Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ottawa 3 Washington 1

THE GOOD:

The effort, and getting the win. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, at all, and by no means was this game an entertaining one, but when a team is as undermanned as the Senators are, you take the two points wherever and however. It seemed like a lot of the little things they were doing oh so wrong Monday afternoon were corrected last night, and on the whole, the work ethic was worlds better. The Sens actually looked like they cared and wanted to be there. Imagine that.

Zdeno Chara shutting down Alexander Ovechkin. Chara showed why many consider him to be the top blueliner in the NHL with the way he neutralized the dangerous Russian rookie, who wasn’t much of a factor for most of the game save for a few shifts here and there.

Chris Phillips. Not only did he get his first goal of the season, getting a gorilla off his back, but Phillips, like his defence partner Chara, rebounded from a poor game against the Thrashers with a much more impressive outing. He was a physical presence, moved the puck well, and also was a part of the shut down of Ovechkin. He finished a +3 with three hits and five blocked shots. A monster game.

The Vaclav Varada-Chris Kelly-Patrick Eaves line. Without question, the best forward trio Ottawa had for this game, this pair of misfits and outcasts have come together to form a chemistry that makes it hard to believe they’ve only been playing together for a handful of games. There’s not a lot of finish on this line, as neither Kelly nor Varada are known for their offensive prowess, but they always give 100%. Varada seems especially energized with his increased role on the team and Kelly has stepped up huge with the injuries that have sidelined three of the team’s best four forwards. Eaves scored his 6th goal of the season, in only 15 games, and with each game, continues to make a case that he should’ve been on the team right from the start. If there a one-on-one battle to be won along the boards, or a fight over a loose puck that’s going to take place, I’d put this line out there with a whole lot of confidence that they’ll come up on the winning end.

Bryan Smolinski’s play on the PK. Not exactly known as a special teams specialist, “Smoke” manned up when the Senators were shorthanded. He won some key faceoffs, worked his ass off along the boards to get puck possession, and on one sequence, dove to clear the puck and force the Capitals to lose momentum.

Hitting the net with shots. Instead of 22, it was only 9 missed shots. A vast improvement.

THE BAD:

Undisciplined play. It’s been a common theme, but once again, the Senators gave their opponents to get back into the game through the penalties they took. They were fortunate that the Caps don’t have much firepower, and thus, their powerplay is very impotent, because a more loaded club might’ve iced Ottawa with all those PP chances, and primarily those two 5-on-3 shots Washington had.

Antoine Vermette’s game. I’ve been a big supporter of Vermette and have lamented for weeks that he’s earned a shot at a more prominent role on the team with his play as of late. He’s been a valued foot soldier on the penalty killing unit and whenever he got an even strength shift, even with less than talented linemates, tried to make something, anything, happen. So I was very disheartened to see #20 play such a poor game. He was given a shot on the top line with Smolinski and Dany Heatley, and ended up logging almost 18 minutes, twice what he’s used to, and shit the bed something terrible. He wasn’t skating with his usual enthusiasm out there, and instead, almost looked lost, skating around aimlessly, and his passing was off the mark consistently. Was it too much pressure?

Glenn Healy on commentary. Did someone in the Sens front office fuck Healy’s girlfriend back in high school? Because that’s the only explanation I have for his blatant bias against the Senators. I realize he’s a former Leaf who lives in Toronto and thus probably panders to Leaf Nation, but some of those comments were absurd. He saw penalties that weren’t there and was snarky all night. Put him in the booth with Bob Cole and Harry Neale on HNIC to make it a trifecta of favoritism the next time the Leafs play Ottawa.

THE OPPOSITION:

What you see is what you get with the Washington Capitals. They’re a team full of other team’s throwaways, with a few promising prospects, one disgruntled veteran defenceman, and an all-star goalie in nets. Not a recipe for a contender, but if you give them room, they can hurt you.

Ovechkin didn’t live up to the hype, but as said above, that’s more due to the job Chara and Phillips did on him than anything AO himself did. He was working hard but there’s only so much a 20-year-old can do against a 6’9” defenceman who thrives when playing against great players. The fact he kept coming all night long, and didn’t throw in the towel, says a lot about his character.

Beyond Ovechkin, there’s not much, but they’re scrappy and have a few players who can create chances through their hard work. I liked the games of Matt Pettinger in both ends of the ice, Brian Sutherby offensively, and on the blueline, Mathieu Biron.

What perplexes me is why Olaf Kolzig wants to stay in D.C. They’re a team going no where anytime soon and yet he maintains there’s no where else he wants to play. Wouldn’t this veteran want a shot at winning the Cup? Apparently not. I guess you can’t underestimate the appeal of being someplace familiar and comfortable.

UP NEXT:

A familiar foe and a team who they will want some revenge over. Ottawa travels to Beantown to face the Bruins. The last time the Sens went into Boston, they were facing a team in turmoil, who 24 hours earlier had traded their captain and best player, yet it was the Bruins who came out with the W. They outworked Ottawa and made them look like a second class club.

I doubt Jason Spezza will be back in the line-up. What else is new. Are you tired of this saga yet? I’d think Ray Emery will get the nod in nets because of Hasek’s bad back and the whole two games in two nights thing.

It will be interesting to see if Ottawa can sustain some of the momentum they got out of this win. We can at least hope the game is more entertaining than the one who saw Wednesday night, because if not, I doubt many people will be tuning in, what with that other game going on in Vancouver that you might have heard about.

5 Comments:

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I agree on Healey 100%. Brutal. I had to turn the volume down.

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Rachael said...

On Monday I thought I was imagining the way Healey was, but he confirmed it last night...also, is it me or does he sound like he always has something in his mouth when he's talking?

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger aquietgirl said...

What perplexes me is why Olaf Kolzig wants to stay in D.C. They’re a team going no where anytime soon and yet he maintains there’s no where else he wants to play. Wouldn’t this veteran want a shot at winning the Cup? Apparently not. I guess you can’t underestimate the appeal of being someplace familiar and comfortable.

I read a while ago that Olaf Kolzig's son is autistic, and there's a unique program for autistic children in Washington. He won't leave Washington because he wants his son to get the best treatment. That's more important to him than a Stanley Cup, I guess.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger aquietgirl said...

Found the link. It's on the bottom.

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Ah, that explains it. What's strange is one of the reasons Shaun Van Allen came back to Ottawa back in 2002 was because Ottawa, apparently, has some excellent autism programs as well, as his son is also affected by the syndrome.

 

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