Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ottawa 6 Colorado 2

THE GOOD:
The kids are alright. Last night, the Senators suited up with six rookies in the line-up (seven if you include Ray Emery serving as the back-up) and all of them stepped up for the occasion. Andrej Meszaros has been the Sens best defenceman not named Zdeno Chara for this roadtrip, Patrick Eaves is always solid when called upon, Brandon Bochenski was at least noticeable out there, Brian McGratton fulfilled his role, Chris Kelly killed a gang of penalties, and Christoph Schubert was quite good in both ends of the ice, setting a physical tone early on. The freshmen accounted for three of the team’s six goals and combined for seven points. Not too shabby.

The penalty killing. Ottawa has been far too undisciplined as of late, but luckily, their PK unit, which mostly consists of a rotation of Chris Kelly, Mike Fisher, Peter Schaefer, Antoine Vermette, and Daniel Alfredsson up front with Zdeno Chara and Chris Phillips playing the bulk of the time on the backend, has bailed them out significantly.

Exploding in the third period. It was a nice contrast to Saturday night’s contest in Calgary that they saved the best for last. Ottawa is, after all, the highest scoring third period team in the NHL, and showed last night that they can bury you if given the opportunity, even with many of their weapons on the sidelines.

Big balls. It was a rough and tumble game for the first two periods, when each team was battling for positioning, and as a result, some cuts and scratches are inevitable. Schaefer got an elbow/stick combo from Marek Svatos to the face for a gash that makes Mike Fisher’s from the other night look tame. He got stitched up, strapped on a visor and was back out in no time. Later on, Bryan Smolinski, who many including myself have criticized for being too soft and timid, went to block a shot and got it in the back of his end. He too needed some stitching, but was out on the ice shortly and even scored a goal. Speaking of which…

Bryan Smolinski stepping up. I kinda sorta scoffed when hearing that Smolinski would be moving up to the top line to fill Jason Spezza’s spot and play with Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. As far as production, “Smoke” has been horribly inconsistent this season so I think my skepticism was warranted. However, I’m glad to say I was wrong. He elevated his game in a major way and probably had his best outing of the season. He was making crisp passes, the kind that Spezza was making before this weekend, and even played the body slightly.

The end of Dany Heatley’s slump. Going three games without netting a goal isn’t a big deal, let alone a slump, to most players, but for Heatley this season, it was. So it was nice to see him get a goal and an assist to snap out of it. A big part of why he was able to produce again, I thought, was because Colorado’s lack the defence that will make life difficult for him the way the Canucks and Flames did. They’re much less physical and Heatley eats those chances up.

THE BAD:

The powerplay. They really miss Wade Redden. They went 2 for 9 last night, so it wasn’t a disaster, but on most of the opportunities where they didn’t score, it was not a pretty sight. They were having a hard time keeping the puck in the Avalanche zone, their work along the boards was not strong enough, they were fumbling the puck, their passes were not on the money, and generally, they were trying to force plays. The even had three offsides called on them with the man advantage last night, something that I know had to make Bryan Murray’s blood boil.

The officiating. I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but wow, the referees were brutal last night. On both sides. They called a stupid goaltender interference infraction on Antoine Vermette when the Colorado goalie wasn’t even in the crease (a recurring theme last night), Pierre Turgeon got a terrible interference penalty called on him that looked very questionable, and there were missed calls all night long (Mike Fisher’s slewfoot on John-Michael Liles being the most noteworthy). No wonder the players are having a hard time adjusting to the new rules. They don’t know what the fuck a penalty is. If they get away with something all night, they’re right to assume “okay, this is how the game is being called”, but then, when the refs go ahead and make an iffy call, they put into question the precedent they had set the entire game. The referees were in position to see a lot of the stuff that went uncalled, so you cannot say they didn’t see it.

Soft goals on Hasek. Overall, he played well, but those two goals were not exactly highlight reel caliber and I imagine Hasek was kicking himself after each. However, both were a result of someone going hard to the net and making it difficult for him, so the Ottawa defencemen obviously didn’t do their jobs on those plays.

THE OPPOSITION:

If I was an Avs fan, the one thing I’d take out of last night’s game, and be most concerned about, was the ease in which they folded the tent once Ottawa scored the goals to take the lead in the third period. When Patrick Eaves scored to make it 4-2, they were still six minutes left in the game. In the new NHL, that’s plenty of time to score. Colorado had many weapons capable of lighting the lamp. You’d think they’d pore it on to try and get back into the game.

Instead, the looked to lose their will to play, and Ottawa capitalized, adding to their total by two on goals that were picture perfect examples of an opponent playing without any desire. Watch the highlights on those last two goals and you’ll see nothing but Colorado Avalanche players standing around, half assign it, just trying to get out of there.

If last night was a statement game for the Avs the way the two on the weekend were up in Western Canada, then the statement the Colorado Avalanche made was that they don’t have half the heart they used to.

And it was unfortunate, because they had been playing a pretty sound game up to that point. Not spectacular, and certainly not up to their billing as an exciting, run and gun club, but they were in the game and with a bounce here or there could’ve had the lead.

UP NEXT:

Ottawa finally returns home to the warm comforts of the Corel Centre, but the opponent doesn’t get any easier. The Dallas Stars, who are probably the hottest team in the NHL right now, come to town on Thursday and you know they, like Calgary and Vancouver, will want to prove they can not only hang with the league’s best team but that they’re better.

They’re getting terrific goaltending from Marty Turco and their veterans are really playing well, which I have to admit, surprises me somewhat because I thought a lot of those guys would be on their last legs this season. Instead, they look invigorated and should be a handful for a still depleted Ottawa line-up. Early indications are that Jason Spezza will not be back in the mix, and I’ve given up my day-to-day watch on Wade Redden. It’s best to assume they won’t be playing at this point.

2 Comments:

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am confused by what the hell is going on with Redden.

Just put him on the IR...He's being such a tease.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I really don't understand it either, which was why I grew so frustrated with his seemingly blase attitude.

When he got hurt, it was believed he'd be out a week tops. It's now three weeks with no sign of a return.

 

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