Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ottawa 5 Los Angeles 1


The physicalness and nastiness of the game.
One criticism some have levied against the new NHL is that the days of gritty games are gone because of the crackdown on clutching and grabbing, even going so far as to say it’s now the No Hitting League. While on some nights, that does look to be the case, last night in Kanata was not one of them. There was a ton of hitting last night, ranging from open hit ices to banging and crashing in the corners and along the boards. As well, both teams developed a hate-on for the other very quickly and as a result there was a ton of emotion.

The Senators standing up for themselves. The whole “Ottawa’s not tough enough” stigma has been out there for as long as I can remember, and the truth is, most of the time, it’s been complete bullshit. They never lost a playoff series because they weren’t tough enough. It was poor goaltending and a lack of scoring that did them in. But regardless, a game like last night’s will go far in debunking a myth that should’ve already ceased to exist.

The penalty killing. The Senators found themselves in penalty trouble once again, with a big one being down a man for five minutes after Chris Neil’s hit from behind on Dustin Brown. However, their PK unit was superb. Particular credit has to go to Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly, and Antoine Vermette, who were on the ice for the majority of not only that kill, but also a lot of the others throughout the game. Vermette has taken some heat from me for his inconsistent play as of late, and I’m not the only one who felt that way because he found himself demoted to the fourth line, but with Martin Havlat at least six weeks with the shoulder injury, Vermette’s speed can come in very hand on the PK, as we saw last night when he scored a breakaway goal. It’s worth noting that the coach noticed too, as besides The Line, Vermette got the most ice time of any Senators forward.

Dominik Hasek. Even with all the nonsense going on around him, Hasek was superb last night, making a handful of gigantic saves. This most recent stretch has him playing as well as he’s been all year.

Brandon Bochenski. Yes, I’m praising my new favorite whipping boy. But when he scores two goals and is involved in at least twice as many scoring chances as that, it’s hard to throw darts.

Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza’s chemistry. After looking like two guys who had never played a period of hockey together as linemates Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, two thirds of The Line returned to the form we’ve come to expect last night, which is the uncanny ability to find each other around the net with ease.


Chris Neil’s hit from behind on Dustin Brown. As I’ve said, the Sens got great work from their penalty killers, so it didn’t result in anything, nor was Brown hurt, but it wasn’t a smart or pretty move by Neil.

Brian Pothier. In games like last nights, where hitting is at a premium, it was pretty clear Pothier was out of his element. He was a liability all night long and was moved off the puck with ease.


Where to begin. First off, in the preview for last night’s game, I said that having only seen the Kings play a handful of times this season, I really didn’t know how good they truly were because it seemed to vary from night to night. If I was using last night’s contest as my measuring stick, I’d say they’re not quite the contender their record makes them out to be.

They’re a fast skating club but they didn’t have much finish around the net, and weren’t able to sustain offence for an extended period of time. As well, their special teams clearly need work, as they were given a handful of golden opportunities to get back into the game and failed miserably.

As for all the “dirty play”, it goes without saying that that kind of stuff comes around to bite you in the ass. When 6’2” Jeff Cowan fought 5’10” Chris Kelly, you knew there was going to be some retribution, and we saw it in the form of Zdeno Chara beating the crap out of Tim Gleason. Bryan Murray took some pretty heavy shots at Kings coach Andy Murray (no relation, as we’ll see) after the game:

"That's a typical Andy Murray game," a steaming Bryan Murray said after the teams combined for 119 penalty minutes. "That's what Andy does. He sends guys out to run people. It's every game with him.

But I’m not sure how much of that was Andy Murray’s doing. Sean Avery is going to be Sean Avery regardless of what anyone tells him, and I’d be inclined to blame the player more for what he does than the coach. I am somewhat puzzled by this Andy Murray quote though:

”I don’t understand McGrattan going after Avery.”

Really? You don’t understand it? Were you watching the game?

While I wouldn’t say their goal was to be dirty, L.A. certainly seemed to take the approach that the way to beat the Senators was to play a chippy, gritty game. They found out the hard way that not only can the Ottawa Senators beat you in a game that’s a shootout, they can only hold their own when it gets rough.


Don’t consult your schedule.The Sens will travel to Florida to make up the game that they lost due to the Hurricane back in late October.

Even though, on the standings, the Panthers and Senators are on opposite ends and thus you would think it would be a cakewalk for Ottawa, Florida played them very tough the last time they played and actually had the lead going into the third period. It was because they played a smart (albeit boring) game that neutralized any sort of scoring chances for Ottawa.

I imagine Jacques Martin will try and do the same thing again, as it’s really the only the Panthers can be competitive with teams like Ottawa. If they allow them to skate, they’ll be buried. So for the Senators, a big factor will be getting the first goal. Because if they allow Florida to get on the board first, the Panthers will be able to play that game, but if Ottawa scores the first goal of the night, Florida will have to open it up just a bit in order to even the score, and in the process, open themselves up for errors.


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

One question: What did Avery do wrong that resorted to McGratton and Chara resorting to goon tactics (for which Chara will be suspended)?

At 11:20 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Slashing and spearing Dominik Hasek, and then punching him in the face when Hasek went up to him?

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

1. It was a loose puck. Avery has every right to get his stick in there and try to chip it in the net.

2. If you saw a goalie charging at you at full speed and his blocker glove coming straight to your face, you'd defend yourself too.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

1. I'm not even talking about that specific incident. He was doing it all night long.

2. "His block glove coming straight to your face"? Watch the highlights. That wasn't the case. Hasek was approaching him and he threw a punch.

What should the Sens have done, nothing? Then the talk would be how they don't stand up for themselves, they're pussies, etc.

Basically, all the nonsense that's been said for years.

So now they do something about it, and they're goons?

Fuck outta here.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

If you look at this image you will clearly see Hasek's blocker glove heading straight for Avery's head.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

If you say so Dave.

The point is, the Kings decided to play a chippy game. I don't blame them for that. Part of it was slashing at Hasek all night long.

And even if you blame Hasek because he went at Avery, again, should they have done nothing when he gets punched in the head?

If Ed Belfour, an equally hot headed goalie, got his mask knocked off by, say, Vaclav Varada, would Tie Domi do nothing? Wade Belak?

This is the best team in the NHL and one of the knocks against them is they have been soft.

I've never agreed with it. But if they didn't do something, then it would be more fodder to that rep.

So they did something about it.

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Los Angeles played a hard, tough game, but also a msotly clean game. They didn't take any hooking or slashing penalties and only 2 tripping penalties in the first. The Conroy inteference with the goalie penalty in the third was a bad call as it was accidental contact initiated by a Heatley trip. Again, Los Angeles played tough, physical, but mostly clean. It wasn't until Hasek went beserk did any real problems arise at which time McGratton attacked Avery and later Chara attacked Gleason (Kelly/Cowan were battling with each other for a while before that fight started).

Hey, it's fine that they did something about it. If that's how they want to play and if that is how they want to prove they are tough, that's fine. It may pay dividends in the future. But don't get all upset when you have to pay the price in the form of a suspension and a fine. The rules are clear. They broke them. They should pay the punishment.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

But don't get all upset when you have to pay the price in the form of a suspension and a fine. The rules are clear. They broke them. They should pay the punishment.

I'm upset at the fact that the NHL is choosing to issue it here but chose not to when it was Wayne Gretzky instead.

If it's black and white than it should be instituted every time, regardless of the fact it's the greatest player of all time.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

It's amazing how fans of different teams see the same exact game. Come on, fellas. We should be praising God that games like this still exist in today's NHL.

At 12:36 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Well, it's not that Dave is a fan of another team as much as it is he doesn't like the Senators ;)

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Yeah, I am no fan of the Senators but I do watch a lot of their games and I try to do so with an unbiased view. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I am not allowed to as a Leaf fan.

Not fining Gretzky and suspending Doan was a mistake. The rules are clear, it's supposed to be automatic. But even if discretion was allowed, Chara was the second Ottawa player to (attempt to) instigate a fight in a 10 minute span shortly after Ottawa took control of the game by taking a 5-1 lead (if it were still 3-1 it wouldn't have happened). It was clear what Ottawa was trying to do and that is what the league was trying to address when they made that rule.

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous BlackRedGold said...

The Conroy inteference with the goalie penalty in the third was a bad call as it was accidental contact initiated by a Heatley trip.

Are you really this fucking stupid?

How the hell does someone get a skate head high and pushing backwards if they are tripped while gliding in the crease?

At the very least Conroy dove and accidentally hit Hasek while embellishing his dive.

At the worst it was a kick to the head.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

How the hell does someone get a skate head high and pushing backwards if they are tripped while gliding in the crease?

Here's how. Heatley's stick is crossing in front of Conroy's legs. The stick is angled across Conroy's legs in so that it crosses just above Conroy's left knee and just below Conroy's right knee. Heatley is also push Conroy up high on the shoulders. Everything is fine until Heatley's stick gets jammed in Hasek's feet. When the stick stops moving forward and Heatley continuing to push Conroy, something had to give. Conroy trips over the stick, his feet come up an hit Hasek. Essentially Conroy's body rotated around the point of contact between Heatley's stick and Conroy's leg (just above the knee). If Conroy's upper body is going forward (helped by Heatley pushing him) and his legs can't, something has to give. What gave was Conroy's feet rising, and hitting Hasek, as Conroy's body pivoted around the point of contact with Heatley's stick.

Don't believe me? Go watch the video. Can't find the video? Ask me and I'll get something for you.

From the game report:

Hasek went crashing to the ice at 12:07 after Craig Conroy's skate hit him in the mask when the Kings center was upended by Heatley when he passed through the crease.


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