Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ottawa 4 Pittsburgh 3

THE GOOD:

A rejuvenated powerplay. The PP has been struggling quite a bit since the calendar turned, and what cured it last night was a big dose of simplicity. They got point shots through much more than they have been lately and had players in front of the net more often than they have when it was not effective. Brian Pothier’s goal was a perfect example, as not only did the shot from Pothier get through but Bryan Smolinski was screening Marc-Andre Fleury, making it virtually impossible for him to have stopped the puck.

Zdeno Chara and Chris Phillips’ shutdown of the Sidney Crosby line. The Sens’ number one defence pairing logged a combined 48 minutes of ice time and most of that was matched up against Sidney Crosby, Mark Recchi, and Colby Armstrong. The young rookie still got his share of chances, and that’s to be expected because you’re not going to take him out of the game completely, but I thought Chara and Phillips did a fine job on most shifts of making sure he wasn’t able to become a factor.

Patrick Eaves. The rookie, who was recently told to get an apartment in the Ottawa area, a sure sign he’ll be up for the remainder of the season, was very impressive in the role of superpest. He went hard to the net all night long and, despite being very undersized, made life hell for Pittsburgh defencemen.

Andrej Meszaros’ play alongside Wade Redden. Coming off a fantastic Olympics where he was Zdeno Chara’s partner on Team Slovakia, the 20-year-old freshman had a terrific game. He was a physical presence, made a number of good breakout passes, and was dependable on special teams.

Mike Fisher. Fisher was responsible for a number of the team’s best scoring chances. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and got a shot on goal many times, and the Peter Schaefer goal was the result of his hard work, as he capitalized on a rebound off a Fisher shot. Fisher didn’t look one step slower than he was pre-break.

THE BAD:

Taking their foot off the pedal in the third period. Pittsburgh did not get back into the game because they played well. They did so because the Senators allowed it to happen. While they didn’t play with a whole lot of urgency in the first two periods anyway, they at least dictated the pace of the game. That was not the case in the third, when as a team, Ottawa was incredibly sluggish, lazy, and without much desire. They were losing the one-on-one battles and making countless mental errors. As a result, the Penguins got back into it with three straight goals, and the game was much closer than it should have been.

Ray Emery. Emery wasn’t tested very often in those first two periods, facing only 16 shots, and few of them very good ones, but he didn’t look comfortable. He was giving out juicier rebounds than I would’ve liked, was fumbling with the puck, and on a few occasions stumbled when out of the net. In addition, his positioning was not strong. It was the first game back, so there might be an inclination to give him a mulligan, however, Emery is in the midst of an incredibly crucial period of his short career. He’s trying to prove to Sens’ brass that he can be counted on. Two week break or not, he cannot afford to have a bad game if he expects to even be on the bench come playoff time.

The play of The Big Line at even strength. When on the powerplay, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza were solid, but during five-on-five play, the trio was not as effective as they’ll need to be down the stretch drive. Of the three, Heatley had the best game, strong along the boards, but even he wasn’t as good as he should. Alfredsson played eight games in 12 days and so you have to be willing to let him slide a little. The effort was there. He just looked exhausted, as his skating wasn’t as strong as it usually is and he made some mental mistakes that I don’t think he would’ve otherwise. Spezza did not play well, coughing up the puck on more than a few occasions while being weak in his own zone. Spezza was also the only Senators center who did not win the majority of his faceoffs.

Bad penalties. In addition to their poor play in the third frame, the Sens took far too many penalties, most of them of the dumb variety.

TSN’s pre-game promotional video. It was all about Sidney Crosby. I get that “Sid The Kid” is the next big meal ticket for the league and all, but for a game being broadcasted nationally in Canada, is it unreasonable to think that the best NHL team in the country would get mentioned as well?

THE OPPOSITION:

The Pens are a team that is rebuilding. This much is known. They tried to make a go of it this season but the veterans they brought in shit the bed. The rest of their games this season exist only to give their youngsters some experience and so the organization can get a look at some guys to see who they want to be brought back.

Watching them play, it’s obvious who’s making the effort. Who still wants to make a good impression. And it’s equally obvious who’s going through the motions, counting down the days until the season ends.

On the positive end, promising young guys like Colby Armstrong, Konstantin Koltsov, Ryan Whitney, and Michel Ouellet all had good games, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, veterans like Sergei Gonchar and Ric Jackman did not set good examples with their play.

There are still a lot of things wrong with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but at the same time, there are also some bright spots fans of the team should be excited about.

UP NEXT:

Ottawa gets right back at it, and that might be a good thing. You can be sure that Bryan Murray gave them shit for their play in the third, but at least they can quickly redeem themselves tonight when the Washington Capitals come to town.

The Caps are in a similar position as the Penguins, largely playing for next season, but they’re not a team that can be looked past. Just ask the Leafs about that.

Murray might decide to mix things up, and give Billy Thompson his first ever NHL start, but it’s more likely that Emery will be back in nets. He’ll have to have a better outing than he did last night if he wants to keep playing though.

6 Comments:

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Watching Emery on the second goal, and to a lesser extent the third goal, was like watching Lalime last year. Yikes.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger James Q. Stansfield said...

Prior to the start of the game, TSN showed a nice intro about Alfie filmed over a period of days from mid-Jan. It was pretty nice.

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the Alfie story on TSNs site:

http://prodtsn.tsn.ca/audio_video/video_loader.asp?reel=24567

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger RD said...

I think Emery played well. None of the goals were particularly his fault and he can definately build off of this.

senatorfan.blogspot.com

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I agree that Crosby is way over hyped and the rookie really worth watching you are going to see tonight. Ovechkin is so fun to watch. He hits, he can deke you out of your skates, he can pass (if only he had someone to pass to) and he can score like few others can. And what I like most is that you can tell that he has bundle of fun playing hockey. Ovechkin is the guy worth watching, not Crosby.

 
At 5:10 AM, Blogger Roshan said...

What are the chances of the Sens winning the Stanley Cup this year? I think that on current form only the Hurricanes stand in the way of us reaching the finals. On the Western front we would have a tough time with either of Detroit, Dallas or Calgary (the three teams I think would be fighting for the final spot from the West), but I think that the Sens r still the team to beat in a best of 7 series. Stanley, here comes Ottawa.

 

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