Saturday, April 15, 2006

A big game, I guess

Tonight's final meeting between the Sens and Buds means a lot more to them than it does us, and so to expect Ottawa to come in with the same do-or-die attitude is foolish. But it can't hurt to play a team that has, basically, been playing playoff hockey for the last two weeks. Maybe that's the cure to what ails this slumping Senators group.

Martin Havlat has officially gotten the OK to play, and will be lined up with Peter Schaefer, a favorite of his, and Bryan Smolinski. The Big Line will be reunited. The third line looks to be Patrick Eaves-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil, a trio that should provide a lot of energy and spark, and even perhaps some offence. Between the three of them, they've combined for over 50 goals this year, so the ability to put the puck in the net is there. And the fourth unit will be Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Vaclav Varada. Notice the omissions?

This will be the first game Tyler Arnason has been officially scratched from, though he might as well have been on Thursday night with how often he played in the third period. It's a pretty clear message from the coaching staff about what they think of his play as of late. Arnason was handed the world when he came to Ottawa, given the opportunity to play with Daniel Alfredsson, the team's best player and one of the league's best this season, and he didn't make the most of it.

It's not as if Arnason has been totally awful, but the problem is, he was brought here to produce offence. If he can't do that, what use is he? It's not as if he can win faceoffs, kill penalties, or play a physical game. I think feel as though he has a lot to offer and can be a factor on the team, but it appears as if the coaches no longer have that same confidence. Whether this is an attempt at a wake up call or just the reality that he's played his way off yet another team remains to be seen. It sure doesn't look good on John Muckler when his only trade deadline acquistion, a guy who was supposed to help anchor the secondary scoring attack, is destined for the press box when the playoffs start.

I have no clue who's starting in net. Dominik Hasek practiced gingerly yesterday, but he's talking about Tuesday at MSG vs. the Rangers now as his goal. Ray Emery is still sore. Mike Morrison played pretty poorly in the last game, and not so hot in the one before that. My gut tells me they'll go with Emery, banged up as he might be, but that's me saying that without knowing the sincere severity of his injury. I certainly do not blindly trust the team's assessment released to the media.

Will tonight's game be a repeat of all the other blowouts the Sens handed the Leafs this season, or will it be more like the first two meetings between these teams this year, back in October: close, intense, and entertaining? I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle.


At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Rob Wiebe said...

Tonight is a huge game; the Sens have to show us they can beat the Leafs when it counts. They better come out gunnin', ready to kick some ass.

Think about it, with a win tonight against the Sens, a win on the 16th against Buffalo and one on the 18th against Pittsburgh and the Leafs are in, at the bottom perhaps, but you know that's where they want to be -- playing the Sens in the playoffs.

At this point, unfortunately, I have no faith that the Sens can beat the Leafs when it really counts. Hope they show me tonight that they can.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I think you're overstating it's importance from the Sens point of view. This doesn't really count for them.

It'd be nice for them to win and knock the Leafs out, but its hardly the end of the world if they lose.


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