Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ottawa 5 Pittsburgh 2

THE GOOD:

The continued success of a once ailing powerplay. As we inch closer towards the games that truly matter, it’s very refreshing to see the Sens powerplay become so effective. Throughout the season, it’s been far too inconsistent for my tastes, scoring a lot one night and then very little another. While it’s still not at the level I’d like, it’s important to remember they’re without some key cogs in Martin Havlat and now Jason Spezza (though that doesn’t appear to be a longterm thing), and so when you factor in their return, it’s pretty potent as is. If they can keep it at this level for the remainder of the regular season, going into the playoffs, I’ll be very confident.

Tyler Arnason’s best game as a Senator. With Spezza out of the line-up, Arnason saw the most amount of ice-time since being traded (almost 20 minutes), and he made the most of the opportunity given to him by the coaching staff. This was, easily, the best he’s looked in an Ottawa sweater. He was skating a lot better, was tremendous with the puck (both as far as his stickhandling and how strong he was on it), and did a good job of drawing penalties. Arnason was responsible for two of the infractions the Pens got called for, just from hard work and persistence. The flashes of brilliance we saw from him when he had the puck showed why John Muckler acquired him. If he can play this way when Martin Havlat comes back, Ottawa instantly has an extremely potent second-line scoring unit. Oh, and he was great on faceoffs, winning 70% of the draws he took.

Chris Neil. Playing without his good friend and center Mike Fisher, Neil has one of his better games of the season. He was, for the second game in a row, the most physical Senator on the issue, squashing many a Penguins along the glass while also scoring another powerplay goal. In addition, he was very efficient in his role of shit disturber in front of the net, as he was a big part of the team’s first two goals. On Daniel Alfredsson’s blast from the point, he screened Sebastien Caron so much the young netminder had zero chance, and then did the same thing on Andrej Meszaros’ first of the night. Neil was in a bit of a funk around the midpoint of the season, but it sure seems as if he’s out of it and back to doing what made him so successful in the first quarter of the season.

Antoine Vermette’s 18th goal of the season. Quietly, Vermette is on pace for a 20 goal season. His play since the break has been off the charts, and once the team gets its full line-up back, having a red hot scorer like Vermette on their fourth line gives the Sens a dimensional few other teams can match. It’s worth noting that his goal tonight was of the shorthanded variety, as have nine of his previous. When you got a guy like that on a PK, it makes the other team’s powerplay think twice about their approach, knowing that they have a guy on the other side who can and will bury whatever chances you give him.

Chris Phillips. Blocked many big shots and logged a lot of minutes. A strong outing.

THE BAD:

Vaclav Varada with the puck. Yikes. This is the kind of thing that will give a coach nightmare. On two instances, Varada had the puck with what seemed like a golden opportunity to make something of substance happen, and on both occasions he did nothing with them. The only way he could’ve done worse was if he managed to score on his own net. The first time, he came down the left side on a two-on-one, and instead of passing or shooting (you know, the usual options in a situation like this), he decided to go around the net in hopes something would materialize in the meantime. Didn’t happen, and he ended up coughing the puck up. Later in the game, he was given a sweet pass in the slot and instead of shooting, he made an errant passed that was intercepted. After such a good game Saturday night, it sure looked as if Varada slipped back into his bad habits.

Losing Anton Volchenkov. Though, like Spezza, it doesn’t appear to be a worrisome injury, concussions can be tricky things, and when you look as how the Philadelphia Flyers have been stricken with concussion problems this season, it does scare you a little bit. I’ve talked about how much I’ve liked the game of the “A-Train” since he was moved back over to his natural left side, and so it’s a shame he’ll be out for a while. The last thing this team needed was another name to add to the bruised and battered list.

Andrej Meszaros’ hit on Sidney Crosby. I’d like to think it wasn’t an intentional clip, but that wasn’t pretty, and not the kind of thing a rookie should be doing if he’s trying to make a good impression on the league.

THE OPPOSITION:

Pittsburgh was killed by the same thing they have been all season long: bad penalties. When you take the most penalties in the NHL and you have the worst penalty killing in the entire league, you’re pretty much asking for trouble. When you then pit that team against one of the better powerplays in the league, it’s a wrap.

On this night, they gave Ottawa 11 powerplay opportunities, and so they never had a chance.

This isn’t to suggest there weren’t some positives to take out of the game. For the sake of Pens fans everywhere, I’ll list some:
- Sebastien Caron was solid in nets and looks to be someone who they can put in when the workload becomes too much for Marc-Andre Fleury
- Konstantin Kolstov impressed me for the second game in a row. He’s very creative with the puck. Give him some guys of skill to play with and you might have a real special player.
- Ryan Malone played like the kid with all that talent everyone says he is. He had the kind of game that made me with the Sens did get him at the deadline like all the rumors indicated they would
- Colby Armstrong already is a player.
- Their young defence weren’t significantly overmatched by the Ottawa forwards

On the downside, their veterans continued to struggle, and appear to be deadweight holding this team down. They need to find a way to rid themselves of Sergei Gonchar ASAP.

UP NEXT:

A small break, which based on this team’s injuries is a good thing. Hopefully, by the time this big weekend comes up, both Jason Spezza and Anton Volchenkov will be game ready. I’m crossing my fingers about Mike Fisher, but that doesn’t seem likely. And at this point, I’ve thrown my hands up regarding Dominik Hasek. Part of me is pretending like he’s out for the year so that when he comes back, whenever he decides to (no rush Dominik, it’s not as if any important games are coming up), I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

2 Comments:

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Duff said...

Things would have been alot different had Emery struggled.This is also a good sign for next year.

 
At 11:01 AM, Anonymous KevinP said...

And seven points up on the Sabres. Wasn't it just Saturday that we were playing you guys for first place?

 

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