Friday, December 02, 2005

Boston 3 Ottawa 0

THE GOOD:

Dominik Hasek. Even in a 3-0 loss, I thought Hasek was very good between the pipes. He made several big saves that kept the score 2-0 and gave the Senators the opportunity to get back into the game if they had put forth the effort.

Zdeno Chara. With Wade Redden out of the line-up, Chara’s been asked to log big minutes and has responded wonderfully. Last night Chara played over 29 minutes, including eight on the PK, and was a big reason the Bruins did not score even more when they were on the powerplay.

THE BAD:

Taking the Bruins too lightly. Based on last night’s effort, I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that from the moment the Ottawa Senators stepped off the plane in Boston, they figured the game would be an easy W. Now, I as a fan thought they would walk all over the Bruins, who I assumed, wrongly, would be in turmoil after the team traded away their best player/captain, but I thought that at least the Sens would come with it. They did not. Instead, they were flat from the first puck drop, and once Boston got an early goal to put them ahead, they were not able to overcome the deficit. I dare say this was the worst game the Senators have played this season. Sure, there have been some individual periods that might have been uglier, including the first period the last time Ottawa visited Boston, but from start to finish, I don’t think they’ve shit the bed as badly as last night.

Not paying the price. Boston employed an interesting tactic last night and that was to stack up the blueline and make it virtually impossible for the Senators to carry the puck into the Bruins’ zone, or even pass their way into it. Instead, they would’ve had to play the less exciting dump-and-chase game. I guess Mike Sullivan hedged his bets that the Senators would not adapt to the gameplan of the Bruins. He was right. Because even though it was crystal clear to anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention that Ottawa would not be able to use their usual attack method, the team kept trying to make it work. It didn’t help matters that their passes were sloppy all night long, from all parties.

Too many penalties, again. Ottawa continues to be far too disciplined for their own good. Their penalty killing has been excellent this season, a major upgrade from last season when it was one of their most significant weaknesses, however, when you play with fire, eventually, you’ll get burned. They took eight penalties last night, and if they do the same tonight against Los Angeles, a club with much more scoring punch, you’ll see the Senators notch up their 5th loss of the season.

The ineffective powerplay. While the penalty killing unit has been a welcome surprise this season, the inconsistent powerplay has been a constant thorn in my side all year long. It looked as if they had turned it around as of late, finally scoring with the man advantage on a regular basis, but last night, it was awful. They had five opportunities and not only scored on zero, but failed to sustain any kind of attack in order to generate good scoring chances.

Dany Heatley’s point scoring streak coming to an end one game shy of tying Wayne Gretzky’s record. It’s a shame that Heatley did’t net a point last night to even himself with “The Great One”, as it would’ve made for great dramatics at the Corel Centre tonight. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I actually thought Heatley had one of the better games of the Senators forwards, as he lead the team in shots on goal, but he just couldn’t buy a goal and the rest of the team around him wasn’t performing.

THE OPPOSITION:

While I’ve been very hard on the effort the Senators put out last night, full credit has to go to the Boston Bruins for the win. They played a smart, hard game and did what it took to beat a more talented club. They maintained a strong forecheck all night long and made life difficult for the Ottawa rearguards without taking any unnecessary risks. A bit part of that was getting the first goal. In the game on Saturday night, Ottawa jumped to an early lead and you good see how demoralized the Bruins bench was. It was an uphill battle they had no interest in.

As far as the new talent they brought in from Silicon Valley, all played exceptionally well. Marco Sturm scored,Wayne Primeau checked and defended, and Brad Stuart moved the puck. All three did exactly what they were brought to do. After being the laughing stock of the hockey world Thursday morning, some might suggest GM Mike O’Connell redeemed himself with the Bruins win, however, let’s keep things in perspective. It was one game.

However, there was one startling difference between the Boston team that got dominated by Ottawa in the three games prior to last night and the one that won 10 hours ago, and that’s the work ethic from top to bottom. That’s something O’Connell talked about. They had relied too heavily on a few players, he said. With Joe Thornton gone and Glen Murray, the remaining squad was forced to play a team game, and, surprise surprise, they got the two points. I still maintain that San Jose comes out the better team in the deal, but if moving Thornton has this effect for the remainder of the season, perhaps Mike O’Connell isn’t retarded after all.

UP NEXT:

Very little time to lick their wounds for the Senators, and I think that’s a good thing. The Los Angeles Kings come to town tonight for a rare Friday night affair. It’s the first time we’ll see Ottawa play a Western Conference club. L.A. is a strange team to make sense of, as they appear to be very inconsistent with their play. I’ve seen them look like an elite team but also, at other times, not even appear to be a playoff contender. Which Kings team shows up at the Corel Centre tonight will determine both the outcome and how exciting the game will be.

I do think it will be fun to see the Western Conference equivalent of Ottawa’s big line in Alexander Frolov-Craig Conroy-Pavol Demitra. Though all the hype has gone to Ottawa’s Treacherous Three, quietly, this trio has done pretty well for themselves, combining for 93 points between them. Let’s hope Bryan Murray, who will have final change, treats the fans to some head-to-head match-ups between the two lines.

On Ottawa’s end, they need to use last night’s defeat as a wake up call. While they are better than the majority of the teams in the NHL, that doesn’t mean they can afford to take their opposition lightly and not bring their A-game. Overconfidence, as well as injuries, are the only things I see stopping this Senators team from going all the way this season, and fortunately for them, one of those is in their hands. They have to prepare better and make much better adjustments mid-game when your gameplan isn’t working.

There is no indication on who will get the start in nets for Ottawa. The way Ray Emery played Tuesday against Montreal might make him the favorite, as we know the team doesn’t like to play Hasek in games on consecutives nights.

1 Comments:

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Andy said...

My concerns yesterday were realized. They came out flat and Boston played with emotion.

Nice to see the NHL finally start some cross-conference games. Only took till Decemeber!

 

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