Friday, October 28, 2005

Ottawa 4 Montreal 3 (OT)

THE GOOD:

The overall quality of the game. Though it tailed off a little bit after a sizzling first period, this was one of the more entertaining games I’ve seen this NHL season. The pace was excellent, with end to end action and very few whistles. Both clubs were forechecking feverously and pressuring the other to caugh it up. And unlike some games I've seen recentlty, there was actually some aggressiveness and feistiness between the two sides.

Jason Spezza. Even beyond his overtime winning goal that will surely be the play of the day on most highlight shows, Spezza had a tremendous game. He was creating plays all night, won 65% of his faceoffs (including many key ones), and was backchecking hard.

Ray Emery. While most of the fanfare will go to Jose Theodore’s play, and justifiably so because he was fantastic, I really liked Emery’s game. He was in position all night, square to the puck, made the big saves when called upon, and was especially good handling the puck. He was directly responsible for the Habs getting one penalty for too many penalties by rushing to the blueline to play a puck into the players making the change.

Another game of 40 shots on goal. One of Bryan Murray’s edicts that I like is the “just fire the puck at the net” philosophy. With defencemen crippled by the new rules and handcuffed as far as fending off defenders, it makes sense to put the puck at the net in hopes of capitalizing on rebounds.

The third and fourth lines contributing. When one of the top two lines are slacking the way the Daniel Alfredsson threesome was last night, it’s nice to see the lesser lines, who’s role is to mostly provide energy and spark rather than tangible offense, step up and generate chances through hard work . Antoine Vermette was skating his ass off out there. Vaclav Varada was banging and crashing anything in a white sweater. Even Brian McGrattan had a breakaway. And of course, that sniper Chris Neil had another terrific game, consistently going to the net and trying to stir things up. He got robbed by Theodore on a glorious scoring chance that, really, should’ve given him his 5th goal of the season.

Anton Volchenkov taking the body. A couple of unfortunate Habs got caught on the tracks of the "A-Train" last night, and paid for it dearly.

THE BAD:

Brandon Bochenski’s lack of protection. I’m inclined to say the clock is ticking on this experiment. While he certainly lite up the pre-season, so far, eight games in, Bo has been a disappointment. I’ve seen some of his defenders bring up that he’s getting some chances, but what they don’t tell you is the majority of them come from him standing at the side of the net after Spezza or Heatley have made something happen. If he’s the natural scorer everyone advertised him as, wouldn’t Bochenski be able to bury all these chances? The reality is, he’s on this line because he’s supposedly a goal scorer. He’s not scoring goals. The rest of his game isn’t good enough to warrant a top line spot if he’s not producing offensively. And his game is such that it doesn’t really make sense to use him on anything but the top two lines. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in suggesting that unless Bochenski turns it around and has big games this weekend against the Leafs and Flyers, once Martin Havlat comes off his suspension, either he or Alfredsson will take that spot on the number one line and Bo will be sent back down to Binghamton. It’s just not working out.

The powerplay. The fact they went 2 for 4 with the man advantage might make you think their PP was rolling, but that’s just not the case. It was sloppy, looked unorganized most often than not, and still looks like it needs work.

Dany Heatley’s love affair with one-timers. Heatley had a goal, and a decent game overall, but I absolutely hate when he winds up for a one-timer. He either flubs on it or the shot misses the net entirely. Heatley’s got a ridiculous wrist shot and should utilize that more instead.

Anton Volchenkov's penchent for pinching. I took Chara to task the last game for his eagerness to jump into the play, and so it's only fair I do the same to #24. Montreal's first goal came as a result of Volchenkov joining the play and being caught out of position when Montreal got the puck moments later. I understand in this new NHL offense is all the rage, but you still have to be conscious of your responsibilities as a defenceman.

THE OPPOSITION:

I’ve seen more of the Habs than any other team besides the Senators this season, so I’ve seen them when they play well and when they don’t, and I thought last night was one of their down games. Perhaps they were having a hard time coming down from the high that was the overtime win Tuesday night over Philadelphia, but as a team, I didn’t think they had a strong game. The top line of Alexander Perezhogin-Saku Koivu-Alexei Kovalev weren’t much of a factor but I liked the play of Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder who, in addition to their combined five points, were forces all night. I don’t have the stats on hand to prove it, but I’d say that when they were on the ice, the puck was in the Sens’ zone 70% of the time. I also thought the Steve Begin-Radek Bonk-Jan Bulis line had a decent game, but that’s not a group that they get goals from. Jose Theodore was sensational, making it two games in a row that they’ve run into a hot goalies. Even in the loss, Habs fans should be excited because for most of the season up to now, Theo has been hot and cold. He looked more like the Theodore that won the Hart Trophy last night than the one who was letting in a couple soft goals a game this year. Montreal may not be in Ottawa's class as far as the upper echelon teams in the Eastern Conference, but they're not as far off as we all thought before the season started.

UP NEXT:

Just a little team called the Maple Leafs. Round 3 of the B.O.O. commences Saturday night at the ACC. I plan to do a game day preview so I’ll save my thoughts for then. Suffice to say, it should be a fun night.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares