Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ottawa 4 Boston 3 (OT)

Now that's how you make an impact.

Zdeno Chara quickly reminded us all why he's been so missed, why (besides Daniel Alfredsson) he's the most important player on the team, and why he'll likely command top dollar on the open market this summer. He scored two goals, including the game winner, was a physical presence all night, was a beast on the PK, and logged a ton of minutes (over 30!). Considering he wasn't even sure if he would play a few hours before the puck was dropped, I'd say he had a good first game back.

It was also good to see Wade Redden return to the team, if for no other reason than it will put a stop to the ridiculous "Wade has abandoned the Senators" contention that has been far too prevelant on post-game call in shows than I would've liked. He had a solid game, looking strong on the powerplay, but the rest was more evident in Redden than Chara. It's likely Redden still has his family situation in the back of his mind, and so one can forgive him if his head is sometimes elsewhere. They are human beings, after all, not robots on ice. We embrace players showing emotion when it serves our interests as fans, but then dismiss it when it doesn't as inappropriate. What bullshit.

As a team, I felt as though Ottawa played quite well. There was no question they were the better club, and if not for Tim Thomas, that score would've been very lopsided. Hell, if the Sens had even just a bit more puck luck, it probably would've been a three goal lead. They didn't get any breaks. The puck was bouncing, guys who normally don't miss jawning cages were. It was quite a sight, and thankfully, because they got the two points, it was something you can look back on and laugh. If they had lost in OT, best believe everyone, myself included I'm sure, would've been lamenting about how you have to make your own breaks. Thankfully, we never reached that point.

Mike Morrison got the start in net, and quite honestly, was not great. Two of the goals he allowed (the first and the one that tied it with less than a minute left) were not good and he looked shaky a few other instances. I championed the cause of giving him playing time, moreso for the rest it would give Ray Emery, and I have to say, I was disappointed that Morrison did not perform better.

Finally, the PP continued to frustrate me. Not because it was bad, though it wasn't great, but because it wasn't good enough. They were moving the puck reasonably well and, positionally, had opportunities, but simply weren't firing shots at the net. By the third, it had deteriorated to the point that I gave up hope

Besides the Big Z, a few other Sens had good games and deserve mentioning. Christoph Schubert was terrific in his limited role as a forward, and I'm starting to think the German should stay there instead of moving back to D. It's still new to him but imagine what a full training camp as a forward would do for his game? He skatees hard, is a relentless forechecker, takes the body with great pleasure, and has a cannon for a shot (having won the hardest shot contest at the team's skills competition this season). Will be materialize into a top six forward? I don't know. But he sure looks like he can be a useful contributor up there.

A guy who's been in the doghouse a lot this year has been Vaclav Varada, and with good reason, as his play has not been up to par. He's often looked like he's had trouble adjusting to the new rules, and so his game of being a shit disturber has never really come out. Plus, he makes over a million bucks, which in a salary cap world is a lot for a guy who plays so little and barely contributes. Nevertheless, he had a good game, doing a lot of the things he needs to if he wants to be in the line-up in two weeks when the games that matter start.

As for the B's, I know Boston fans are pretty down and out about this team, and based on expectations going into the season, it's understandable (you're talking to a guy who picked them to win the Eastern Conference. Whoops), but try to keep things in perspective. As ravaged by injuries as the Sens have been the last six weeks, Boston has been that way all season long. They've had no luck in that regard. Had they been healthy, would they be a playoff team? I'm not sure. I'd venture a guess that the answer is still no, but I have to think they'd be in the hunt as the season winds down instead of being relegated to the role of spoiler.

There are a lot of things to like about this team going into the future. Patrice Bergeron continues his development into an elite player. Lets remember he'll be 21 in July. He's going to finish with more than 30 goals this season, and I can't see any reason to think he won't be even better next year. Brad Boyes had been a welcome surprise to many, and gives them a bonafided sniper. He and Bergeron appear to have good chemistry that will only improve as they play together more.

A couple of the other forwards give them something to look forward to. Yan Stastny's pedigree speaks for itself, and he had a great game last night. I've always liked Marty Reasoner, and think he'll be a great role player for them for years to come. He exemplifies what it used to mean to be a Bruin: hard work, determination, and a passion for the game.

On defence, they have some players. While I don't think anyone would try and tell you San Jose did not win the Joe Thornton trade, one of the guys going the other way, Brad Stuart, has quietly been terrific on his new team. The rap on him with the Sharks was that he was too inconsistent and never lived up his billing as a #1 defenceman, which he was drafted to be at #3 overall in 1998. He looks to have found that form in Boston. A couple of the other blueliners, Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina, got into the line-up because of the rash of injuries, but both look to be gamers to me, and neither are over 25.

Goaltending will be this team's question mark. As I said, Thomas stood on his head last night, and has pretty much done so all season long since being called up, but one season wonders are not anything new, and you have to wonder if that's what he is. If so, can Andrew Raycroft regain the form that won him the Calder in '03-'04? Is Hannu Toivonen capable of being a starter? I don't have the answers to any of these questions, but I do know they're essential in whatever success the Bruins hope to have.

If I'm a Boston Bruins fan, the main thing I want done in this offseason has nothing, directly, to do with the team that takes the ice. I'd want Harry Sinden removed, because if not, it doesn't matter who replaces Mike O'Connell as GM, or even Mike Sullivan as coach when he's fired at the end of the year.


At 12:02 PM, Anonymous JCK said...

Actually Chara won the hardest shot, Schubert was second.

Chara - 103.5
Schubert - 102.1

I believe.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

You're right. I stand corrected.

Never the less, the point about him having a ridiculously hard shot remains true.

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Rob Wiebe said...

Hard shot or not, I want to see Schubert put the puck in the back of the net a few more times.

And speaking of which, has Arnason scored a goal yet?

At 3:27 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

He's not a goal scorer, but you need guys like Schubert. The team has more than enough offence through the line-up.

As for Arnason, the answer is, sadly, no.


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