Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ottawa 6 NY Islanders 2

With no local TV broadcasting the game, I had to rely on the Team 1200’s radio broadcast for my Sens fix this afternoon. Based on their descriptions, as well as reading what those who did see the contest had to say, it seems like it was status quo as far as what the Senators have been doing to other teams this year. The fact they did it without three regulars, though, makes it unique.

The overwhelming positive that Senators fans should take from the game is the team’s ability to step up when facing adversity. Minus Wade Redden, Martin Havlat, and Chris Neil, head coach Bryan Murray juggled his lines slightly and got some surprisingly results. The most surprising of which was the success of the Peter Schaefer-Bryan Smolinski-Vaclav Varada trio.

Varada, who was named the game’s first star by the radio crew, was said to have his best game of the season thus far. He collected three points (a goal and two assists) and played nearly 14 minutes. It’s interesting to note that Varada played on the right side. Since coming to Ottawa, he’s been, primarily, a left winger, but played some right wing in Buffalo during his tenure there. Having a versatile winger who can play either side is a big bonus to the team and will likely come in especially handy down the line whenever the next time the Senators run into some injury troubles.

Having such a big game, and being recognized for it, will hopefully help Varada turn the corner and play with more consistency. The Sens aren’t going to get three points from him every night, nor is that his role on the team, but they do need Varada to get back to doing what he does best: being a pest who stirs things up and makes life hell for members of the opposition. That can be difficult to do when you’re only getting five or six minutes of ice time a night as part of the fourth line, but regardless, he has to be able to perform when called upon.

It was also a welcome surprise that the powerplay, which went 3 for 5, was so successful. That has been their one Achilles’ heel from game to game this season, and those who read this blog regularly know it’s been a personal annoyance of mine, but this recent stretch has seen a marked improvement. They’ve now scored with the man advantage in six straight games. The fact it was so dangerous yesterday against the Islanders without Redden, who plays the role of the quarterback, either says a lot about their ability to step it up or how ineffective the Isles’ penalty killing is.

With the win, and Detroit’s loss a few hours later in Anaheim, the Sens have now assumed the spot at the top of the NHL standings.

UP NEXT:

No rest for the Senators, as they’re back in Ottawa tonight for a match-up with the struggling Boston Bruins. The Bruins are a team that a lot of people, myself very much included, had pegged to be atop the Eastern Conference, and yet here we are 23 games into their season, and they’re three games under .500. With 21 points in 23 games, they’re currently on the outside looking as far as playoff standings. It did look like they had maybe turned things around with a big 5-1 win Wednesday night in Toronto, but last night, they were beaten on home ice by the Flyers. They showed some resiliency but coming back from a 2-0 deficit to actually take the lead, but the Flyers proved to be too much for them.

Watching the highlights, it looked like Andrew Raycroft was struggling in nets, so don’t be surprised if Finnish rookie Hannu Toivonen. There is no word about who will get the nod for the Senators between the pipes. So far this season, it’s been Murray’s practice not to play Dominik Hasek in games that occur on back-to-back nights, but we’ll see. Chris Neil is still tending to family matters in Toronto (the funeral is tomorrow, and coach Murray, Mike Fisher, Wade Redden, GM John Muckler, and Roy Mlakarwill be representing the organization at the service) and Redden isn’t expected back until next week. Martin Havlat might be a game time call, but early indications are that he’s still not ready to return to action. Meaning, the Senators depth will be put to the test yet again.

The Senators have dominated the Bruins in the previous two games between the two clubs this season, but that was when their line-up was healthy. It might be a different story now. Boston will be looking for blood, as a win over the league’s best team in their own building would soften the blow that has been their drought. It might be worth noting, however, that the Senators have yet to lose on a Saturday night.

3 Comments:

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Duff said...

Dominating and let's not forget that they are atop of the standings with fewer games played than any of their rivals.Combine that with the depth of this team and I think they will be first for most of the season.

 
At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw the highlights of the dominating performance last night and witnessed Arron Asham chirping at Big Brian asking him what 2+2 equalled. OK "genius"...over to you...what does 6-0 + 6-2 equal? Answer - A 2-game embarrassment of you "team" at the hands of the Sens. Or how about this one: What does 11-11-1 equal?...that would be 10th place in the East. Moral of the story...think before you chirp, dumba$$!

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Asham's a quality kid... that kind of ribbing is all just part of hockey.

I saw the Ottawa Sun said Raycroft would play again today. Toivonen hasn't won a game since Nov. 5 against Pittsburgh and has allowed four goals or more five times in only nine starts this year. It could get ugly if he's in against the Sens.

 

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