Sunday, December 11, 2005

Calgary 2 Ottawa 1 (OT)

THE GOOD:

Ray Emery. Despite giving a up a goal late in the game, and then another in overtime, to give the Flames the W, I thought Emery played very well last night. He didn’t make a lot of the highlight reel caliber saves that Hasek did the night before, but that was largely because he was in good position all night and didn’t need to. It often seems like the puck is hitting Emery rather than him stopping it, but that’s more because he’s exceptional at positioning himself and is rarely caught off guard. I actually think it’s good Emery got a loss as he’s noted for being an terrible loser. He’ll likely use the defeat as motivation.

Zdeno Chara. Playing over 30 minutes for the second straight night, Chara was a dominant force yet again. He was matched up against the big line very often, and when he wasn’t, it was because Daryl Sutter wisely changed his lines to avoid that match-up.

Chris Phillips. Chara’s defensive partner had an equally impressive game. He was likely motivated by the fact he had tons of family and friends in the crowd watching. He logged over 25 minutes, threw his weight around, and blocked six shots.

THE BAD:

No forwards stepping up. With Martin Havlat out of the line-up, the Senators will need the remaining pieces to elevate their game to make up for his absence. Someone has to make up the goals they don’t have anymore because Havlat’s on the sidelines. Short term, it looked like Brandon Bochenski was going to be that guy, and that’s certainly what GM John Muckler was banking on. He dismissed any trade rumors and gave the rookie a vote of confidence, but since scoring a hat trick Monday night in Florida, Bochenski hasn’t had much of an impact, only solidifying my contention that he’s too streaky a scorer to be depended on as the next in line. However, as I’ve said, the burden shouldn’t fall solely on Bochenski, as the other, more experienced guys will needed to increase their contributions. The only one who seems to have gotten this memo is Peter Schaefer. The other veterans, Vaclav Varada and Bryan Smolinski especially, have been very disappointing on this road trip. Smolinski’s role as a two-way center was fine and well when they had other players to score, but when you lose a 30 goal scorer, his role was rewritten.

The refereeing. It wasn’t why they lost, as Ottawa got a few bad calls their own way, but it was incredibly frustrating to watch the game be torn apart by awful officiating. Calgary got away with at least two high sticks, including one on Zdeno Chara by Rhett Warrener (how high does your stick have to be to hit a 6’9” guy in the face?), and a few of the “hooking” penalties were absolute bullshit on both sides. This was the same officiating crew that ripped the flow out of a game between two of the NHL’s most exciting teams the night before by instituting a nonstop parade to the box. What was especially bad about last night was there was zero consistency with the calls. What was a penalty one minute wasn’t the next. Maybe this is why Ottawa is having such a hard time adjusting to this “new NHL”. How are they supposed to know what’s a penalty when they get away with something twice and then get called on it a third time?

The decision not to bring an extra forward on this road trip. Allow me to rant for a second, please. Going into this season, John Muckler said the team was going to carry the bare minimum of 20 players due to cap reasons. Even though Ottawa was not close to the cap even with a 23 man roster. I was skeptical of this decision, but alas, went along. They then decided to keep Christoph Schubert because there was a fear they’d lose him for nothing on the waiver market. They were probably right, and Schubert has been excellent when called upon. With Binghamton so close to Ottawa, I accepted the call to not have an alternate forward around. But when you’re going across the country, why not bring an insurance policy? What’s this going to cost the team? A couple tens of thousands of dollars? What happened if an injury occurred? They couldn’t do what they did the last time a situation arose and Chris Neil’s mother died, when they inserted Schubert into the line-up as a forward. We almost saw this disaster occur last night when Spezza was a game-time decision due to a hip flexer. Stop playing with fire, Muckler. You’re going to get burned sooner or later.

Not matching Calgary’s emotion. As was the case Friday night against Vancouver, Calgary seemed to treat this game as a much bigger event that the Senators, who appeared to approach it as just another game. Calgary brought playoff like intensity, but the same can’t be said for Ottawa. Instead, with a few exceptions (Chara, Phillips, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Neil), there was a general level of indifference. It was very disappointing. Especially alarming was how they were able to neutralize Spezza by taking the body on him. I realize he was hurt, but it doesn’t bode well for the playoffs that he was taken out of the equation so easily at even strength.

THE OPPOSITION:

Calgary’s clearly a team that is still playing in the old NHL. Despite a hard forecheck, they don’t take the kind of chances to score that most teams do these days. But make no mistake, they’re a bitch to play against, and coming off a big game the night before against Vancouver, Ottawa was in over their head before the puck was even dropped.

The characteristic that most impressed me about Calgary, though, is how they forced Ottawa to play their game. Some have complimented the Sens by noting that they’re able to beat you anyway you want. And they almost did last night. But the Flames plucked away, played their game, and finally buried one of their chances. But the time they scored, I was resigned to the fact that they were going to win. Ottawa was clearly out of gas, registering only five shots in the third period. By then, I was just hoping Ottawa would take it to OT or a shootout, where they can at least get a point.

One note I do want to make is that Dion Phaneuf is no hype. Last night was the fourth game I’d seen him play, and by far his best.

UP NEXT:

It might be a stretch to suggest that Monday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche is a must-win, but you’d think the Senators want to go back home with at least one win. Colorado doesn’t seem to be on the same level as the Canucks and Flames, but it should still be a difficult game as they have a ton of weapons that can bury you if you allow them to. Meaning, Ottawa needs to curb their penalties somehow or Colorado will light them up. They can’t depend on Hasek to bail them out the way he did Friday night with any regularity, nor can they rely on the fact that Colorado won’t capitalize on all the PP chances the way Calgary was unable to.

Wade Redden might be back, but he might not. Quite frankly, I’ve grown incredibly frustrated with his nonchalant, shrug of the shoulders “I might play, but we’ll see how I feel” attitude. I thought that bullshit left town with Jacques Martin. While I don’t think he should be rushed back, Wade Redden at 80% is still a valuable asset to this team. Get in there and play already.

8 Comments:

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

"He dismissed any trade rumors and gave the rookie a vote of confidence, but since scoring a hat trick Monday night in Florida, Bochenski hasn’t had much of an impact, only solidifying my contention that he’s too streaky a scorer to be depended on as the next in line."

Yeah... and Alfie and Heatley and Spezza are streaky scorers as well by that logic. Two games doesn't make a streak of any sort. It doesn't even give the hint of a trend.

 
At 9:07 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

"While I don’t think he should be rushed back, Wade Redden at 80% is still a valuable asset to this team. Get in there and play already."

Uhhhh - and run the risk of aggravating something that is not quite healed? Are you nuts? Wade is a long-term asset, and we're no in "must-win" territory by any stretch of the imagination.

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Yeah... and Alfie and Heatley and Spezza are streaky scorers as well by that logic. Two games doesn't make a streak of any sort. It doesn't even give the hint of a trend.

Before that, he had one goal in 10 games.

If he's not streaky, he's at the very least inconsistent.

Alfredsson and Co. are in a slump, yeah, but they had multi-game stretched where they were putting up points.

The same can't be said about Bochenski. He has two good games and then is invisible.

My point is that we need someone who can contribute offensively with some regularity to fill Havlat's shoes.

And miss me with this "he's still a rookie!" nonsense. Fine, he is. But he's on the team to score. That's it. If he's not scoring, then find someone who will, because there's no much more to his game than that.

Uhhhh - and run the risk of aggravating something that is not quite healed? Are you nuts?

I'm just incredibly annoyed by his indifferent attitude to playing.

we're no in "must-win" territory by any stretch of the imagination.

There are no must wins in December for a team on top of the standings, fine, but losing three in a row is not a position any team wants to be in.

 
At 11:34 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Last 5 games:

Spezza: 2 assists, -1, 4 shots
Heatley: 2 goals, 1 assist, -1, 7 shots
Alfredsson: 1 goal, -1, 15 shots

You talk about no forwards stepping up to replace Havlat but the real problem is those 3 guys not producing the offense expected. This is why Ottawa has just 2 wins in their last 5 games and one of those wins is solely because someone (Bochenski) did step up to replace Havlat. Although Ottawa does have some quality 2nd and 3rd line players, they are still a top heavy team and Ottawa just isn't going to win many games with Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza combining for 3 goals over a 5 game span.

 
At 12:04 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I agree. They're in a slump and need to snap out of it.

But I'm confident they will. I don't believe, as you wrote, that the league has discovered how to shut them down and their dominance is a thing of the past.

Every line has down periods and I believe this is one of them. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in two weeks if they're still struggling, but I doubt it.

 
At 12:20 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

But I'm confident they will. I don't believe, as you wrote, that the league has discovered how to shut them down and their dominance is a thing of the past.

I never said their dominance is a thing of the past. I think they will once again return to being one of the top lines in the league. probably not at the level they were in the first 20 games but still one of the top 2 or 3 lines in the league.

Here is what I think is happening to Ottawa this season. They came into the season wanting to prove a point. They wanted to prove doubters wrong. Hasek wanted to prove he can still provide top notch goaltending. Spezza wanted to prove he can be a #1 center. Heatley wanted to prove he is over his injuries and emotional issues related to the accident. Alfredsson wanted to prove that he really is a leader. And as a team they all wanted to prove that they can be a force once the Jacques Martin shackles had been removed. For the first 20 or so games they did just that and everyone started anoiting them the best team in the NHL and some were even bringing up thoughts that they might be the best team ever. Wow, they had accomplished their goal. Points proven on all accounts. Then complacency set in and we are seeing what can happens when you don't have that extra step in your stride, that extra bit of effort and energy that comes when playing in 'we have a point to prove' mode, especially when combined with a few injuries. I expect they will break out of this mini-slump soon, but I don't think they will be as dominant as they were in the first 20 or so games for the rest of the season.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Chris,

I just heard on the radio that Wade will be out tonight because he re-aggravated the knee injury. I don't think it's a "don't care" attitude... the man's still hurt.

Tonight should be an interesting game... Spezza will be out as well.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Yeah, I just heard that a while ago as well. Disappointing news.

 

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