And if you're interested in advertising on this blog, send me an email. Thanks!

Same old Ottawa Senators

Inability to score at crucial times and inconsistent goaltending?! No, you must be speaking of some other team.

As I watched the Senators take on the New York Rangers yesterday, that shootout seemed to encapsulate the whole game--a simple inability to win the game. Thanks to some steady goaltending from Brian Elliott, the Senators had no less than three opportunities to win the game.

Nick Folgino, Mike Fisher (otherwise great game, btw), and Jarkko Ruutu each could have won the game if they scored on their shootout opportunity.

That's three opportunities to get an extra point, and three opportunities to push the team a little further toward a playoff spot. It's something of a cliché, but it must be said that these games are just as important as the ones in April. When the Sens are desperate for points in the spring, I'll be recalling this game in my mind.

The inconsistent goaltending, of course, is not the fault of Elliott. That's the fault to Pascal Leclaire, who has single-handedly led us to question his abilities. I will play the part of optimist here and note the following:
  • He's played 13 games and is above .500. That's far from terrible.
  • Leclaire missed a whole year and could still be reconstructing his game and getting back into the groove on a regular NHL schedule.
  • The Sens offence hasn't been too helpful recently. Few powerplays and fewer crucial goals.
  • In his last 6 games, he's only allowed more than 3 goals once. Do not panic.
AK27 made for mis-fires

Who saw this recent wave of Alex Kovelav criticism coming from a mile away? Everyone! Every NHL pundit on the planet knew that Kovalev would be streaky. And now, while it's happening it's supposed to be surprising? No, sorry. We'll see what his stats are at season's end... Then I'll be pissed.

Tuesday versus Leafs good measuring stick

Next game is against the Leafs on Tuesday evening. I hope to see Leclaire return to the net, and put any potential controversies to rest.

Playing the Leafs is always fun because they set the bar for terrible teams in the NHL. If you can beat them, you're fine. If not, well, I might have to pick up some more of that 7.0% beer.

Stats you didn't want to hear (courtesy

The Senators are 1-2 in shootouts this season and remain the worst team in the tie-breaking procedure with a 12-25 record since its inception. (Ben's note: The Sens were 1 for 1 after beating the Leafs in the first ever NHL shootout! woo!)

The Senators won 53 percent of faceoffs, but only because C Jason Spezza was 17-10 in the circles. Every other Senator had a losing record on faceoffs against a Rangers team that was without the injured Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky—two of its top three drawmen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Faceless Senators make Emery look good

After work today, I went to the local LCBO and picked up eight tall boys to drink this weekend.

The beer for tonight's game against the Flyers is Holsten Maibock 7.0%.

Sports writers are going to struggle for angles on this one (so I bet they'll go with either 'Leclaire inconsistent' or 'Ray Emery shows Sens what they're missing' for lack of better option). The Senators have been entirely faceless tonight.

I can't think of one outstanding player who took the game into his hands. Usually, it's someone like Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza who just says 'Fine, I'll do it'. But tonight, with those two shut down, it's up to some other players to step up.

Mike Fisher had done his part in the second period. Alex Kovalev? Jonathan Cheechoo? Milan Michalek? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Somebody had to step up to win this game for the Senators... but no one did. That's a product of a lack of aggression and creativity.

Much of that goes to Cory Clouston. TSN (as much as I hate to admit it) did a great job of illustrating how the Senators were sitting back for the whole game. Last season, Clouston was known for making the Sens a more aggressive team. Tonight? Nada.

Oh man. Starting to feel that beer. The label was right. Strong.

The easy way out would be to blame Pascal Leclaire. Though I'm certainly not impressed with his performance, if the Senators had not lost this game 5-1, they would have lost it 2-1. No offence, no wins. It's simple.

Still... I'm going to have to put this somewhere in the yellow-to-red for the Pascal Leclaire Advisory System. Tonight's game is unsettling.

Tip of the Hat:
  • Beer. Just in general.
  • TSN producers.
  • Ray Emery - yeah, take that Sens.
Wag of the Finger:
  • Trapezoids; other so-called 'bad angles'.
  • Logos that almost look like a "P", but with feathers.
  • Photoshop -- should be more beer-user-friendly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reflecting on Mike Comrie's time with the Senators...

I've never felt such blinding indifference. Go Mike!

Prediction: Injured Oilers fall to Sens

Here's my prediction for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Edmonton Oilers. Checking out their injuries, it's pretty obvious who should win. I hope it turns out that way...
Senators 3 - 2 Oilers

Sens fans should just be happy to see their team play anyone but the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ottawa is missing Anton Volchenkov, but the team is otherwise healthy. The Oilers, meanwhile, are missing about half their team: Marc Pouliot , Ryan Stone, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Sheldon Souray, and Ladismad Smid among others (!). Though goalies have a tendency to stand on their head against the Senators, I feel like the Oilers' roster is just too thin to keep up with the Sens. It's a win, baby.
As I said, I'm kind of afraid Nickolai Khabibulin will somehow steal the game for the Oilers. You guys ever hear of this Dustin Penner kid? We sure could use a guy like that...

Do you think the Sens can pull it off?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Old guard Sens still driving force on offence

When Dany Heatley left Ottawa, it seemed that we were trading one asset (or ass-hat, in this case) and getting two in return. Plus, the signing of Alex Kovalev was meant to add another aspect to the Sens game. Well we're now 14 games into the season and a couple aspects of the trade have turned out well, while others have gone to complete shit.

Milan Michalek is on pace for his best NHL season, scoring 40 goals and 58 points (I love's on-pace stat), but Jonathan Cheechoo have proven all of his doubters correct with only 2 points so far this season. Some nights, he barely sees the ice, and other nights, it seems like he can barely skate.

Kovalev has, so far, lived up to his billing as a streaky scorer. Undoubtedly, he has crazy moves--but little results to show for them. Despite some fancy playmaking with Jason Spezza, Kovalev has not, in my view, lived up to my optimistic expectations.

But the real question is: Are these elements adding up to wins?

It's difficult to make the argument that the Senators would be better off without Michalek and Kovalev, but it's the Senators' old guard that has been the major contributors to the Sens moderate success so far this season.

Daniel Alfredsson is having another outstanding season, and with Spezza, are again the driving force that wills the team towards wins. Unexpectedly, it's Mike Fisher that has been the x-factor in many games this season--he's already got half as many goals as all of last year.

The Sens just need a couple more players to have above-average seasons in order to ensure themselves a playoff spot. That means Nick Foligno contributing more offence on the third line, and Cheechoo at least hitting 15 goals this year.

It's no secret that it takes a whole-team effort to make the playoffs in the NHL, and if even two lines contribute the offence, the third still has to make its contribution.

PS: I saw my first instance of someone calling Pascal Leclaire 'inconsistent' today. Does that make him a good goalie that sometimes plays poorly, or a bad goalie that make the occasional incredible save? I hope it's the former.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prediction: Sens pull out tense win

I put out a call for predictions about tonight's game against the Atlanta Thrashers. Strangely, I did not send in any particular person's comments to the Ottawa Citizen for their prediction panel... I feel like an ass now.

But here's my prediction for tonight's game. Did I mention that I was the only person who guessed the Thrashers would beat the Sens on Saturday? (Eat it Mendes and Scanlan!)
5-4 Senators beat Lightning

I don't know what to make of the Sens when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning: A blow-out win followed by a humbling loss, and all in two weeks.The Senators need these wins before they take on any playoff-caliber teams later this month. I trust that Cory Clouston knows this and will encourage Jason Spezza to return to the Sens lineup. Hopefully the rest of the team shows up too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sports sections on life support

I've written a lot of blogs about how there's nothing to blog about, and this week is certainly one of those times.

You know the story - the Ottawa Senators haven't played in five days and the dailies are just pulling at straws for stories even remotely connected to the hockey team. Metal bands, girlfriends' cd liner notes, long-forgotten grudges meant to anger up the blood... A sports section on life support. (What did these papers do before 1992-93? Look further than album notes for stories, I suppose.)

I haven't watched Sens play in a while either. On Saturday, I was watching the Gee-Gees football team blow their season when it matters most (again)... and on Thursday night I was scraping together a costume for an office Halloween party (the results were proportional to the amount of time I left putting together my 'Hawaiian tourist' costume... ouch). In any case, it was better than watching the Sens be single handedly beaten by a no-name goalie. (PS: I CALLED IT!)

The contentious issue right now is: Are the Senators even a good team?

We were pretty high on ourselves before last week's losses. The playoffs seemed like a lock. The Sens lose Anton Volchenkov and Jason Spezza, and suddenly the team seems to be scraping the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

I'm erring on the side of optimism for the Sens upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (seriously NHL? Again?). Spezza may be back in the lineup, so Alex Kovalev can dodge the pressure and go back to just dekeing around one defenceman and then losing the puck.

...too soon?

About now, I would say send your in-game thoughts to @sensarmyblog on Twitter... but the game's on TSN2, so tell me what you're doing instead!
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