Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ottawa 6 Buffalo 1

Alas, no TV coverage like I had originally thought. Again. The Senators have played five Saturday night games (undefeated on Saturday night, by the way), and two of them were not televised outside of broadcasts only available on the Centre Ice package. I’m not liking this, at all. Fortunately the next eight will be.

I get that a Montreal-Toronto game is about as big as it comes for the CBC, and they should by all means dedicate significant energy on broadcasting it. But if they’re not going to broadcast the Sens game to the Ottawa region, even with a skeleton crew, then sell the rights to Rogers Sportsnet or TSN or a local network like the CHUM-owned A Channel. This monopoly the CBC has over Saturday nights is pretty frustrating.

/ rant

Anyway, I was unable to get out to Kanata to see tonight’s romp over the Sabres, but all accounts say it was yet another utter domination in every way possible.

I want to make note that Ray Emery recorded his fourth win of the season. He’s now 4-0. For those who say, yeah, with that team playing in front of him he can’t help but win: while it’s probably true it helps, he’s still been steady in reliable when called upon. I didn’t see his performance last night but those who did said he made a bunch of big saves in the first period, when the game was still scoreless. He made three stops on breakaways and another on a two-on-one. I have thought he was solid in the other games, and particularly good against Montreal. I understand he hasn’t proven himself to be an elite, number one goalie, or even a back-up who can consistently win games, but his pedigree is as good as any other second stringer in the league right now. This for the doubters who seem to think if Dominik Hasek goes down (apparently he has some sort of internal bomb that will ensure he won’t be ready come playoff time), the Senators are screwed, and thus, they should use whatever cap space they have to acquire a proven number one goalie for when Hasek suffers his imminent injury.

As for the rest of the game, while the still-unnamed Big Line (I’ll touch on that fiasco either later today or tomorrow) continued to put up statistics, those who saw the game once again raved about the play of the second line - Peter Schaefer-Antoine Vermette-Martin Havlat - as well as Mike Fisher’s game. While many talk about the Sens putting all their eggs into one basket with the top line, they’re ignoring that the club is actually getting quite a bit of secondary scoring. Havlat has 11 points (nine goals and two assists) in 10 games, Schaefer 14 in 15, Chris Neil has 11 in 15 (including seven goals), and Bryan Smolinski seems to have rediscovered his game after a poor start to the season, collecting four points in his last three games.

The one negative coming out of the contest is rookie defenceman Andrej Meszaros, who up to this point has been fantastic this season, left the game with an undisclosed lower body injury. Some were guessing it was some kind of ankle wound, but at this point it’s all up in the air. It might've just been a precautionary method. It’ll be a shame if he is out of the line-up, but they do have a pretty good 7th defenceman in Christoph Schubert sitting on the sidelines itching to get back into some games. He was very strong in the four games he did play so it shouldn’t be a major blow to their momentum either way.

In addition to the satisfaction that should come to Sens fans due to another win, there is the fact the team appears to be finally on a normal schedule. I bitched about their absurd schedule so far this season in the last game recap, but from here on in it looks to be evening out.

They have a nice little run coming up, with all of their three games next week being at the CC, the first of which being the (before Atlanta got a hold of them) red hot Carolina Hurricanes, who gave the Sens their first loss of the season. The ‘Canes will be looking to bounce back from being absolutely humiliated in their own building last night by the Thrashers. And you know the Sens will want to achieve some retribution. After that, Jacques Martin and maybe the best goalie in the world come to town on Thursday, and then we face yet another talented ‘tender in Martin Brodeur and the inconsistent Devils Saturday night. And yes, HNIC will be broadcasting the game.

Oh, and Martin Biron
"The first time we came into this building it was 2-0 after two (periods) and they got three power play goals at the end. The game in Buffalo is a game you just throw in the garbage and not look at it. (Saturday) night it's 2-1 for two periods and we gave them one period to really show their stuff. This group of guys in here, we can play with those guys, we just need to do it for 60 minutes."

You really can't. I don't think anyone who's seen the three games would think you can. Not based on what we've seen. The first game, the score was flattering. It was 2-0 going into the third, yeah, but the Sabres were never really in it. "Garbage" is a good way to describe the 10-4 drubbing. And though I didn't see last night's game, to simplify it by saying "oh, well, if you eliminate the second period, it was 2-1" is being somewhat misleading. That one goal you got was with the Sens up 6-0 and playing their inferior lines, likely trying to not embarass your team yet again.

Buffalo is a team I had high hopes for going into the season, and in the games against other teams, they look promising, but when matched up with the Sens, it's like a NHL club and a minor league squad. Even when the Sens aren't playing up to their fullest, they're still a superior team, almost to the point of toying with Buffalo. Whether or not this can be explained simply by the reality that Ottawa is that much better than Buffalo, or just that they've shit the bed three times now against the worst team to do it with, who knows.

With no Sens game on the tube, I decided to take in the Habs-Leafs game instead, and I must say, I'm glad I did so. It was one of the more entertaining games I've seen all season, and a big reason why it was so exciting was the electric atmosphere. You could feel it even through the TV. Seemed more like a playoff game than a November match-up. Only reaffirmed by desire to finally see a Habs game in person, ideally this season, when the team is so explosive.

As for the contest itself, Leaf fans should be thanking the hockey Gods above they'll be leaving Quebec with two points. They were outplayed and outclassed in every way. But they still managed to squeak out a win, and being the victors in games you don't deserve to even be in is something every team encounters. At least Ed Belfour looked to have rebounded from his dreadful performance the night before. If they had indeed gone with Mikael Tellqvist instead of Eddie, as I'd heard some Leaf fans suggest today, the score likely would've been 5-1 after the first. The defence was terrible, so they should hope the rumors about them shopping Jason Allison around the league in hopes of getting back a defenceman that would be an upgrade are true. Ken Klee in particular was awful.

I was very torn watching it though, as I couldn't decide who to root for. All logic says I should've been cheering for the Buds, since it is Montreal who Ottawa is chasing for the lead in the Northeast. Plus, I've seen almost every Habs game this year and due to their excitement level as a team, have developed a strange affinity for them. So I just couldn't bring myself to be happy when Jeff O'Neill scored the OT winner regardless of the fact it was the smart side to take. With the way the Leafs have played this season, I'm not really worried about them as a threat to the Senators - I don't put too much stock in the "gotta slay the dragon" concept, as the two teams are so different from the ones that played in April of 2004, including a big change behind the Sens bench - and Montreal looks to be much more dangerous in head-to-head matchups. But old habits die hard I suppose.


At 4:45 PM, Blogger Christy Hammond said...

I'm hosting the Carnival of the NHL #13 this Sunday (20th) on Behind the Jersey and I was wondering if there was a certain post you'd like me to highlight. If so, could you just drop me an email ( Thanks!


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