Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ottawa 4 Tampa Bay 2

THE GOOD:

Wade Redden. Redden, in addition to scoring his third goal of the season to win the game, moved the puck tremendously throughout the game and was very strong in the Sens’ end positionally. He’s really in a groove right now after starting the season slow. They’ll need Redden to be on his A-game if they want to turn the powerplay around.

The Peter Schaefer-Antoine Vermette-Martin Havlat line. While all the attention was likely on the Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson line, this secondary unit stepped up in a big way. They were skating all night, and making plays happen. There seems to be some genuine chemistry amongst these three, as they were the only line that was passing crisply from the moment the first puck was dropped. Havlat didn’t slow down a bit from his dominating performance the night before, and probably could’ve had two or three more goals, while Schaefer and Vermette were backchecking hard and playing both ends of the ice. I do have to agree that those two do need to maybe shoot more often, but I can understand that with a bonafide sniper playing alongside them, they’re probably inclined to distribute. Schaefer, though, has quietly amassed 11 points in 12 games, and is off to the best start of his NHL season. Schaefer was quite the scorer in junior, putting up two 100+ point seasons in the WHL, a league not exactly know for its scoring. If he gets the confidence to shoot the puck at the net more often we might unleash another potent offensive weapon on opponents.

The fourth line stirring things up. It’s foolish to count on your fourth line for offense with any regularity, but as long as they’re making life for the other team difficult and grinding hard, they’re doing their job. Tonight they did so, and even had a few scoring opportunities. That’s all you can ask for.

Mike Fisher getting rewarded with a goal. Fisher was excellent last night against the Sabres and had an even better game tonight vs. Lightning. Though he only lit the lamp once, Fish likely could’ve had a hat trick. He was skating hard down the wing most of the night. Having players play out of position can often be a tricky proposition, but Fisher seems to have adjusted to the move from center to left wing with ease.

Daniel Alfredsson on the penalty kill. Superb.

THE BAD:

Sloppy line changes. There were more than a couple instances when the Sens nearly got caught by the Lightning as a result of either taking too long to change players or forwards staying on the ice too long.

Sloppy passing. Where as last night against the Sabres the passing was from tape to tape for almost the entire game, tonight Ottawa wasn’t as crisp with their passing. A lot of passes that seemed lazy and sloppy. Against a team like Tampa, with those kind of weapons, it was a dangerous risk to take. Luckily, as the game went on, they corrected it but it was an issue early on.

Bryan Smolinski. On the broadcast, they were praising Smolinski consistently going to the net, and while I agree that it’s nice he’s doing so, the team needs some offensive contribution from “Smoke”. Smolinski was on my shit list earlier this year for his unreliable play, and though he’s improved as far as getting more chances, he needs to finish them.

Once again, far too many penalties. And illtimed penalties at that. Three times in the third period, they were sent to the sin bin, and two of them came with the game still tied 2-2. Some of them were questionable to the say the least, but most were infractions that have been called since the season started. The Sens seem to be having a difficult time adjusting.

THE OPPOSITION:

After seeing them play a handful of games, I feel safe in saying that, so far this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning do not look like the same team that won the Stanley Cup in June of 2004. And it’s surprising. You’d think a club with this kind of talent, built for speed, skill, and scoring the way they are, would thrive in the “new NHL”, yet they seem to be struggling to find their way. Are they suffering from post-Stanley Cup letdown, almost 18 months after hoisting the trophy? I really have no explanation. They lack that jump which made them so potent in the old NHL and allowed them to tromp opponents with their offense on their way to winning the championship. Though they were forced to open it up once they got down a few goals, the Bolts looked reluctant to play an aggressive game, and were laying back a lot. Was this because, having seen the Senators embarrass the Sabres 24 hours earlier by scoring 10 goals, they were being careful not to give them any openings? I don’t have the answer but that might be a part of it. If you looked at this team on paper, you might point to the lack of Nikolai Khabibulin as to why they’re not the same team they were last year, but in both games I’ve seen, John Graeme has been fantastical. He made, at least, five spectacular saves in this game, keeping the Lightning in it. If you’re looking for someone to point a finger at, look elsewhere. Going into the season, I figured even if they struggled to regain the form that allowed them to win the Cup last year, they would still walk away with their division, because the competition, though improving, was still out of their league. Wrong. We’ve seen Carolina beat up on opponents, even defeating the Senators a few weeks back. It looks like it won’t be the cake walk morons like me predicted it would be, which, in the end, may be what this team needs. Maybe they need to be the chaser rather than being the one everyone else is chasing.

UP NEXT:

Well, well, well, look who’s back. Saturday night, new New York captain Alexei Yashin brings his band of merry Islanders to town. We know how he’ll be received. The truth is the Islanders are playing pretty well, despite losing to the Penguins earlier tonight, and might be stiff competition for the Senators. As much as we’d like the Isles to get the same treatment the Leafs got Saturday night, Ottawa will have to bring it in order to continue their hot streak. This is the first time we’ll see the new look Islanders, minus Mike Peca, Adrian Aucoin, Dave Scatchard, Roman Hamrlik and Kenny Jonsson, against the Senators.

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