Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ottawa 5 Carolina 3

THE GOOD:

Finally beating the Carolina Hurricanes. It wasn’t the prettiest victory, to say the least, but regardless, a win is a win is a win. Going 0-3 against what most people consider to be the second best team in their conference would not have been an ideal spot for the team to be in. It’s somewhat ironic, though, that their lone win in the three games was, without question, their worst outing.

Mike Fisher. In the late afternoon, Chris Neil was given devastating news, as he was told his mother Bonnie had been killed in a car accident north of Toronto. Obviously, he traveled back to be with his family in this difficult time and missed the game. The team talked about winning the game for Chris, who wears his heart on his sleeve and is the guts and glory of the Senators. Fisher, who is Neil’s closest friend on the club, stepped up and had one of his biggest games of the year, collecting a shorthanded goal as well as two assists. Fisher took Neil’s spot on the top powerplay unit, taking on the less-than-glamorous role of standing in front of the net and making life difficult for the opposing goalie. He was excellent in said role. Fisher’s emergence as this team’s most reliable secondary forward since coming back from the injury is a welcome surprise.

Christoph Schubert. The big German was put into a difficult spot last night, and responded as well as anyone could’ve expected. With Neil flying back home to deal with the tragedy at the last minute, the club didn’t have time to fly in a player from Binghamton to fill the hole (they had already called up Denis Hamel due to Bryan Smolinski’s shoulder injury), and so they had to make due with using a defencemen on the fourth forward line. This is probably when John Muckler’s policy on not carrying alternates looks misguided. But considering the circumstances, I thought Schubert performed excellently. He scored his first ever NHL goal and was effective all night banging bodies along the boards and behind the net. Schubert impresses me every time he gets in the lineup.

In the third period, the play of the Big Line. They struggled early, but when Carolina evened the score at 3-3 a little more than a minute into the third, the still-unnamed trio (yes, I refuse to acknowledge that absurd name the Ottawa Citizen’s contest birthed) elevated their game as a line. They scored a goal three minutes later, and had a handful of chances to light the lamp throughout the rest of the game.

Chris Kelly. With the depleted line-up, which was compounded by Martin Havlat going down with an injury in the first period, Bryan Murray was forced to give more ice time to people who otherwise don’t see that much shine, and “Battleship Kelly” was among them. He played nearly 14 minutes, was +2, and won some big faceoffs.

The Hurricanes asking for a moment of silence before the game for Bonnie Neil. It was an incredibly classy move on behalf of the organization.

THE BAD:

Chris Phillips. It wasn’t a banner night for most of the defencemen (believe it or not, Brian Pothier was one of the best Ottawa rearguards), but #4 had a particularly bad game. On Carolina’s first goal, he was outmuscled by Eric Staal, made to look pretty foolish, and on their second, he was mostly standing around, as it was his man (Erik Cole) who made the pass into the slot that resulted in the score. He was routinely knocked off the puck in the Senators zone and wasn’t making his usual strong outlet passes. As well, Phillips took two of the team’s five penalties, both of which were holding calls and the result of poor positioning on Phillips’ part. I’ve talked about how if Jason Spezza wants to be on Team Canada in Turin, he needs to round out his game, and the same goes for Phillips. He’s typically been a slow starter his entire pro career, so average play early in the season isn’t anything new, but the Senators will need more from him if they want to maintain their spot atop the Eastern Conference.

For the first two periods, the play of the Big Line. While they did kick it up in the third, for the first 40 or so minutes, the much heralded trio were non-factors. I’ll cut Alfie a bit of slack because at least he was working hard (as usual) and trying to create chances. The other two, however, were essentially invisible out there.

Dominik Hasek. I don’t know what it was, but Hasek looked awkward for the majority of the game. Now, saying Dominik Hasek looked awkward in nets is, I know, sort of like announcing the sky is blue. But he looked awkward even by Hasek standards. He didn’t demonstrate his famous mobility and was out of position on a lot shot. In addition, there were even a few instances where he appeared to be caught sleeping and was surpised by some long shots. For a goalie who keeps himself in the game by attacking the puck even when it looks like a bad play, and who bangs his goal stick on the ice to encourage his team, that was strange to see.

The powerplay. I might as well just copy ‘n paste all the times I’ve talked about how poor the PP was here, because it was more of the same.

The officiating. For the second straight game, the Senators were the victim of awful, inconsistent refereeing. This time, however, it went both ways. Calls were being missed all over the place, while a few of the penalties that did get whistled down were questionable to say the least. I hate to sound like Tom Benjamin, but this is becoming an alarming trend.

Diving. The last time these teams played each other Raleigh, you’d think the ice was a swimming pool based on all the bodies that dove into it, and unfortunately, last night wasn’t much better. The last time around, both teams were guilty of it, and according to the broadcast crew, the NHL sent some warning calls to a few Hurricanes (including goalie Martin Gerber) to let them know this would not be tolerated, but I guess the rest of their teammates didn’t get the message.

The blatant knee-on-knee hit on Schubert by Mike Commodore. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the NHL has to do a better job of taking these out of the game. If that means strict suspensions, then so be it.

The attendance. I would think a game between the Eastern Conference’s top two teams would get some hype locally, resulting in interest from even the casual hockey fan and thus more butts in the seats of the . Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. While there were more people there then the last time these two teams met about a month ago, there were still an announced five thousand empty seats. And with the way the NHL and some struggling franchises are padding their numbers, it could very well have been a few thousand more than that.

THE OPPOSITION:

The ‘Canes played handicap last night, as some significant pieces of their puzzles (Rod Brind’Amour, Josef Vasciek, Nicolas Wallin among them), but still, I thought as a whole looked good in spite of it. Their forwards were skating strong all night and were relentless on the forecheck. They’re really a different team when behind versus when they have the lead. We saw, when these two teams played in Ottawa a few weeks back, that Carolina can shut down their opposition when they’re up, but last night, down two goals less than 10 minutes into the game, they were forced to go on the offensive. Ottawa wasn’t prepared for this, it seems, because for the rest of the period Carolina dominated and could’ve been up a few goals when the buzzer sounded to start the intermission if a bounce here or there went their way. The difference between this game, and the two others, as I saw it, was Martin Gerber. He was the impact player in both of those other games, largely stealing the two points for his team, and he just wasn’t as sharp last night. Make no mistake, he didn’t lose them the game, but the big saves he was making previously went in last night. Ottawa scored four goals despite playing a pretty lackluster game.

The two Eric(k)s, Cole and Staal, both had dominant outings. Staal astounds me every time I see Carolina play, and not just for what he can do offensively. He’s incredibly strong on the puck and for someone of his size can skate like the wind. We saw on the goal he scored to put the Hurricanes on the board how good he moves and when Chris Phillips, a pretty powerful defenceman, gets steamrolled like that, you have to give it up.

UP NEXT:

Ottawa gets a few days off before traveling Northward to play the New York Islanders in a rare afternoon affair, this time due to U.S. Thanksgiving. The puck drops at 2PM. In their only contest thus far, the Senators manhandled the Isles. While Ottawa looked like an elite team, New York resembled more of a pretender than a playoff team. However, since then, they seemed to have turned the corner and established some momentum, having collected 12 points in their last 10 games to go a game above .500. The Sens might be without three of their regular forwards. In today’s local newspaper, Bryan Smolinski says he thinks he’ll be ready by Friday, but it’s still up in the air. We don’t know when Chris Neil will be back with the team, and it’s not something you want to rush if he’s not up to it. And the severity of Martin Havlat’s injury remains unknown. If all three are out, we’ll likely see Hamel stay up as well as a few forwards from Bingo join the team, though some thought has to be given to keeping Schubert up front given how well he played.

6 Comments:

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the radio this morning, they said Havlat's injury was a hamstring problem and given the difficulty of healing a hamstring, he could be out a while. But last I heard, nothing is confirmed.

Anshu

 
At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another topic...what's with Varada? Should John Muckler be looking to package him off somewhere?

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger PRQ said...

I'd think that this would be an excellent opportunity for Varada to get some more ice time and develop that familiarity with Murray which he's been missing. It's easier to figure out where he fits long-term if the coach actually knows what can be done with him.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

If the Senators were against the cap, I'd say they should trade Varada, because at $1.2 million he's quite overpaid for the role he usually plays.

But they have the cap room.

As we're seeing now, if they get into some injury troubles, Varada gives them a seasoned veteran who's able to move up lines and play where ever he's needed.

Plus, he brings a lot of grit, which you can't have enough of come playoff time.

As long as he's not a cancer in the room (he has complained about his lack of ice time), then I believe they need to keep him.

 
At 6:17 AM, Anonymous DUFF said...

It's the PIZZA LINE !

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Hurricanes Fan said...

Dude People in raleigh could care less about Ottawa. Sorry to us its just a canadians team. I like your long article here. Some good information. Ill check back again.

Next to the Hurricanes your team is awsome. but... face it they barely beat the canes last night even though many Key Players for the Hurricanes were out of the lineup... Skillwise your Sens should have dominated... they didnt. They got some lucky goals, and were almost beat by the half healthy hurricanes....

Officiating and diving:.. You are crazy. If anything you got the better end of any calls officiating was horrible and there many many NO Calls on offenses committed by your team... Diving I didnt see any... I

I was at the game and at center ice in the lower level... I saw the game happen live not on TV and not with some Bullshit announcers giving you "their Version." THis was a game your team was lucky to win.

 

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