Saturday, April 01, 2006

Washington 1 Ottawa 0

THE GOOD:

Anton Volchenkov. The Senator blueliner with the most seniority out there last night was the A-Train (and he’s only 24), and he played like a veteran. Volchenkov made many of his trademark bonebreaking hits early in the game, and I don’t think it was a coincidence Capitals’ forwards were not going down his side of the ice as often afterwards. He clearly intimidated them. As well, Volchenkov was very solid in his own end, winning battles of pucks and making life difficult for the opposition. On one play in particular, he blocked a two-on-one by Washington by getting in the way of the pass. A good game all around.

Andrej Meszaros’ play in the offensive zone. The 20-year-old freshman was very aggressive, and while there were a few instances where it almost came back to bite him in the ass (see the aforementioned two-on-one), you still have to like his confidence in making such plays. He was moving the puck well, joining the rush wisely, and did an excellent job of getting pucks from the point through.

Peter Schaefer. An unremarkable but steady game from Schaefer saw him do all the little things well that make him so valuable to this team. He was, as we’ve come to expect by now, strong along the wall, made smart passes, and had a good two-way game. His linemates varied throughout the game, but I liked the look of him with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, who I thought had their best shifts with #27 on their left wing.

No ground lost. Despite this loss, Ottawa doesn’t lose any standing in the standings, with both Carolina and Buffalo taking Ls as well.

THE BAD:

The lack of a transition game. Washington completely shut down Ottawa’s ability to transition, which is one of their strengths on most nights. As a result, their speed wasn’t nearly the factor it should’ve been, as on paper, you’d think a gameplan would be for them to exploit the slow Capitals’ D.

Andrej Meszaros in his own end. As impressive as the rookie was in the other end of the ice he was equally poor when the play moved in the vicinity of Ray Emery.

Christoph Schubert, Brad Norton, and Filip Novak. This was a night were I was cursing John Muckler for not getting defensive depth at the deadline, because these three struggled badly. Schubert had his worst game of the season, by far, turning over the puck, losing his man, and making way too making mistakes. Norton may be a big body, but the guy sucks. For all that size, he doesn’t use it very well and is also quite slow on his skates. And with the puck? Forget about it. Absolutely terrible. It was painfully obvious why Norton’s not a NHL regular. If he never plays another game in a Sens uniform, I wouldn’t shed a single tear. Novak had the best game of the three but even he did not look good. His size, or lack thereof, was an issue, as he was moved off the puck far too often for my liking, and we didn’t such much of that offensive explosiveness that has made him so effective down in Bingo this season.

Daniel Alfredsson. It just wasn’t Alfie’s night. With the puck, he was uncharacteristically weak, fanning on shots, missing the net (though that’s not as uncommon as it should be), and hitting the post. Another trademark of Alfredsson’s game is his defensive prowess, but even that was not up to par, as he wasn’t backchecking as hard as he usually does nor was he making good plays with the puck in his own end. For some reason, he was moving the puck backwards quite often, and it seemed as if his teammates were as confused by this as I was. Basically, he didn’t look comfortable at any point in this game. Oh, and a memo to Bryan Murray: reunite the Big Line. Please? Stop just putting them back together when the team desperately needs a goal. Use them all game long. Yes, I get your thinking: with Mike Fisher out, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and load up one line, instead distributing scoring over a couple forward trios. Fine. But that’s not what happened, because you now had two “scoring lines”. Stop this bullshit and get your shit together.

Jason Spezza. To call him lazy tonight would be doing a disservice the word. Without the puck he looked to be moving at a snails pace. Very disinterested, and the polar opposite of his game Thursday night in the win over the Rangers. And those five giveaways didn’t help.

The powerplay. Dreadful. No urgency, seemingly no real plan, no chemistry. Once again this part of their game rears its head as an Achilles’ heel. For almost a full minute Ottawa had a 5-on-3, and failed the generate much in the way of pressure, and once it was over, the momentum seemed to shift to Washington. It could very well have been the turning point of the game.

The deceptive shot count. Someone who didn’t see the game might look at the fact Ottawa registered 46 shots and say “well, they dominated the game.” Ottawa might have, marginally, been the better team tonight, but most of those shots were not prime scoring opportunities, and they failed to get many second and third chances. Listening to the postgame show, I can already here the cheerleaders on the Team 1200 say that they had so many shots, you can’t complain. Yes, I can.

THE OPPOSITION:

Washington played the game they need to to get wins to perfection. A consistently aggressive forecheck combined with a high level of effort across the board gives them a shot against any team in the NHL, despite their lowly place in the NHL standings.

Alex Ovechkin was the best player on the ice, responsible for the majority of the team’s best scoring chances, and I suspect a big part of it was because he wasn’t matched up against Zdeno Chara. Meszaros did an average job in his place, but he’s no Z, and Ovechkin took advantage of that. This was also one of the more physical games of the year I’ve seen AO have. He collided with Brad Norton, who’s much bigger, and it was the Sens’ (crappy) defenceman who went crashing into the boards while Ovechkin chased the puck.

You also have to tip your hat to Brent Johnson, who looked more like a starter than a low-level back-up. Made a number of big saves, had good composure, and controlled his rebounds much better than Ray Emery.

UP NEXT:

A team in Atlanta who has given Ottawa fits this season, and who I desperately hope does not make the playoffs because I think they’d be a much more difficult opponent than any of the other teams in the lower half of the Eastern Conference. They’re a fast team who can be explosive. They’re also horribly inconsistent, as we’ve seen, but if they get hot, they can beat any team in the league I believe. It’s a chance I hope we won’t have to take.

I won’t even speculate on who will be back from injury for the game, if anyone even will, because that guessing game just hurts my head. Let’s just assume none of them are coming back and we’ll be better off for it.

4 Comments:

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get why you keep bashing our power-play. We're top 5 in the league it's totally expected that we many nights a year were we don't score on the pp. It's simple math if we're gonna miss out on 80% of our power-plays throughout the season not scoring on a powerplay in 10 straight chances is not that out of line.

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger d-lee said...

Yeah. Brent Johnson stopped 49 of 50 shots the Canes threw at him (right at him) on Wednesday night, so we know all about that.

We still have to play those jerks three times, and they've beaten us three times in a row. I don't understand what's going on there, but I hope we can stop losing to them.

I had a friend point out to me what you just said --> Just because we registered 50 shots doesn't mean any of them were quality.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger The Universal Cynic said...

When I saw that Ovechkin had played 9:17 in the first period alone, I was in disbelief. By the second, he was up to 16:26 -- more than any other player. The next highest player in TOI by the second period was Ivan Majesky with 14:41. It's completely unfathomable for a rookie (a rookie forward at that) to be logging so much ice time. The kid is truly unreal.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It's a good point about Atlanta, but I can't really think of a team at the bottom of the East that is easy pickings right now. Buffalo looks to be playing the worst of the playoff-bound teams, while New Jersey and Montreal are playing well. I suppose Tampa, due to terrible goaltending and lack of defensive depth, may be the easiest target, but they are the defending champs. It'll definitely be interesting.

 

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