Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ottawa 10 Buffalo 4

THE GOOD:

Martin Havlat, a man possessed. Earlier this week, leading up to the game that would see “Mach 9” return to the line-up after his suspension, Havlat spoke about how he knew his let his coaches and teammates down by kicking Hal Gill in the nuts. Not only did it reflect poorly on the organization as a whole (something Bryan Murray mentioned only days after sorta kinda defending the action, hmmm), but he hurt a team that depends on Havlat for offence. In the five games without Havlat, the Sens went 3-2, and it’s very possible they would not have had lost the first time against the Hurricanes, as the problem that night was finishing on the dozens of chances they had. Any additional offense in the line-up that night might’ve made the difference. Well, Havlat made it up to them in a big way tonight, joining Dany Heatley in the four goal club. His performance was dominating, and the second goal, if not for Jason Spezza’s out-of-this-world overtime winner against the Habs last week, could’ve been the best Sens goal all season, as he made Rory Fitzpatrick look mighty foolish. While I doubt he’ll have the fire lit under him all season he did tonight, the Sens will need Havlat to continue to be a presence on the score sheet if they plan on standing on top of the NHL standings. Much of the reason for Havlat’s goals were from simply shooting the puck, an edict of Murray since he arrived, and one he’s stressed on Havlat specifically. In the past, Havlat has often tried to be too pretty instead of simply putting the puck on net. Tonight, three of the four were shots rather than breaktaking deeks.

Daniel Alfredsson’s natural hat trick. Kind of an after thought, if scoring four goals can be such a thing, but Alfredsson’s four goals and two assists was nice to see as he’s been, night in and night out, their best and most consistent player this season. To see him get rewarded with the opportunity to pad his stats was wonderful. I’ve said it before, but he really is the straw that stirs the drink that is the Ottawa Senators, and even when he doesn’t put up points but plays well, they usually win.

Lighting up another divisional opponent in their own building. What better time to be aces against your divisional rivals than when the NHL is emphasizing interdivisional play. The Sens are now 8-0 when playing Northeast teams. They ruined the home openers of both the Leafs and Habs by beating them, and then came back to humiliate Toronto Saturday night as well as Buffalo a few hours ago. I’m sure both teams will remember it and try to use the embarrassing loses as motivation, but at the same time, you wonder if getting blown out will gets the Sens in their head.

Mike Fisher’s two-way play. Fisher still isn’t putting up the points with the regularity I’d like, but he’s working his ass off in both ends of the ice. Constantly winning battles along the boards as well as forechecking like a madman, Fisher brings a rugged dimension to this team that compliments the finesse on display tonight very well.

Chris Phillips. I thought, as a whole, the entire defence core played well, as even my scapegoat for this season, Brian Pothier, was having a strong game until he took a bad penalty, but Phillips stood out to me. He was excellent on the PK, especially when killing the 5-on-3, and played consistently well as the game went on, moving the puck and often being the Ottawa defender who would neutralize a Buffalo offensive frenzy by sending the puck out of the zone.

Alfredsson’s assertion that this isn’t even the pinnacle.

'I don't think we hit our peak yet,'' he said after Ottawa's 10-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. ''I think we can get better.''

THE BAD:

Getting complacent with the lead. It’s happened before this season (in their loss vs. Carolina). When Ottawa jumps to an early commanding lead, they sometimes lay off on the pressure and fall back. That wasn’t the case Saturday night against Toronto, obviously, but it almost came back to bite them in the ass tonight. In some ways, I think this team can be too talented for its own good. They sometimes don’t work as hard as they could because they don’t always have to to win. Obviously, that’s a nice position to be in, but it can also create bad habits. Nice to see that it wasn’t a problem tonight, as with Buffalo pressuring them having cut their five goal lead down to two, they bounced back and put the knife in their heart.

Bad penalties. Even if a few of them came when the game was completely over, it’s still not a good sign that the Sens continue to be one of the more penalized teams in the NHL. Their PK has been very effective this season, but you cannot afford to give up 5-on-3’s, even up three or four goals, to a team that can be as explosive as Buffalo. It’s playing with fire. Eventually, you’ll be burned.

THE OPPOSITION:

In two games, the Sens have now beaten the Sabres by a combinated score of 15-4, or if you’re a math whiz like me, an average of 7.5-2. I’ve seen four Sabres games now, and when not playing Ottawa, they look quick, explosive, and dangerous. Like a team that can be competitive against anybody. Yet against the Senators, they suddenly implode and become brutal. Whether or not this can be attributed to Ottawa, I don’t know, but it’s certainly a perplexing situation. They allowed Ottawa to jump to an early lead, mostly because their defence spent more time standing around watching the Ottawa forwards than actually playing them. It took Ottawa being up five goals and displaying far too much confidence for the Sabres to wake up. Ottawa got sloppy and allowed the Sabres to get back in the game. To their credit, they did muster up the effort to score three goals when most teams would’ve been so demoralized by the five goal deficit, but all Ottawa had to do was turn it on again to resume crushing them. Buffalo’s a good team, and might challenge for one of the last few playoff spots (playing in that division won’t make it easy), but they’re clearly out of Ottawa’s league. During the broadcast, much was made about how Buffalo was “showcasing” Martin Biron to the 15 scouts in attendance. It’s no secret that the Sabres are looking to unload their former starter, and with a few teams either struggling with the goalies they have (St. Louis, Edmonton) or hindered by injuries (Atlanta), they’ll probably be able to find a dance partner. But I do question the wisdom of showcasing him against what was already, coming into the game, the highest scoring team in the NHL.

UP NEXT:

The Senators find themselves in a familiar position, as they have to play back home 24 hours after blowing out an opponent. And once again, it’s a pretty good team waiting for them back in Ottawa in the Tampa Bay Lightning. After crushing the Leafs 8-0, the Sens came back home flat and were beaten by the Flyers. We’ll see if they learned their lesson and manage to not lose that edge. Ottawa has already beaten Tampa earlier this year, in a game that, considering the personnel on both teams as well as their reputations are high flying clubs, was pretty dull and ordinary. Let’s hope the second time around is more entertaining. For Ottawa, it will be a chance to show their detractors that these blowouts are not flukes, but rather a window into just how good this team really is.

1 Comments:

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Tom L said...

Chris,

That was the only game I turned off all year. There was an opportunity for the Sabres to hang with the Sens if, and only if, they had gotten comepetent golatending, which, of course, they didn't.

This team cannot under any circumstances dress both Fitzpatrick and Campbell against a playoff-quality hockey team. but, with Lydman injured, that's what we had to do last night. The next stretch of games is going to be brutal for us with both Pyatt and Grier out to keep Miller company.

You are absolutely right in saying that the Sabres are not in the same league as Ottawa. If the Sens come prepared to play they will destroy their opponents... they are that good.

Very impressive performance. I'm not looking forward at all to the next meeting (which will be the 3rd in 4 nights and at Ottawa), here's hoping we don't give up 15.

Ta,

 

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