Saturday, January 07, 2006

THE GOOD:

Dominik Hasek’s play in relief.
Hasek made a handful of big saves that kept the team, theoretically, in the game, and allowed them to open up and take some chances in order to try and generate some offense because they have confidence the guy between the pipes would bail them out. As solid as he’s been this season, Ray Emery just doesn’t envoke that kind of confidence, so it’s yet another advantage to having a world class goalie in nets. Now we just have to pray he too doesn’t get hurt, though the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Patrick Eaves. He had more than a couple opportunities to light the lamp, and didn’t capitalize, but the effort was unquestionably there, and from a rookie planted into a prominent spot on a top team, that’s all you can ask for night in and night out. He was good on the otherwise awful powerplay, despite the fact he was horribly undersized to be playing the role they assigned him of standing in front of the net, and was doing a lot of good things whenever he got time on the penalty killing unit.

Steve Martin’s goal. Leave it to the wily vet to show the pampered regulars how it’s done. Martin got a nice pass from Brian Pothier (who also had a solid game) to send him in on a quasi breakaway, and despite the save from Huet, he kept with it and got a goal on the sloppy seconds. Imagine that, going hard to the net and staying there when the puck is loose.

THE BAD:

Afternoon games. I don’t know what it is, but this team cannot get up for games in the day time. Are they still asleep?

Too many floaters. It was quite obvious which team came to play Saturday about five minutes in. The Habs were taking it to the Senators, playing with an elevated level of intensity and desire, and Ottawa was unable to match it. Instead, with some exceptions, they folded the tent until the score was so lopsided it was too late to start actually demonstrating an effort of some sort.

The powerplay. They went 0 for 5, and are now 0 for something disgusting on this road trip. Stats like that speak for themselves and don’t really require any sort of analysis. I will say that there were a couple of instances where they at least looked to be generating momentum with the extra man, moving the puck well and getting point shots through and on net, something that hasn’t been happening a lot otherwise as of late, but eventually, you have to net some of these PP chances.

Ray Emery. He was bound to have a stinker, but this is now two games where he’s been less than spectacular. Monday’s blowout loss to the Thrashers had a built in excuse, as Emery only found out he was starting 15 minutes before the puck was dropped and had little time to prepare, but there is no such defense for Saturday afternoon’s performance. Emery was slow on the move for the majority of his time in net and three of the four goals should’ve been stopped. The last one especially. For a guy who a month ago was asserting himself as one of the more reliable backups in the league, and making a case for himself as the next starter of this team, Emery sure has slipped. The guy’s a rabid competitor so the best method to get him back on game might just be to throw him back in sometime soon.

Dany Heatley. Truly great players, when a team is struggling, put the club on their back and take over. With both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson out of action, and the team needing someone, anyone to step up, Heatley has yet to do this. The reality is becoming obvious: Dany Heatley is a great player when playing with other great players, but lacks the ability to be a dominant player on his own. His linemates weren’t doing his any favors, as Bryan Smolinski had a stinker and Antoine Vermette continues to make me, and all the others who argued in favor of him, look bad with his terrible effort, but Heatley’s role on the team is such that they need him to be a world beater when undermanned. He’s yet to rise to the occasion, and looks lost out there more often than not. Start hitting and shooting and good things will happen regardless of who your linemates are.

Faceoffs. Winning draws has been a hole on this team for some time, yet this season, it’s been a whole lot better than in years prior, when they had no real dependable faceoff men. This season, a few guys have been pleasant surprises in that area, including Chris Kelly and Spezza, and so it hasn’t been the killer it as last year, but boy was it against Montreal. The Habs won too many of the key faceoffs in the Senators zone and put up goals on two of them.

THE OPPOSITION:

Even though Ottawa didn’t come to play for most of that first period, full marks have to go the Habs. They were a desperate team and played like one. They won the majority of the battles and simply wanted it more than the Senators.

It’s interesting to observe how the Habs have transformed into a scrappy club after being such an explosive team to start the year. It made their games very exciting to watch, and while I still enjoy seeing them play, it’s for different reasons.

Cristobal Huet had a sensational game, and though it might be a stretch to suggest there is goaltending controversy in Montreal, Habs fans should feel excited about the fact they have a backup capable of stepping in and standing on his head. I remember what that used to feel like.

UP NEXT:

Home sweet home. Wayne Gretzky and his Coyotes come to town for the first and only match-up between the teams for the season. Phoenix are battling for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference, so you can be sure they’ll come to play, and like a lot of teams, will likely bring their best effort against Ottawa.

The question will be whether or not Ottawa can equal that. Based on this weeks games, the answer is no, but this is still a team with a lot of pride who will want to avenge this disasterous week. They’ll still be playing without a lot of key players so that excuse will still be there for the apologists who brush off the loses.

And yes, I know, when you're without three of your best four forwards, it's difficult to score goals, and thus, not easy to win games, but injuries happen, and elite teams battle through them and find ways to win. Look at how Philadelphia has played this season for proof, as they've been just as cursed in that area as the Senators.

2 Comments:

At 10:10 PM, Blogger steve said...

I thought that for the last 2 periods, the Senators were clearly playing better. They had great control of the puck and they did out shoot montreal by a ridiculous margin, but the shots seemed weak and there weren't really any good scoring chances. It's a shame that the first period was such a stinker.

I think that these last few games are reaffirming my attitudes on how valuable alfy is. He should be a hart trophy candidate this year.

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Or maybe how valuable Spezza is. Ottawa's drop off (after the 20-4 start or whatever it was) began in early december when Spezza first got the hip flexor injury and then his chest injury.

But to be perfectly honest, the one guy the Sens cannot afford to lose more than any other is Hasek. He is the biggest difference between this years Senators team and past ones. He gives the whole team, especially the young defensemen, in front of him confidence.

 

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