Friday, November 11, 2005

Ottawa 5 Boston 2

THE GOOD:

Dominik Hasek’s big saves. As Sens fans, I think we’re still getting used to the reality that we have a world class, elite goalie between our pipes. Forgive us if it’s taking a little long to get adjusted to. Just when we forget, the Dominator makes a spectacular save. No disrespect to Patrick Lalime, who’s having a hard enough time in St. Louis without Sens fans piling back onto him for his past mistakes, but you have to wonder how far this team could’ve gone in the past had they had a great goalie. And this is coming from someone who always maintained the ‘tender was never the reason Ottawa lost.

Daniel Alfredsson’s play. Color commentator Gord Wilson made a point on the broadcast: the Sens captain is the best player in the NHL right now. And though there are a handful of equally worthy candidates for said title, all of whom prolly serve their case being made for them, I’d have to agree. Because not only is he sizzling on the scoresheet (another two assists last night), but Alfie’s play in his own zone and on the forecheck has been ridiculous. In the 10 years he’s been a Senator, this is, far and away, the best I’ve seen him play, and maybe the best I’ve seen any single Senator player play for an extended period of time.

The penalty killing unit, and specifically, Martin Havlat. Havlat should’ve had that goal Peter Schaefer got instead (though, we can’t be too mad, as Schaefer only had one goal up to then, so he needed it), as it was a scoring chance generated from his own work. He’s a beast on the PK, and like with Alfredsson on the penalty kill, even having Havlat on the ice changes the way the opposition plays when they’re up a man. They’re much more cautious and are clearly afraid of making a mistake, because they know if they do, it could very well result in a red light behind their goal seconds later. In addition the forwards, the defencemen did an excellent job when the Senators were down a man, shutting down the passing lanes and neutralizing the Bruins forwards.

The play of the fourth line. Yesterday, I talked about the dilemma facing the Sens in regard to how they will deal with unhappy Vaclav Varada, the $1.2 million man playing less than five minutes a game. The response from the team to Varada’s unhappiness was that he had to earn his ice time, and with the rest of the team firing on all cylinders, the only way he was going to leapfrog the others was by stepping up his play. He did so against the Bruins. He was finishing his checks and being the general pest he has to be in order to be effective.

The Brian McGrattan-Colton Orr fight. I’m not one of these pugilists who get erect at the sight of two players dropping the gloves, but even I had to enjoy this tilt. Two guys throwing significant punches, and no major injury incurred.

THE BAD:

The first period. Brutal. Without question, the worst period of play the team has had this season. Now, considering that up to this point, the year has gone pretty well, that’s not saying much, but they were terrible out there. Outshot 17-5, the Senators did not look to have their legs. They lacked that jump, that second gear, that has been a big reason why they’ve been able to dominate opponents so far. Thanks to the early goal that put them up 1-0, they had a lead, and Dany Heatley did miss an open net shortly thereafter that would’ve put them up 2-0 less than five minutes into the game, but after that, they were not good. Boston was outworking them, outchancing them, playing the body much better, stronger on the forecheck, and generally making the Senators look like anything but a top club in the NHL. Every aspect of hockey, the Bruins were better than Ottawa in the first. Fortunately, Hasek made some big saves, and the Bruins, for all their chances, didn’t have much finish, because otherwise, the score would’ve been much less flattering than the 1-1 tie they went into the first intermission with.

Dominik Hasek, wandering goalie. Hasek has been known to become overly involved in the game from time to time. Apparently it’s to keep himself sharp and aware at all times. Often, he can be heard banging his stick in encouragement. As well, he routinely comes bolting out of the crease when an opposing player has a breakaway. Most of the time, it’s very effective. But there is such a thing as going to the well too many times. Hasek pulled it off excellently last night, in the third period, and even a second time moments later, though he didn’t move with near the speed coming out. The third time, his luck ran out, colliding with Wade Redden, leaving the net wide open. The Bruins couldn’t put it into the empty cage, but a few moments later, did score an iffy goal on Hasek, who looked to still be rattled from the collision. Memo to Dominik: you’re a great goalie. A goalie. Not a defenceman, not a forward. Try to stay in your net if at all possible. I know questioning the methods of a guy who’s a guaranteed first ballot Hall Of Famer, and maybe the best goalie of our generation, isn’t exactly logical, but just do me this favor, will ya?

The play with the man advantage. I don’t know what it is, but Ottawa’s powerplay just hasn’t been clicking consistently this season. You’d think a team that can throw the kind of talent out there would have an effective, consistent PP, but that just hasn’t been the case, and it was evident last night. That probably sounds strange, because Ottawa still has one of the top 5 PPs in the NHL, but I have to think the coaching staff isn’t happy with the way it’s been so far this year. Last night was particularly bad though.They were forcing plays, including one through the crease that didn’t work about 10 times, yet kept being attempted, passed sloppily, and on one specific PP, gave up two shorthanded breakaways (resulting in the aforementioned Hasek wandering act) and a goal a few moments later.

The wacky NHL scheduling. I hate to be a complainer, but five days between games is sorta unacceptable. Yet that is what the Senators had to deal with. Maybe if they were banged up, they’d welcome the time off, but instead they were red hot, and thus, having to sit around for half a week was not fun, I’m sure. To make matters worse, only five weeks into the season, this is the second time it’s happened to Ottawa. Going into last night, Ottawa had only played 13 games, tied with Philadelphia for the least amount in the NHL. Meanwhile, other teams in their division had played 17 (Boston), 16 (Montreal & Toronto), and 15 (Buffalo) . And brace yourselves, Sens fans, it’s going to happen again next month when they have six (!) days between games in early December.

THE OPPOSITION:

Even though they failed to capitalize on the chances they worked for, I was impressed with the play of the Bruins in the first period. They were throwing tons of pucks at Hasek, going hard to the net, making smart passes, and backchecking hard. I thought, this looks like the team I picked to win the Northeast. Alas, it didn’t sustain itself. It seemed like some wind was let out their sails when they were able to dominate the Senators so and still only come away with a tie after one period. Once the Senators got a few quick goals, generated off mistakes from the Bruins, they weren’t able to get their a-game back and score some goals to get back into the game. Without Brian Leetch, who’s injured, and with Nick Boynton a nonfactor, their defence was their undoing. And specifically, the veterans. Hal Gill may still have sore balls, because he was not good, and Jiri Slegr wasn’t much better. And greenhorns like Kevin Dallman and Andrew Alberts simply aren’t able to defend the kind of firepower the Senators can throw at you. Up front, they sport a lot of weapons of their own, but being dangerous on paper doesn’t win you games. The secondary scoring that they’ll need to win games, from Alexei Zhamnov and Patrice Bergeron, was just not there on a steady basis. Sergei Samsonov was working hard and almost single-handedly creating plays on his own, but that wasn't enough last night nor will it be on most nights. Having seen them play a handful of games now, I’ve about given up my hope that the B’s would prove my prediction right. I praised a lot of the offseason moves they mad, bringing in Leetch (who, in his defense, was very good before he got hurt), Scatchard, McEachern, etc. It hasn’t worked out. As well, I assumed, wrongly, that Bergeron and goalie Andrew Raycroft would be even better in their second years than they were their rookie seasons. Instead, both seem to have caught a nasty case of the sophmore slump that has crippled them, transforming each into average players. In the run and gun Northeast, where a 12-2 record only gets you second place, Boston, last year’s divisional champs, may end up being the team on the outside looking in come late April.

UP NEXT:

Wow, a game tomorrow night. Thanks NHL. The Sens will host the Buffalo Sabres at the Corel Centre on HNIC. Yes, the same Sabres that Ottawa embarrassed the piss out of on national TV, thrashing them 10-4. Before that, Ottawa beat them up 5-0. So you know the Sabres will be looking for redemption, which just might be only losing by two or three goals. I’ve contended after each win over the Sabres that Ottawa didn’t face Buffalo when they were on top of their game, as I still maintain they’re a better team than we’ve seen in the match-ups with the Sens. However, this third time out, they will have to show me something or I will have no choice but to write them off as the mediocre club they’ve been in the games against Ottawa. I’m sure Martin Biron still has nightmares from that 10-4 beating, so he’ll either be extremely motivated to show and prove, or he’ll still be shellshocked. Half the fun might just be finding out.

5 Comments:

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Jameso said...

I don't know, and it's contrary to common belief, but might these continued breaks be helping the Sens? So far, they don't look to have killed any momentum, either of the team as a whole, or individual streaks such as Heatley's. Maybe these long breaks are keeping them in form and well-practiced. Maybe not, but it seems possible.

 
At 8:43 AM, Anonymous pale said...

Isn't the resheduled Florida game during the 6 day stretch in December?

 
At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the HNIC schedule, the sens-sabres game is not on.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

HNIC locally. I guess I should've made that clear.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

When a team is playing as well as the Sens, I have to think they'd rather be playing than sitting around for days at end. The break certainly looked to hurt them in the first period last night, as they were awful.

 

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