Sunday, September 18, 2005

It's game time

Tonight will be the first sorta test of the new (and hopefully) improved Ottawa Senators. And what better place to have this game than in the venue that prompted the overhaul: Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

Though it’s only a pre-season game, don’t think the Senators won’t be under the microscope. After all the sweeping changes made to the team, from the removal of their head coach to their top forward to the goalie, that would be the case regardless of who the opponent was. But against those damn Maple Leafs?

The line-up they’re going likely isn’t the same as the one that will suit up against the Leafs October 5th for opening night, but it’s not far off either. The big difference is that expected no. 2 goalie Ray Emery will start the game, with projected Baby Sens starter Billy Thompson serving as the back-up. No Dominik Hasek.

Up front, however, the line-up could very well be an early look at what new coach Bryan Murray has penciled in. The forward lines will be:
Martin Havlat – Bryan Smolinski – Daniel Alfredsson
Brandon Bochenski – Jason Spezza – Dany Heatley
Peter Schaefer – Mike Fisher – Chris Neil
Vaclav Varada – Antoine Vermette – Bryan McGrattan

It’s interesting to note that Bochenski is being given a big chance here. I plan to talk about the players who are trying to crack the line-up for the first time tomorrow, and their chances of being given that spot, but it looks like Bochenski has a leg up. He’s been on that line all training camp during scrimmages, and was said to look pretty good.

As well, tough guy Chris Neil, who’s been a fourth liner since coming to the team, has the opportunity to prove he’s more than that. He and Fisher are very good friends, so that might contribute to decent chemistry. Murray has spoken about wanting that third line to be a major factor on the team, able to contribute both energy wise and on the score sheet, so we’ll see if Neil’s up to the challenge.

And finally, Bryan McGrattan, who racked up more than 500 PIMs with Binghamton last season, has his shot. Murray has spoken highly of him in the past, and many thought that he would fit right in with the new bench boss’ philosophy of making this team tougher. Whether or not it’s worth sacrificing a more skilled player remains to be seen, but at the very least, we know with him on the ice, the Leafs won’t push the Sens around.

On defence, the six blueliners suiting up tonight will be Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Zdeno Chara, Lance Ward and Andrej Meszaros. I doubt that is the six the Senators have planned, as Brian Pothier is pretty well guaranteed the 5th defencemen spot, but maybe it’s between Ward and Meszaros for the final position, with Christoph Schubert and Tomas Malec on the outside looking in.

It’s important to remember that this is only a pre-season game, so regardless of the result, it’s really not THAT important, but as a fan, I’d sure like the team to start off on a positive note, especially against this team.

A reminder: the game isn’t on local TV, but can be heard on the radio on The Team 1200. If you’re a Sens fans not in the Ottawa area – and based on the e-mail I get, that’s a lot of you, it’s webcasted on their website
. If you have the Leafs TV premium channel, it's apparently available there. But I doubt many Sens fans are subscribers of that network.

The puck drops at 7:30PM.


At 4:37 PM, Anonymous The Meatriarchy said...

I can't wait to watch it. Even though it is merely a meaningless exhibition game.

As a Leaf fan you know where my sympathies lie but I am very interested to see Bochenski and McGrattan.

If Bochenski is the real deal that line (w Spezza and Heatley) could be frightening.

And this McGrattan guy certainly brings a level of toughness to the Sens that they didn't appear to have before.

We'll soon find out (not tonight but when the season starts) if they will finally shed their images as a talented but "soft" team.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I agree that the prospects of a Bochenski-Spezza-Heatley line is scary, but probably not for the same reasons you think.

That line reeks of being a defensive liability.

Dany Heatley is explosive offensively, but he's not the two-way player Marian Hossa was (a part of his game that went unnoticed, and the result of playing under such a defensively strict coach for so long). Ottawa fans remember that game where Heatley (and Kovalchuk) were something like -5 against the Sens.

Spezza apparently improved that aspect of his game drastically in Bingo, but he's still not all that solid.

And Bochenski is said to be a defensive nightmare.

I'd be much more comfortable with someone like Peter Schaefer in that spot. I think he's earned a chance at the big two lines. He's decent offensively, got great speed, and is excellent in his own end and especially along the boards. He may be the best Senator at that.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger just'cuz said...

That line reeks of being a defensive liability If they're in the offensive zone most of the time and Chara or Phillips is on the ice at the same time, then I don't think there's much to worry about.

Which is the top line; Bochenski-Spezza-Heatley or Havlat-Smolinski-Alfredsson? Teams will have to decide, which line is going to face the checking line and which one gets the second line of that team ...either way, Spezza's line will not likely be facing the top scoring line of the other team. So, the defensive liability will be minimized.


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