Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ottawa 4 Toronto 3

THE GOOD:

A more competitive game. This looked a lot more like the Battle Of Ontario we’ve come to know and either love or hate, depending on which side you sit on. There was a ton of hitting early on, and though it was tempered somewhat by the scary injury to Carlo Colliacovo, it picked back up in the second period, making the game as a whole much more enjoyable. For once, it seemed as though there was an actual rivalry between these teams. Lots of chirping on the ice, many scrums. Just resembled the contests of the past that made this, in my opinion, the best feud in the NHL as far as quality of play and atmosphere.

Winning a close game. Really, they shouldn’t have let it get close, and I’ll touch on that in a minute, but at least we’ve now seen the Sens win another close, competitive contest, which will hopefully do some good in silencing their critics who’ve said they’re incapable of winning tight games. Dominik Hasek was one of the loudest of these people, and he made some good points. They’ve since gone into Edmonton and won a close contest, and now beat their biggest rival in a similar fashion. That has to be seen as a positive.

The “other” defencemen. A lot of the hype surrounding Ottawa’s blueline centers around Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden, and it should, because they’re both terrific and are having especially strong seasons. But often, their defence partners, who usually play quite well alongside their most high profile teammate, get lost in the shuffle. I thought both Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips had terrific games.

Standing up for the rookie. Wade Belak was really taking it to Andrej Meszaros, and it was nice that Brian McGratton stepped in to defend him.

The Conservatives win!!! Now can the entire country please shut up? Thanks in advance.

THE BAD:

The struggling powerplay, again. This now makes two consecutive games where Ottawa was unable to be effective with the man advantage, and this time around, a lot of the credit for that has to go to the Maple Leafs, who did a masterful job of penalty killing. They were aggressive on the point men, blocking shots and shutting down passing lanes, making it incredibly difficult for them to move the puck, and when collapsing, were much more impressive as far as covering men down low than they were on Saturday night, when Ed Belfour was the main reason the Sens’ PP shit the bed.

Complacent play. Ottawa outplayed the Leafs badly in the first, and though the score wasn’t out of hand, as far as the Senators taking it to them, it looked like it would be much like the other games. However, when they stepped back onto the ice for the second, it was a different team on each side. Ottawa didn’t have that same jump in their step, taking a collective nap instead of continuing to press, and Toronto was rejuvenated. The result was a Tie Domi goal that put them right back into the game. In the third, it looked as if they woke up, putting up two goals to take a 4-1 lead, but once again, they laid back instead of keeping their foot on Toronto’s throat, allowing the Leafs to fight back, make it a one goal contest, and be pressing during the last minute of the game. This has happened a few times this season and it’s alarming, as if Toronto had been fully armed and not without several of their key offensive players, they could very well have tied it up and forced OT, and it would’ve been because Ottawa allowed it to happen.

Tie Domi’s goal. How does Zdeno Chara allow him to be in all alone like that and not take him out?

THE OPPOSITION:

Toronto fans and media alike lamented that last night’s game at the newly renamed Scotiabank Place would be one of their biggest of the season, and I was inclined to agree. Whether rightly or not, Pat Quinn has been on the hot seat and some have commented that he needs to be removed. So with that said, it was fair to suggest we would see what this team was mad of with last night’s game, and if we are using it as the barometer, Leaf fans should probably come off the ledge, take their heads out of the oven, and take the bullets out of their guns. The team will be alright. Sort of.

They still lost, and were only back into the game scorewise and chancewise because Ottawa allowed it happen, but the effort was very much there and for once it seemed as if the Buds wanted to be there. Wanted to win.

Their key players had strong games. Mats Sundin had a solid game and was creating a whole more than he had been in the past. He even had a shot to tie the game, with an open net, but fumbled around with the puck. So he’s still not where he needs to be for them to be competitive with top teams, and a big part of that is his finish needs to return to hwere it was, however, it was progress.

Having said all that, there were still players who didn’t carry their load. Nik Antropov made amends somewhat with his goal to make it 4-3 after a terrible penalty earlier, but he still wasn’t as much of a factor out there as he needs to be. Jeff O’Neill was no where to be found, as usual. And Ken Klee had another typically bad game.

But don’t get too excited, Leaf Nation. They still lost, and the tailspin continues. Fortunately for you, you have Montreal in five days, and they seem to be the only team who are struggling even worse than you guys.

UP NEXT:

Coming out of two more wins against the Leafs, Ottawa has regained much of the momentum they lost when Anaheim came to town and took them apart, but I’m not sure if said momentum would even be needed for the immediate opponents.

Montreal will be here for a game Thursday night. They suck right now, and after a slight bump when Bob Gainey took over and they all got scared, the team has resumed playing like shit. Jose Theodore in particular, though the players in front of him probably haven’t much help. We could get another divisional blowout in a few days. Always good for the soul.

8 Comments:

At 2:34 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Ottawa outplayed the Leafs badly in the first, and though the score wasn’t out of hand, as far as the Senators taking it to them, it looked like it would be much like the other games.

I am surprised that you say that Ottawa outplayed Toronto badly in the first. Ottawa had more chances but to say they outplayed Toronto badly is a bit of a stretch. The shots were 8-6 for Ottawa and the Fisher goal was only a goal because three Leafs were standing around watching Schaefer with the puck behind the net allowing Fisher to be wide open and thus easily chipping the Schaefer pass into the goal. To say that the Leafs were badly outplayed and comparable to the past few Leafs-Sens games is simply untrue. And in fact, the Leafs used the first to set the tone of the game and that they were going to crash and bang and fight for the win.

The second period was dominated by Toronto as evidence by the 12-5 shot advantage. Toronto could have easily tied it or even taken the lead in the second period.

The reality is that most of the Senators chances came as a result of Leaf mistakes. The 22 shots the Senators got was the second lowest total on the season (Calgary allowed just 21). And the Leafs played short a defensemen for most of the game as well. Unlike Saturday's game, this game you can argue that if the Leafs had Tucker and McCabe in the lineup and the additional offense those two players would bring they probably would have won.

If Toronto plays like this every night and and are healthy they can be a very good team (as I mentioned in my post on my website).

He even had a shot to tie the game, with an open net, but fumbled around with the puck.

To defend Sundin, the puck was kind of bouncing around and not the easiest to handle.

And Ken Klee had another typically bad game.

Funny you criticize a guy who played 28:33 of ice time, had an even +/-, killed penalties (Ottawa was an unspectacular 1 for 6), had a power play assist and was part of a defense that held the best offensive team in the NHL to just 22 shots.

 
At 3:23 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

The reality is that most of the Senators chances came as a result of Leaf mistakes.

The Senators forced a lot of those mistakes with their pressure though, so chalking it up to bad play on the Leafs' part isn't completely fair.

To defend Sundin, the puck was kind of bouncing around and not the easiest to handle.

Of course, but two seasons ago, he scores that goal is my point. He had a strong game but his finish isn't where it used to be, and frankly, where it needs to be.

If Toronto plays like this every night and and are healthy they can be a very good team (as I mentioned in my post on my website).

If Ottawa plays the way they did Saturday night, they wouldn't lose more than 5 games the rest of the season.

Do you have even an ounce of confidence they can play like that for five consecutive games, let alone every night?

 
At 7:15 AM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Couldn't agree more about Volchenkov and Phillips. They are the quiet guys on the Ottawa blueline because they don't do anything fancy, but they are so important to this teams success. I thought Volchenkov was the best defenseman on the ice, followed by Phillips. Volchenkov passed 100 blocked shots on the season this evening and Phillips is closing in on it. Nice to see them getting some credit.

 
At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you believe after the game Pat Quinn had the NERVE to say Varada was responsible for the Colaiacovo injury and said it was a cheap shot??!?? I mean what game is this guy watching? No wonder the leafs havent been winning, their coach isnt even seeing the game that is being played. According to Quinn Varada maliciously took the feet out from under him and sent him to the boards. Wow, I have heard everything now from that guy. I think its time for PQ to be replaced by a coach that is coherent of the game around him.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger steve said...

On the Leafs Hockey broadcast, the announcers also thought at first that Varada's stick hit Coli in the face, but they replayed that hit over and over again until they were pretty much conviced that he was down because he lost control and slammed his head into the boards. It seemed like they were trying to put the blame on Varada but the evidence spoke otherwise and they changed their minds. They did say that they are no stranger to accidents in that arena.

And the conservatives winning should be in the "BAD" section, but that is something completely different :)

 
At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that Varada was pissed at Cola and called him dirty. He said it could have been him laying on the ice... haha.. good old Varada.

Good to see the "Anton-apologist" in effect.

 
At 5:34 PM, Anonymous PRQ said...

On the Leafs Hockey broadcast, the announcers also thought at first that Varada's stick hit Coli in the face

It was the Sportsnet super-homer play-by-play guy (didn't catch his name) who kept trying to pin the blame on Varada's stick. Harry Neale was actually the voice of reason the whole time.

 
At 6:28 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Let's not forget that Quinn was the same guy who said Chris Neil spit on Darcy Tucker, and that's why Tucker jumped into the Ottawa bench. Every replay has shown that that was absolutely not the case but Quinn never took it back.

And of course, the infamous "the kid who high sticked Bryan" stuff around Marian Hossa even four years later.

Quinn says that stuff to stir the pot and get under their skin.

 

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