Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ottawa 6 Toronto 5 (SO)

THE GOOD:

The shootout. I’m not completely sold on it as part of the game just yet, but speaking strictly as a fan of the Senators, as long as we have Dominik Hasek on our team, I say why even play three periods? Let’s just go right to the shootout! The NHL can feel free to stop doing this whenever Hasek retires though.

Jason Spezza. Though last night’s game was not without a few errors, Spezza made up for it on the whole with his monster game. He is really emerging as that dominant #1 center we’ve all been clamoring for and hoping was in the cards. Collecting two goals and an assist, and creating at least a handful of scoring chances, Spezza continues to make this HIS team.

Dany Heatley. Playing with Spezza probably makes Heatley look better than he is, as great centers routinely do for their wingers, but it seemed like every time this line was on the ice, Heatley was on both going to the net and generating excitement of some kind.

Zdeno Chara. “Big Z” almost didn’t make this, as he was caught flatfooted on Darcy Tucker’s scoring chance late in the game, but overall, played very well. He was a physical force all night, crashing Leafs in the corners and behind the Sens net with ease. At one point, it looked like he might’ve run Eric Lindros’ bell with a vicious hit behind Hasek, but #88 ended up being all right. One recommendation though: easy on pinching in the four-on-four overtime period. Because if he gets caught, as he did last night, it’s a long skate back for a guy who, though relatively speedy for his size, overall isn’t the fastest guy on the ice. When you throw in the fact that by then he’d played over 27 minutes, it was not a wise decision to make.

Andrej Meszaros. The rookie played decently in the first two games but last night against the Buds was his best outing so far. Playing with Brian Pothier, who once again struggled in his own end, Meszaros made numerous smart plays defensively, neutralizing Leafs’ forward, as well as being a presence offensively. In addition to racking up his first point as a pro (an assist on Jason Spezza’s goal that tied it at 2-2), Meszaros was constantly moving the puck from the point. The kid has an absolute cannon for a shot, but unfortunately, none of them got through last night. I’d like to see him get to utilize that shot with some powerplay time.

The penalty killing. In the first period, Bryan Murray reaffirmed his status of a hockey genius as the PK generated as many scoring chances for the Sens as the team did at even strength. The one great thing about having a Martin Havlat or a Daniel Alfredsson on the PK is that the other team is more reluctant to

THE BAD:

Blowing a two goal lead in the third period. They manned up, came back from it, and got the W, but giving up a two goal lead by allowing three goals, in less than two minutes, gave me terrible heartburn. To those who say, well, we should be celebrating it because the old Senators wouldn’t have had the character to come back after the Leafs took over the game, yeah, that’s all well and good, and it’s probably true, but these kind of things cannot be allowed to happen. The same way that the poor effort for over 50 minutes of Wednesday night’s opening game cannot be excused simply because they managed to pull a win out, a 4-2 lead needs to be safe with 20 minutes left in the game, even in this new NHL where any lead is supposedly not penetrable.

Antoine Vermette. For a guy who talks about wanting a bigger role on the team, Vermette sure isn’t playing like it. He started the year on the checking line, and went out of his way to say in the media that he was disappointed with that status. So the team gave him the chance to improve his standing, putting him on a line on LW with Alfredsson and Bryan Smolinski (who also played poorly, but by now that can sort of be assumed). In the two games where this has happened, he’s contributed absolutely nothing beyond some occasionally aggressive forechecking thanks to his speed. Vermette took two really bad penalties, and on both the Leafs scored. Not completely his fault, because he wasn’t out there killing them ineffectively as well, but try to stay out of the box. It says a lot that when Mike Fisher went down after the first, coach Murray put Chris Kelly, the number four center, up on his line instead of moving Vermette, a natural center, on there. He did get a few shifts on that line with Havlat and Peter Schaefer, and guess what, he did nothing with the opportunity. There has never been any dispute about Vermette’s talent, but talent isn’t enough. Eventually you have to make good of that talent or you’ll find yourself looking for a new line of work.

The penalty killing. Bryan Murray, what are you doing?!? That wonderful idea of putting a scoring threat (re: someone who is not a defensive specialist) on the PK didn’t look so brilliant in the second period, when the Leafs capitalized on three of their five powerplay opportunities.

Leaf Nation. Boy they’re obnoxious. And smelly. Is there a rule that Leaf fans cannot shower, or is that strictly a section 211 issue?

No fights. I’m no Liam Macguire, Don Cherry “let’s get ready to rumble!” scrap enthusiast, but a Battle Of Ontario regular season game without two guys dropping the gloves felt oh so wrong. The fact that Brian McGrattan only got two shifts shows that Murray wasn’t too excited about a night of fisticuffs.

THE OPPOSITION:

To say that Leaf Nation was panicking after their winless streak of two games to start the season would be an understatement. All one had to do was visit one of the seemingly thousand message boards devoted to fans of this team to see it first hand. Ed Belfour had to be traded, Pat Quinn had to be fired, John Ferguson Jr. was a moron. You get the idea. Yet the truth is that, having seen all of their two games against the Sens and about half of their Saturday night tilt against the Canadiens, this team isn’t all that bad. The problem, as I see it, is that they have a few glaring holes, the primary one being zero depth on D, that can be exploited by the opposition. As for last night, Belfour looked shaky in nets all night, giving up juicy rebounds and generally not looking like the confident Eagle that haunted Senators fans last playoff. The forward group were not consistent for most of the night, and the guys who had good games (Chad Kilger especially), and the players who are expected to carry the load with the captain out (Jason Allison, Lindros) did not step up the way this team needed them to. Their defence has been the subject of much criticism, and specifically, the two guys who apparently have become known as the “Killer B’s”: Wade Belak and Aki Berg, and they did not have a good night Monday night. What this meant was the big aces on the back end, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe, had to play too many minutes (Kaberle finished with 32:49 and McCabe 31:43). Both played fantastic games I thought, especially McCabe as the game went on, but it’s unfair to expect these guys to log these kind of minutes all year long. With the salary cap, I know the Leafs’ options as far as adding personnel are limited, but something has to be done because this will not end well, and if either of these guys gets hurt for an extended period of time, the team will be in A LOT of trouble. Someone also might want to double that order for Mats Sundin’s visor, as Pat Quinn seems to need it more than the big Swede.

UP NEXT:

No rest for the weary as the Sens travel to La Belle Province for a game tonight against the Habs, a team that has looked fantastic in going 3-0 to start the season. They’re fast, persistent, and young, meaning they’ll be a handful for a team who just squeezed out a win against their biggest rival 24 hours before. Ray Emery will get his first start of the season, and I expect him to be looking to impress, but how the team in front of him will fare remains to be seen. Even though it isn’t quite at the level of the Battle Of Ontario, the Habs have always played the Sens tough and whenever either team goes to the other’s building, it’s a raucous atmosphere.

3 Comments:

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I don't understand what Quinn sees in Belak, especially as a defenseman. If Quinn can only trust Belak with 10 minutes of ice time as a defenseman, he should find someone else. One of the young guys would be so much better and while they too might make mistakes, at least they have some positive upside. Berg is an alright #5 defenseman (certainly as good as Pothier) but if you pair him with Belak you are only asking for trouble.

As for the Sens, they still need to find scoring beyond Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley. Those 3 guys have 3 goals each, the rest of the team has combined for 3 goals. Those are awfully good players, but I think you need more than one line scoring if you want to make a cup run. Mr. Smolinski, it's time to step up and center a viable second line.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger just'cuz said...

the old Senators wouldn’t have had the character to come back after the Leafs took over the game Maybe, but the old Sens probably would not have given up a two-goal lead in the third period, either.

I'm with you Chris, these players better start playing the full 60 minutes. Hasek cannot save them everytime they go to sleep! Even in the win against Buffalo, the first period was sickening!

 
At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heatley is a real killer out there on the ice. He should be called Dany "Killer" Heatley...

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares