Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ottawa 4 NY Islanders 2

THE GOOD:

Jason Spezza & Dany Heatley. Sometimes the offensive stats aren’t a fair reflection of who was the best player in a hockey game. This wasn’t one of those instances. Heatley and Spezza combined for five points (Heatley two goals, Spezza goal and two assists) and were head and shoulders above every other skaters with one possible exception on the other side. Spezza was flying out there, and it sure seemed as if every time he and Heatley hit the ice something was produced, even if it was just chances. These two are back in the groove that lifted them atop the league’s scoring race in the first half of last season. Heatley’s finish is scary good and Spezza is not only making plays but is also a legitimate threat to score now as well. Teams have to respect the way he’s firing the puck, and when they do that, it opens up more room for the rest of his linemates. With more natural playmakers, you don’t have to play the shot because the logic is, he’s going to dish it. But Spezza has scored enough blasts so far this season that he can no longer be looked at as a one dimensional offensive player. I feel bad for Chris Kelly, having to keep up with these two the way they’re rolling right now. He must feel like the fat friend that rolls with the two 10s Saturday night at the bar. His role is important, but at the end of the day, no one cares about him, try as he might.

Peter Schaefer on the PK. The penalty killers in general were quite good, but Schaefer deserves special mention. Great at winning battles for loose pucks, very strong with the puck on his stick, and was the reason the Isles spent significant time in their own end with the man up.

Martin Gerber. When the Islanders turned it on into the second and third, Gerber stood tall and answered the call every time. I think I’m past the point where when a shot is fired on him I hold my breath. He always looks to be sound positionally and isn’t giving up those juicy rebounds that were commonplace when he was in the midst of that awful slump. Now, when he’s handling the puck, that’s a different story.

Andrej Meszaros. I think we can officially say the sophmore slump is gone and not returning. Meszaros is playing his ass off right now. Blocking shots both on the PK and even strength, real strong on the point on the PP, is carrying the puck with a ton of confidence, and playing the body consistently.

THE BAD:

Daniel Alfredsson, goal scorer. He left the game with what looked like a nasty foot sprain. The only word we’ve got as of this writing is that it’s a lower body injury. No shit. But up to that point, he couldn’t buy a goal if it was being sold 2 for 1 for a nickel. He missed the net three times, two of which were prime scoring chances, and in the first period had the net W I D E open with Mike Dunham down and out, and he fired the puck right into his pads.

8,741. Ouch.

THE OPPOSITION:

After the first 20 minutes, I thought to myself, these are those shiny new Islanders I’ve been hearing so much about? I thought maybe my TV was broken, and the 2006 Sens were playing the Isles of 10 years ago. They were awful. The only reason it wasn’t 5-0 after the first was because of Dunham, who stood on his head, which has apparently happened more than once this season. While Rick DiPietro has the big contract, Dunham has supposedly been the superior goalie. Is there a goaltending controversy on Long Island?

I assume something was said by Ted Nolan after the first because a different team emerged, and they made a game of it. It was pretty clear Ottawa was the better, more talented club, but at least the Islanders gave a good honest effort. Some shined brighter than others. Jason Blake may be the most underrated player in the NHL. If he was on a line with some guys who could finish, his numbers would be through the roof. His speed and tenacity make him one of the most dangerous players currently in the game, but there isn’t much for him to work with, especially with Yashin out.

I also liked the games of Mike Sillinger and MSG Goat Tom Poti. Poti has been driven out of two NHL cities yet he was their best d-man on the night, in both ends. Yes Rangers fans, you read that right. Tom Poti was good defensively.

UP NEXT:

No rest as they travel to D.C. and face the Caps. This one will be interesting. The last time these teams faced off, a month ago to the day, it was one of the lowest lowpoints for a team that had been experiencing a ton of them. I warned that the Sens could not take Washington lightly because while they may not be the most talented club in the league they don’t give up and with A.O. in the line-up can turn a game around in a heart beat.

What happened? Ottawa got up big early (and either were or were not rubbing it in, depending on who you believe), took their foot off the pedal, got sloppy, and Washington clawed their way back into the game, eventually winning it in OT.

A lot has changed in a month. This really does seem like a different team. Not only will there be a different goalie in between the pipes (I assume) but the big guns are performing in a major way. But if Ottawa is their worst enemy, again, the result will be the same.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ottawa 6 Florida 0

THE GOOD:

Total domination. While they slipped slightly in the third period (as tends to happen with a six goal lead), I thought this was, all around, the best game the Sens have had in a long time. Their play in the defensive zone, save a few brainfarts that didn’t result in anything because of Ray Emery and some luck, was terrific. Every Sens forward was committed to the cause, backchecking with vigor and making it impossible for the Panthers to sustain any pressure. In addition, the forecheck was relentless. Every line maintained an aggressive forecheck presence throughout the game, which is what this team needs. It wasn’t just the third and fourth lines doing the dirty work. All four bought into the gameplan. It’s difficult to pinpoint one line as the best because each had their moment in the sun and spurts where you figured they were the best trio. I liked the game, in particular, of the Daniel Alfredsson line. Tremendous two-way games from all three. As well, the defence unit had an extremely strong game. Andrej Meszaros, Anton Volchenkov, and Chris Phillips deserve special mention. Meszaros followed up Tuesday night’s strong outing with an even better game. Two points, rushed the puck well, and was extremely effective in his own zone. Volchenkov is in a zone and playing his best hockey since, well, ever. When a guy is blocking shots in the third period of a game that his team is leading 6-0, you know he’s a team player.

Daniel Alfredsson’s aggression. I’m not sure if he simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or if there was something, away from the cameras, that we missed, but Alfie was PISSED off tonight. He came as close to dropping the gloves as I’ve seen him and even extracted some revenge on poor Stephen Weiss (who had a rough night) later in the game for a perceived cheap shot in the second. His play is coming around in a major way and I genuinely believe he’s a week away from breaking out huge. Speaking of which, um, can someone else step in for Daniel Alfredsson to punch Weiss in the face, please? I was glad he got pissed but after throwing a few blows he should be stepped away by someone else who pummels the other guy. A hilarious moment in the game was when Alfie and Weiss were tussling, color man Gord Wilson said something to the effect of “I bet Chris Neil is on the bench, standing this, watching, taking notes”. Camera cuts to Neil on the bench wiping his face with a towel, not even paying attention.

Ray Emery. Solid when called upon, he’s building more and more confidence with each win.

THE BAD:

Losing Wade Redden. There’s not much indication of the severity of the injury, but it didn’t look good. On the replays you could see him grimace after being hit by Jay Bouwmeester. If it’s any consolation, the fact it’s not another lower body injury (i.e. groin), but instead of the upper body variety. That of course is assuming the Sens are feeding us bullshit information about player injuries. Surely they wouldn’t do such a thing, right? Redden has proven himself to be quite the catalyst this season, and without him, the team, and in particular the powerplay, struggles badly. So say a prayer the Sens aren't without their most important blueliner.

Shattered glass. Let's also hope the kids who felt the wrath of Phillips and Weiss are alright. The word is that they were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, but boy was that scary for a few moments.

THE OPPOSITION:

While the Sens caught them in a dry spell, as the Panthers are now goalless in three straight games, I'd be very concerned if I'm one of the couple dozen fans this team has. Compared to the spirited effort they displayed six days ago, this was a catastrophe of the grandest kind.

They had ZERO jump in the first period, and for a team on the brink of big trouble, there was absolutely no desperation. It's one thing to be playing poorly or not getting the breaks. To just have bad puck luck or no chemistry. But when there apepars to be minimal effort, that's bad news. Where Olli Jokinen for most of this game? Where was Jay Bouwmeester? Jozef Stumpel? Nathan Horton? Bryan Allen, who was awesome in the last meeting. The only time I noticed him was when the Sens were knocking him around. I'd say Todd Bertuzzi can't get back soon enough but I'm not sure he'll make a lick of difference.

And on paper, it might seem as if goaltending was the problem, but Alex Auld was awesome before he got the mercy hook. I remember saying I didn't know if Auld playing was a good thing or not. If it had been Ed Belfour from the start, the score might have been double digits. He made at least six huge game-saving stops and cannot be faulted on many of the ones that did get by him.

The game story, if you want it simplified, is that the Panthers D had no answer for the Sens pressure. They made the 'Canes blueline that I shit all over two nights ago look like the the d-men who backstopped the Habs in the 70's.

Are changes in order? Does it even matter?

UP NEXT:

Tampa Bay Saturday night. The Bolts took it to the Sens Sunday afternoon so there is, I'd hope, some desire for revenge. The big thing to watch will be who they have in goal. Johan Holmqvist stonewalled the Sens in that game and was a big reason for the result, but he got chased the other night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ottawa 4 Carolina 1

THE GOOD:

Martin Gerber. He needed this one. More even than a W, Gerber needed a solid performance without any major costly mistakes, and we got that. Though it certainly looked like this would be a long night based on the early (and lone) goal he gave up, where he looked awkward and uncomfortable, Gerber managed to compose himself nicely and give a strong outing that hopefully builds some confidence not only within himself but also with his teammates. Because there can be no disputing that Ottawa played like a different team with Ray Emery between the pipes than they did when it was Gerber tending the goal. One good game doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods, and he’ll need to do the same the next time he gets tapped on the shoulder, but it was a good starting point. Fundamentally, a lot of the things that were killing him, and as a result the team, were much better. Primarily, Gerber didn’t look nearly as small. You could see, based on where the ‘Canes where shooting – high – that the book is out on how to solve Gerber, and as long as he was going down so quickly, so deep in the net, the opposition was going to continue to roof it with success.

The penalty killing. Awesome. Carolina had five powerplay opportunities and could barely build any momentum from all the man advantages they had. In fact, in a few instances, Ottawa was generating more chances and getting more energy from killing off all the penalties. Props to Chris Phillips, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, and Chris Kelly, who were all terrific in this area.

The third period. The final 20 minutes has become a pretty sizeable foe of the Sens this season, which is a strange thing to say given how well this team was at protecting leads that season. We’ve already seen Ottawa shit the bed in the third and blow a lead a handful of times this season, and we’re only 25 games in. While it was when Ottawa scored their second and third goals to blow the game open, the truth was, Ottawa was the inferior team in the second period, as Carolina dictated the pace and dominated the majority of the frame, spending much more time in Ottawa’s end than vice versa. So, despite a two goal lead going into the last period, I was a tad nervous based on the various collapses we’ve seen this year. However, a different team came out for the third period.

The Patrick Eaves-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil line Terrific. Fisher scored a goal, registered an assist, and was the catalyst for his line’s strong play throughout. It was nice seeing Eaves score because he’s been due and they need him to be more of an offensive presence for this team to prosper. Whenever people would say “where is the secondary scoring going to come from now that Martin Havlat is gone?” I would tell them (after pointing out that Havlat only accounted for nine of their league leading 312 last season) that Eaves would be a big part of it. He scored 20 goals in 58 games last season, and in the process, demonstrated a tremendous natural goal scoring instinct that made me think a more seasoned and mature Eaves would rack up quite the tally in a full season. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case, and it’s not because of a lack of opportunity, as Eaves spent significant time playing with some pretty offensively talented people. His overall game has improved since moving onto a line with Fish and Neil, but that scoring presence hasn’t come around. Let’s hope his first goal in seven games ends the slump and gets him scoring like we need him. Fisher’s skating pretty friggin’ well right now as well.

Going to the net. Someone lit a fire under the asses of the Sens’ forwards (and Christoph Schubert). That’s the only explanation I have for why Ottawa skaters went so hard to the net, nonstop. The first goal, scored by Patrick Eaves, was a direct result of him skating hard through a bit of a clutch from a ‘Canes defender and getting rewarded as a result. Even Daniel Alfredsson, a former Lady Byng nominee, was going to the net, and got punched in the face as a result (would’ve liked some retribution for that, but that’s another issue).

Christoph’s Schubert’s shot. Holy fuck.

Andrej Meszaros. Over 25 minutes played, strong in all ends of the ice, good in every situation. This is the Meszaros we’ve become used to.

THE BAD:

Chris Phillips lack of discipline. The Big Rig’s new found habit of taking bad defensive zone penalties is starting to annoy me, mostly because they all result from Phillips not skating and instead resorting back to the “old NHL” ways of hooking. We’ve had these new rules for a little while now. I would’ve thought otherwise smart veterans like Phillips would’ve adjusted by now, but alas, that’s not the case.

Playing with fire. Both Joe Corvo and Wade Redden must’ve decided they just didn’t give a fuck because each guy threw caution to the wind. Redden threw the puck through his own crease more than once and Corvo thought he was Bobby Orr the way he attempted to pylon Carolina skaters.

The attendance. I realize the ‘Canes aren’t burning it up the way they were last season, and Ottawa no longer has that “must see TV” buzz around it (seems to have gone south to Buffalo), but less than 15,000? And that’s announced. It’s a good bet the real number was closer to 13K. What gives Raleigh? Was there a town hall meeting going on simultaneously?

THE OPPOSITION:

The one noteworthy observation I have to make about the ‘Canes, above all others, is that their defence is a mess. In comparison to the squad that backstopped Carolina to a Cup win in the spring, this one is ass. Pittsburgh-last-year ass. Now, a drop off of some sort had to be expected. They lost Aaron Ward, an unremarkable but important piece of the puzzle, to free agency and Frantisek Kaberle to a long-term injury, and that hurts. But the guys they have left who were so good last year, the Glen Wesley’s (looked 50 years old out there), Brent Hedicans and Mike Commodore were not the least bit effective. Hell, Anton Babchuck, a guy they got for almost nothing from the Hawks (nice trade) was their best rearguard. Now, no offence to Anton Babchuck. He’s a former first rounder and had a very good game, but they need the veterans to anchor the ship.

This was where the game was won. All four of Ottawa’s lines forechecked consistently and Carolina’s defence, which was praised by that old relic John Muckler for their puck moving ability and overall speed last year, couldn’t deal in the slightest. Carolina’s forwards were fine and in the second did a excellent job of taking it to the Ottawa defencemen in that frame.

Also, John Grahame stinks. I thought this much was known but the Hurricanes thought he would be a good backup to Cam Ward and, apparently, serve as their insurance should Ward suffer from a sophmore slump/Conn Smythe Curse. And here I thought Jim Rutherford was one of the best GMs in the NHL.

UP NEXT:

A game against Florida on a Thursday night may not seem like a big game, but I think it is. Sorta. Ottawa, like most teams, tends to struggle when they come back from lengthy roadtrips. There is a hangover that carries over and the first game back at home is often quite poor. So it’ll be especially interesting to see if they can keep it rolling after a nice win tonight to their home returns. The early word is Alex Auld is starting. I haven’t seen enough of Florida, nor cared enough about them to follow the team closely, to know if that’s good or not.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A confession

I didn't see last night's Sens-Sabres game. A previous engagement had me out and about, and my attempt to dust off the VCR and record the game (yes, I'm still behind on the PVR bandwagon) didn't go so well. As a result, I have no thoughts.

And since they won, I'm debating "missing" Monday night's game against Minnesota, watching it on a delay when doing so will have no effect on the outcome one way or another.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Jersey 3 Ottawa 2

Sort of an abbreviated version tonight. Blogger already ate my previous attempt and it's nearly 2am.

THE GOOD:

A strong third period. For the second consecutive game, the Sens elevated in the third period. Unfortunately, unlike Wednesday night, by the time they turned it up a notch, the hole they dug themselves was too severe to get out of. But still. It's reassuring to see that that hurdle looks to have been leaped.

Mike Fisher & Chris Neil. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that these were the lone Sens skaters who brought it for a full 60 minutes. Fisher was skating like the wind, again, and generated a number of the team's prime scoring chances. He was also the only Sen who was able to penetrate the Devils trap they implemented from the midway point of the game on. He rushed the puck down the wing often and good some decent shots away as a result. Neil must have thought it was April because was stirring the pot the way he did in the Tampa series. I'm pretty sure the Devils want to kill him.

Ray Emery. 23 saves with three goals allowed may not blow you out of the water, so on paper it probably seems like Emery was quite ordinary but in fact it was the exact opposite. Emery was even better than he was Wednesday night and was probably the only reason the game was as close as it was after the Sens played so poorly in the second. Emery is providing Ottawa with something they were never getting consistently from Martin Gerber: steady, reliable goaltending with the big saves being made. Emery cannot be faulted on any of the three goals scored.

THE BAD:

The second period. Boy oh boy did they disappoint here. This was the 20 minutes where the game was lost. What I think is happening is that this team is so fragile emotionally that when they have a pretty good first period (still not outstanding, but certainly better than the Devils) yet go into the room down a few goals while having hit a post or two, they start feeling both dejected and bad for themselves. Then they come out feeling down and out and the other team takes it to them.

Daniel Alfredsson. He scored Ottawa's second goal but overall, where was the captain last night? It would be kind to say he was not a factor. #11 makes it difficult for us Alfie Apologists with games like this.

The powerplay. 0-2. Back it sucking it seems.

THE OPPOSITION:

The Devils came out pretty flat in the first, yet a lucky bounce (and a strong finish from Jamie Langenbrunner) as well as an effective powerplay had them up two goals after the first 20 minutes. And while Ottawa scored twice in the third to make things more interesting, the truth was, once they netted a third goal in the second period the end result was never really in doubt. The idea that the Devils would blow a three goal lead in the third period at home seemed pretty unrealistic.

The big surprise was how dominant the Langenbrunner-Zach Parise-Travis Zajac line was. They were responsible for all three of New Jersey's goals and were, far and away, their best players. Zajac looks to be a hell of a player and at 21 should have fans of the team excited.

Brian Gionta, invisible. Way to earn that paycheck.

UP NEXT:

Right back at it, which I think is a good thing. They can build on the good things from this loss and hopefully *fingers crossed* correct the mistakes. Buffalo didn't play their best two nights ago so you know they'll want some revenge and redemption while, ideally, the Sens want to prove Wednesday night and not the game we saw five hours ago was the real team.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

TSN vs. the Senators

The Ottawa Senators organization has a new number one rival, it seems. Though, geographically speaking, it was just a walk down the street.

There's a strange situation going on over at TSN, and right they're butting heads with the people at ScotiaBank Place.

I mentioned it in my recap of last night's Sens win over the Sabres, but Pierre Maguire, once Ottawa's loudest cheerleader, has since become their most vocal critic. Maguire has a daily segment on the local morning sports talk radio show on The Team 1200. It's an insanely popular segment on the highest rated sports radio morning show in the country. Meaning, when he talks, people hear it.

Maguire started the season picking the Sens as a favorite to win the Cup. In less than two months, he's done a complete 180. Every day he now refers to the team's lack of speed and talks about how much they miss Zdeno Chara (at the start of the season he said John Muckler made the right choice with Wade Redden over Chara).

It seems as if Maguire doesn't simply think they've been playing bad. He thinks they're an average team. This has drawn the ire of some, and it was showcased nationally last night. For the whole game he mused about the superiority of the Sabres. Buffalo was faster, tougher, wanted it more, etc. When Ottawa managed to pull out a gutsy win, there was much egg on his face. This morning on Ottawa radio, he said all the right things and the hosts did their best tapdancing performance, skirting the issue without confronting Maguire.

But it doesn't end with Maguire.

A few weeks back there was a report on RDS, rooted at TSN, that Ray Emery's arm injury was more serious than the team was letting on. That he might miss 8 weeks. Ooops. Not true.

This afternoon, Eugene Melnyk held a conference call to give everyone a vote of confidence. Murray, Muckler, Mlakar. All them. The first question of the call was from TSN's Darren Dreger and he didn't waste anytime with softballs.

Listening in, you could literally feel the tension when Dreger asked the questions about how Melnyk can tolerate losing. He managed to basically editorialize with every question he asked, making it clear HE thought pink slips need to be issued. Melnyk seemed thrown but handled them relatively well, issuing the token responses that I imagine his P.R. man had written up before hand.

Oh, and the story about a top level Melnyk aide, his supposed second-in-command flying on red eye to Buffalo last night for the game? The story about how this was the precursor to heads rolling? All nonsense. It's since been revealed that the trip was planned all along. Who exactly turned this into a big deal? Oh, right.

With the Battle Of Ontario fizzling out somewhat, it's nice to know the Sens still have some enemies in Hogtown.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ottawa 4 Buffalo 2

THE GOOD:

A spirited performance when it mattered most. Now, let me say this: the Sens are still not out of the woods. They’ve dug themselves a lofty hole with their play over the last month, and it’ll take more games like this before those parade plans get unraveled from the trash bin, however, this was a great start. There are a TON of positives to take out of this game. The team finally showed up, big time, in the third period. They finally scored a third period powerplay goal. They finally won a game after being scored on first. They didn’t blow it when a lead was established. Most of all, they came to play when it mattered most. Others called this a must win game, or a game seven type scenario, and while I was not nearly that dramatic, I did think this was one they needed as desperately as a game in November can be. But even more than the win, they need a strong outing. They needed to leave the game feeling good about themselves, and if that came because of a great effort in defeat, then it would be a worthwhile experience. Going into Buffalo and beating the best time in the league is more than even I expected. The question now is, can they build on this? Will we be looking back on tonight’s W as a turning point in the season or will they fall back into their rut? Let’s not forget we thought this club was out of the woods three weeks back when they beat up on the Devils and then the Leafs twice. It didn’t last.

Penalty killing in general, but in particular, the 5-on-3 kill in the first period. This was one of the key points in the game, I believe, as Ottawa established a lot of confidence from this kill. They didn’t turn it on immediately after shutting the Sabres powerplay down, and in fact it was just the opposite, but I think it told them that they could play with Buffalo. As well, Ottawa was a threat on the PK the way they were last season. They had two breakaways that, if this team had the bounces going their way, would have been goals. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but getting chances is a good step in the right direction.

The powerplay. For one, they didn’t get scored on with the man advantage. That’s a positive to take away. But in general, they were much better on the PP. Still not where I, and I’m sure every other Sens fan, would like them to be, but at this point, it’s baby steps. Murray made some subtle but ultimately smart adjustments. One of which saw Dany Heatley take Daniel Alfredsson’s spot on the point. I have to say, I didn’t think this was wise. While Heatley has a better shot than Alfie, making him a prime candidate to man the point, he’s also not a great skater, meaning, against a speedy Buffalo team, he might be caught should the puck bounce and a Sabres player get possession (ie, last year’s game 5 OT winner). But Heatley showed great poise when handling the puck back there and utilized the big shot. Also, Denis Hamel joined the first unit powerplay, getting the unglamorous but very necessary job of standing in front of the net and causing trouble. As someone who’s been clamoring for more Hamel ice time, it warmed my heart to see the coaching staff oblige.

Ray Emery. He looked shaky at various points, and gave me heart palpitations when he handled the puck behind the net, but in the end, Ray Emery provided this tea with something Martin Gerber has been unable to and that’s steady, reliable netminding. He made the big saves when they were needed and when Gerber has not been. Time to get on his back and ride him for a while because he looks to be up to the task.

Chris Phillips. A monster game from the veteran, and it was needed badly. He’s been struggling quite a bit this season and has been the subject of numerous trade rumors. And when a pillar of the franchise and a leader in the locker room is struggling it starts to effect the rest of the team. In his own zone, Phillips played like it was one of those must win, do-or-die game seven type situations, which is usually when he shines brightest. 28 minutes of game time and he was terrific in every bit of it.

Anton Volchenkov. He’s really hitting his stride. He too played like a desperate man, taking the body with much aggression (just ask Adam Mair) and blocking a shitload of shots. At the start of the season he was either 5th or 6th on their depth chart, but with Wade Redden out of the line-up, he’s their best defenceman right now to me. In the final seconds of a close game, there isn’t anyone else I’d want on the ice more than the A-Train because I know he’ll take a puck to the face if it means it’ll stay out of the net, and that’s the kind of commitment we need.

Throwing the puck at the net with traffic around the goalie. There’s a valuable lesson to be learned here: don’t be fancy. Both the game winner as well as the goal that tied the contest came from a shot being fired from the point and someone redirecting it along the way. Full marks to the Senators for staying with it despite missing the net consistently in the second period while also getting shots blocked nonstop throughout the game.

THE BAD:

Andrej Meszaros. He redeemed himself slightly but getting an assist on the goal that made it 2-2, however, I think we can officially say he’s in the midst of a severe sophmore slump. After coughing the puck up on the winner the other night, he also gaffed on Daniel Briere’s goal and was almost responsible for another later in the first period when he didn’t get in position for a Ray Emery pass. Daniel Alfredsson bailed him out because if that had led to a goal as well he really would’ve been in the doghouse. Unfortunately, with Wade Redden out, Ottawa has to play him quite a bit anyway even though I’m sure Murray wishes he could sit the youngster for a bit to let him work through his issues from the bench and not on the ice, where he can hurt the team.

Giveaways. Ottawa had 17 of them, which is about 16 too many against a team as good and sizzling as the Sabres. Throw in Ottawa’s only slumps and they simply couldn’t afford to be that sloppy. It didn’t burn them in the end here but if they do so Saturday night when these two teams match up at ScotiaBank Place they probably won’t get the same result.

Francois St. Laurent. Terrible calls on both ends. He blew early whistles that fucked each time. The Sens more often, but late in the game, with the Sabres pressing, he whistled the play dead even though Stevie Wonder could’ve seen the rubber loose.

Pierre Maguire. I actually usually like the guy, and defend him often, but boy, when he’s bashing your team, it stings hard. Why do I feel like he enjoys seeing the Sens struggle? Is my vagina sensitive because the team is struggling and I’m being defensive when I shouldn’t be? It might just be a case of us being allowed to bash them because they’re our kids, but when other (bald alien-like) parents call them brats, them’s fighting words. It might just be karma because the Sens were getting the media blowjobs last season.

THE OPPOSITION:

Buffalo lost for two reasons, as I see it: their special teams didn’t deliver on either end and when Ottawa turned it on in the third period they couldn’t respond by elevating their own games. If their powerplay was effective we’d be talking about this game in a whole different light.

It’s also worth mentioning that Buffalo came in pretty undermanned. Without the pairing of Henrik Tallinder & Toni Lydman, Ryan Miller (bet you’re glad you held onto Martin Biron huh) and Maxim Afinogenov (who I desperately need back soon before I plummet even further in my office pool). When you’re without those kind of players, there will be a dropoff. And it's not as if their top guns underperformed. Brian Campbell was awesome, which really pleases me because I've liked the guy since he played under Brian Kilrea as a 67 and thought everyone was wrong when the accepted opinion was he wasn't an NHL caliber defenceman. Tomas Vanek looked like the guy who had all the hype coming into last season. Chris Drury brought the heart and leadership.

However, the bottom line is that Ottawa wanted it more than Buffalo. And so they should. Buffalo has the best record in the NHL. It'd be foolish to think they would be able to match Ottawa's desire when the Sens are fighting for their lives.

UP NEXT:

New Jersey Friday night. This one will be big as well because if they fall back into old habits, and the shit luck returns, they will feel even more dejected because the sentiment will be "damn, I thought we got this monkey off our back". I have to assume that Ray Emery will get the nod in nets, and that will make a difference. The skaters in front of him play with much more confidence than they have with Gerber between the pipes, and that matters.

The Devils are back their old ways, sorta. They're not scoring a lot, but now not giving up even more. They also have a middle of the road PK which might play into the Sens hands given how effective their powerplay is right now.

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