Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Toronto 2 Ottawa 1 (OT)

Though the result is not exactly ideal, how great is it to have an NHL score as a headline?

I managed to get out to the Sens-Leafs rookie tournament game last night, and though the quality of hockey wasn't fantastic - especially on the Sens side - watching sorta NHL hockey in that building warmed my heart.

There was one player who stood out tremendously, but unfortunately, he's not a Senator.

Alexander Steen, Maple Leafs bluechipper, was head and shoulders above basically every other young player, and while dominant might be pushing it, he was certainly in a class all his own. The best description would be that he appeared to be a complete player. His speed was excellent through the game, he can handle the puck very well, and though he didn't score, generated chance after chance. As well, despite being a finesse player, he didn't appear to be the least bit timid.

I realize it's somewhat misguided to gauge a player's future based on one game, but I would be shocked if Steen didn't make the big Leafs this season, and have an immediate impact. Toronto fans, be excited, because you have a winner here.

For the Senators, the game's three best players were the three most high profile: Andrej Meszaros, Patrick Eaves, and Cody Bass. Meszaros started slow - as did basically the whole team - but as the game went on, his play improved. Though I didn't have a watch, I'd guess Meszaros' ice time topped all Sens. He didn't take the body much, but his skating was very good and had a great shot.

Eaves doesn't appear to be someone who can put a lot of pucks in the net as far as finish, but he was always in the mix. He too started slow, maybe due to a big hit he took early on that rocked his bell, but by the second period his game was going. His size is an issue, and can't be ignored when watching him play live, but it never seemed to effect his play, especially as he went straight to the net with no hesitation. He let loose several great passes, and also demonstrated a good quick shot. I'd be interested in seeing him with the big boys in the main camp, as perhaps he'd elevate his game with superior talent.

Bass was someone who I had heard was not all that gifted offensively, but I was impressed with that part of his game. Not a sniper, but he moved the puck real well. Positionally, he was always on top of his game, and used his size excellently, especially when digging for the puck. Even in one game, his much praised defensive skills were obvious.

Kelly Guard in nets underwhelmed me. His fundementals seemed to be off, but in his defense, the Ottawa D was not particularly strong all night, as he had to make far too many saves from in close. He demonstrated good gloves, using both his blocker and glove on numerous stops, but positionally, Guard didn't look to be doing well, as he was often too deep in his net, rarely challenging the shooters. One person nearby noted it as well, but chalked it up to nerves. We'll see I guess. His lateral movement is quick so he was able to overcome his poor positioning but that was clearly an issue.

Beyond those three, there were few Sens who stood out. I didn't even noticed much hyped Roman Wick for most of the game, but the first time I did, it was because he shyed about from physicality. just'cuz, a visitor of this blog, commented that he thought David Desharnais was their best player, but the truth is, the only time I noticed him was on his goal. He's incredibly tiny though.

The Sens have no game today, as the two match-ups are Florida-Montreal at 4:30 and Toronto-Carolina at 8. It's doubtful I'll be able to make tomorrows Habs-Sens contest, but I'll have a spy there, and if anyone reading wants to send their comments to me, I'll post them. There are a few Canadiens rookies I want to see, so I'm disappointed.


At 3:56 PM, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

Looks like the NHL is definitely succeeding in raising scoring. 3 whole goals in 60 minutes plus overtime.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I don't know if using the first rookie game as a measuring stick of anything is smart.

The overall quality of the game wasn't very good. Not a ton of scoring chances in general.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

You cannot measure the quality of a game by the number of goals scored. That should be obvious to anyone (is it obvious to Bettman?).

In a rookie game there should be more scoring then in a normal NHL game - presumably there is a larger deviation in ability between the best and worst players on the ice and these players will make more mistakes then NHLers.

I don't see any reason to expect scoring goes up this season in the NHL - at least not by any significant amount - despite the best efforts of the people running the NHL (when did they ever get something right?). I think this first rookie game is likely the first data point to show that - although its far too early to conclusively prove anything.

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree on Steen – he did a great job killing off the majority of the 5-on-3 powerplay at the end of the game. I thought Guard looked pretty good, postionally very square to the shooter and quite good at handling rebounds (at least better than the other four goalies who say action in the two games). As for not challenging shooters, that’s coaching today in defense of the cross-ice pass/tip-in. Hasek’s the same – if the shooter has not other option, then he’ll be out challenging, otherwise he’s deep in the net anticipating a lateral move. Watching those “vintage” NHL games over the lock-out reminded me how much goaltending has changed, even watching Patrick Roy’s style evolve over his career.


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