Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tampa Bay 4 Ottawa 3

If Friday night’s contest was a story of two games, the first in which Tampa controlled the pace and the second that saw Ottawa blow it open, then this too had two distinct flows, however on this occasion it didn’t go in the Senators favor. The first 10 or so minutes were all Sens, as they were on the attack and looked to be on rout to a big win. At around the half way point of that first period, something changed. Tampa began working harder, and that would generally be the story of the game. The Lightning simply wanted it more, were winning the one-on-one battles, and as a result, got the W.

THE GOOD:

Martin Havlat’s penchant for big goals. I think we’ve established by now that Havlat is a gamebreaker. His goal to tie the game was huge and really switched the momentum back in Ottawa’s favor. Havlat was also responsible for Peter Schaefer’s goal to give the Sens a temporary 3-2 lead because the Bolts forwards all focused on “Mach 9”, leaving Schaefer basically all alone to score.

Daniel Alfredsson’s patience on the first goal. Alfredsson’s poise and composure was on display here. He carried the puck in the Tampa zone with only Daryl Sydor to beat, yet instead of trying some fancy dipsy doodle move to try and shake the veteran defenceman, Alfie waited for the cavalry to arrive, circled the zone, and set up a goal. A lot of the team’s younger forwards could learn something from this play. Instead of trying to force a play, give it time to develop.

The “fourth line”. Once again Ottawa’s most consistent forward group, enough good things cannot be said about this trio’s ability to make something happen. Every time they touched the ice they were a factor, getting involved in scrums and dictating the play.

Patrick Eaves. A lot heart and grit show by the rookie, as he was fighting for his life and winning battles along the boards. He was also the first guy to get at Martin St. Louis when he hit Anton Volchenkov late. Despite being 21 years old, Eaves plays like a veteran and even in defeat elevated his game.

THE BAD:

Not enough shots! Grahame was deep in his net all game once again and was giving the Sens a lot of net to look at, yet Ottawa didn’t take advantage of it by firing as much rubber as they should’ve. They finished with 24 shots on goal (only 2 in the third period) however they must’ve passed up that many decent shooting chances. Andrej Meszaros (who I thought had a much better game than his subpar first one) in particular passed up a number of good shooting opportunities, electing to pass instead. This is a guy with a cannon for a shot and now he has been infested by this fear of firing the puck. This was the case most often on the maddeningly frustrating powerplay but it happened all game long in every situation. Ottawa has often been accused of looking for the perfect play and sometimes trying to force passes when they have the man advantage and they did so tonight.

Neutral zone turnovers. Sloppy play was a common theme throughout the game from the Sens point of view, but this really irked me because most of the giveaways were just the result of poor efforts and braindead plays. I don’t think I even need to mention who led the Sens in giveaways because you should know by now.

Zdeno Chara. With Wade Redden back home, the Sens needed Big Z to step his game up and he did not. In fact, I would argue Chara hurt his team more than he helped on this night. Far too often, Chara was caught out of position after a pinch and the results were horrific. Ottawa must’ve given up eight or nine odd man rushes in the game and half of them had to have occurred when Chara fucked up. If not for Chris Phillips bailing him out nearly every time, Chara’s gaffs would’ve been highlighted even more. As well, Chara was stumbling around out there, falling down on Brad Richards’ goal and then again in the third, which forced him take a penalty from his ass. Not every game can be Norris Trophy worthy but Chara cannot play these kind of mediocre games, especially now that Redden isn’t in the line-up, if Ottawa is to win.

Anton Volchenkov. Another guy who was asked to take on a bigger part with the absence of Redden, as a backer of his all season long, I was thoroughly disappointed with the “A-Train”’s game. Like Chara, his fuckups resulted in disaster, as the two goals he was on the ice for were largely Volchenkov’s fault. The giveaway that led to Martin St. Louis’ first goal was just a boneheaded pass and on St. Louis’s second Anton lost his man who happened to be the goal scorer. All year I’ve championed Volchenkov and urged the coaching staff to give him more ice time and a more prominent role, and so to see him get that opportunity and piss it away was discouraging.

Chris Kelly’s finish. Again, I like Kelly. I feel the need to reiterate that because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. He’s a useful player and in certain situations (penalty killing, key defensive faceoffs) he’s important to the team but he is simply not a top six forward. Why Bryan Murray keeps trying to play him as one is beyond me. Kelly just does not have the offensive skillset to hang with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza and whatever good things he brings to the line from a defensive perspective are negated by Kelly’s inability produce offense the way a top line player has to. In the second period he had two golden opportunities to score at the side of the net, and on each he fumbled with the puck and didn’t even get a shot off. In a way, I felt bad for Kelly because he was working hard but on that line he’s in over his head as far as the expectations and what he’s capable of doing. I’ve seen some call the move to play Kelly on that top line a Jacques Martin-like decision, and I’m inclined to agree. I thought Murray was the coach with balls?

Ray Emery’s wandering ways. You can usually tell how confident and comfortable “Razor” is in nets based on how often he comes out of the goal to handle the puck, so I guess it’s a positive that he was so eager to do so, but he has to be smarter about picking his spots. There’s no question he’s an improvement over Senators goalies of the past in terms of his ability to move the puck, as we saw in game one when he got an assist, but that does not mean he should leave the net every time. Be selective.

The time it took to do faceoffs. What was going on here? On almost every draw, there was some delay or somebody was being thrown out. Drop the damn puck already. Very stupid.

THE OPPOSITION:

As I said above, the game can be explained by pointing to the Tampa’s superior effort and desire. A big part of that was the play of their Big Three, all of whom took their games to levels not seen since they were last in the playoffs and winning a Cup.

All three of their key forwards, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, and Vincent Lecavalier, had monster games. They were skating well and extremely in their puck pursuit. When these players play like this I’m not sure any team can beat the Lightning, as each of them on their own have the ability to take over a game. When all three do so it’s nightmarish for fans on the opposite end. Ottawa’s defenders made life much easier for them than they should have, but give a bunch of credit to these guys for elevating their play.

Also huge was Ottawa native Dan Boyle. Not only did the goal to tie the game 3-3 but he was ridiculously solid in his own end, closing the passing lanes and having an active stick. He played the kind of game the Bolts need him to, and then some.

John Grahame looked shaky on a few plays but overall did not hurt the club, and in a lot of ways, that in itself is an improvement over where this team’s goaltending was a month ago. He made a number of big timely saves and got aided by a Tampa Bay defence group who did an excellent job of not allowing second and third chances.

5 Comments:

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

They played for 10 minutes tonight, and 20 minutes Friday. It's so frustrating.

And as bad as Volchenkov and Chara were, Meszaros was just as bad.

 
At 11:13 PM, Blogger Jeff J said...

Chris Kelly is from Mars, Heatley and Spezza are from Venus. Not only could Kelly not capitalize on those set-ups, but he was playing like his linemates were grinders too. How many times did he start a cycle only to look up and find the other two scampering off to open ice?

Spezza, to Kelly on the bench: "Why did you throw the puck in the corner when I was clearly open for the double pump-fake double-cross drop pass? And who is this Sy Cling you speak of?"

 
At 7:17 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Aside from the goal he set up, I thought Alfie had a terrible game.

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger steve said...

Things bugging me right now:

a. Bob Cole going out of his way to glorify every move the Lightning make... this is Canadian broadcasting Bob, not the disgruntled leafs fan network.

b. Game recaps from TSN where every other sentence includes "previous playoff misfortunes" or something like that which is 1) completely false and 2) not relevant. It's not like our franchise is a rollover anymore. Every series we have lost in the last 3 hockey years went to 7 games and we were in the conference final that one year.

c. Articles in the toronto star that make players like Emery look like total bad asses. This bashing is just not necessary. Why don't you focus on Mats Sundin's golf game or something more positive. Which brings me to

d. There seems to be this energy from Leafs fans that want our franchise to collapse this offseason. Well you know what - I think this is just because the Leafs fans hope that if we continue to lose playoff series that their team will no longer be considered the most futile team in hockey. What is it, 39 years without a stanley cup? And some of those years with 6 teams in the NHL?

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Alfie is struggling, but he's been shuffled around so much that it's ridiculous to expect him to play well.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares