Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Montreal 4 Ottawa 3 (SO)

Due to a prior engagement, I was unable to see the majority of last night's loss to the Habs. But based on what I've heard and read about the game, it didn't sound like I missed much from a Sens perspective.

After thrashing the Buds on Saturday night, the Sens should've had momentum coming into the game, but for the second time this season, instead come out of the BoO on an emotional low. Did they blow their load Saturday night?

There is no excuse for blowing a three goal lead. Yes, I've heard the "this is the new NHL where no lead is safe!!!" rationale and I get that with increased scoring, it's inevitable some leads will be lost, but a three goal lead against a team missing so many key pieces of their puzzle is unacceptable.

It's worth noting that the Sens were not without their own M*A*S*H unit. They of course were without Martin Havlat and Brandon Bochenski, but Chris Phillips also missed the game. In addition, Jason Spezza was also added to the list when he pulled a chest muscle during the game. He tried to come back at the start of the second period, but had to pull the chute.

I'll ask the question that so many Sens fans are, I'm sure, afraid to: is Jason Spezza soft?

Coming out of junior, there were three major knocks on Spezza, in spite of all his obvious talent, from some skeptics:
1) His skating was not up to NHL standards
2) He was not defensively sound enough to be an NHL centre yet
3) He wasn't physically tough enough to be an elite player

Since then, his skating has improved to the point that not only is it not a hinderance, but instead, an asset. He's able to switch gears and burn opposing players with regularity.

His defence isn't at Kris Draper levels, and it probably never will be, but in comparison to where he was when he first attended a Sens training camp, it's like a different player entirely. Playing under Jacques Martin will do that to a player, and so even with all the alleged bad blood between the two, Spezza has Martin to thank for the growth in that part of his game.

But with two injuries this season, the question about his ability to withstain punishment is worth bringing up. After all, this is his first season as a top line player in the NHL, logging major minutes and being counted on to carry the team on a lot of nights.

He played a full year in a similar role in the AHL last season, but the two leagues can be very different as far as the kind of wear and tear involved.

Spezza had done a lot of work to improve his conditioning in the past. He worked out with Gary Roberts, who's known to be a freak of nature when it comes to conditioning, during a few offseasons and many said he was coming along in that area.

I genuinely hope I'm wrong, and it's just a case of two bad breaks and some shitty luck. My guess, however, is that we'll find out sooner rather than later.


At 12:15 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I don't think you can call Spezza soft. Soft players don't get instigator penalties. It's too early to know if he is injury prone but Senator fans better hope not because Ottawa's second best center, Mike Fisher, is definitely injury prone.


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