Monday, May 08, 2006

Buffalo 2 Ottawa 1

After all those goals in game one Friday night, only three were scored here. It was a tighter game, not nearly as exciting to watch, but in the end, I feel just as discouraged.

So what now?

Once again, the Ottawa Senators outplayed the Buffalo Sabres badly, but could not bury their chances while Buffalo pounced on the few they were given like a good, opportunistic team does.

The shot count says a lot but I don’t even think it was a fair reflection because Ottawa was terrible at getting shots through on the many powerplays they had. The Senators could have easily had over 50 pucks on net.

This was an incredibly frustrating game to watch because you knew Ottawa would not score. At least I did. Call me a downer if you must but as I was watching the clock tick down I was losing faith. The hockey Gods have been cruel to this organization in the past and got their licks in tonight. The Sens could not buy a goal.

At the end though, games aren’t awarded based on who had more shots, who had the puck in the other team’s zone more often, or who was better. It’s about goals.

I plan to dissect where we go from here soon, but I’m not very optimistic. I wouldn’t take down my car flag just yet, but I can understand those of you who do. This team’s heart has been questioned time and time again, and now more than ever.


Taking the body. While Buffalo fans are, predictably, calling for Peter Schaefer to be crucified for his hit on Tim Connolly (*shrugs* I thought it was clean), they cannot dispute that Ottawa took it to them physically. The Sabres, to their credit, didn’t back down but throughout the night you began to see it have an effect, as on more than a few occasions a Buffalo played bailed out instead of taking another hit.

Patrick Eaves. He’s far too inconsistent this playoffs, going from average to downright invisible, however I thought the rookie winger had his best outing thus far. He was a shit disturber around the net all game long and was finishing checks on much bigger, stronger, and more experienced defencemen with regularity. Finished with six shots and as many hits. If every Ottawa forward played with his desire the result would’ve been very different, I believe.

Chris Neil. Also very good physical, Neil was responsible for a lot of chances, much of them through him hitting. Every time Neil got on the ice he caused havoc.

Chris Phillips’ redeeming himself. The Big Rig was poised to take Anton Volchenkov’s spot as the resident goat with his awful turnover that allowed Johan Hecht to light the lamp however he scored a much needed goal to cut the lead in half and breathe some life back into the team and crowd. Phillips had another strong game overall, aside from the sloppy giveaway.

Benjamin Harper. His father the Prime Minister isn’t my favorite person in the whole world as it is, and learning he’s a Leafs fan, though hardly surprising, made me like him even less, but at least his kid has some sense, draped in a Sens jersey and banging those stupid thundersticks together. Anyone else find it funny that it looked like Ted Saskin was assigned to be the babysitter while Gary Bettman and the PM talked about who knows what? I can totally picture Saskin being sent to fetch the kid one of those big chewy pretzels and then being asked to go back when he forgot the mustard. You’d never see Bob Goodenow do that, that’s for sure.


The powerplay. For the second straight game, the Sens powerplay, what I thought would be on the factors that would allow them to beat Buffalo, has failed them miserably. The Sens went 0 for 7 if you count the one in the last 15 seconds, and frankly, got some breaks because a few of those calls were questionable. And they could do nothing with them. The problems with the PP are too numerous to list. For one, they were terrible moving the puck along the blueline. The pointmen played with fire all night long and nearly got caught on a few occasions. You’d think, after giving up two shorthanded goals Friday night, they would’ve learned their lesson, but you’d think wrong. As well, the recurring problem of being too cute with the puck reared its ugly head. And finally, and most frustrating to yours truly, was when they were able to get point shots through, there was usually no one in front of the net to make it difficult for Ryan “Hasek” Miller to see the rubber. There were a couple instances where Bryan Murray threw out Patrick Eaves or Chris Neil, but they were few and far between. Full marks to Buffalo’s penalty kill who were strong on the pressure but Ottawa has to score on some of these.

Daniel Alfredsson. He’s struggling folks. Badly. I wouldn’t agree with Don Cherry’s assessment that Alfie isn’t trying, because I don’t believe his character allows him not to give 100%. But he’s making poor decisions, both with the puck and without it. He was responsible for a giveaway at the Sens’ blueline that nearly stopped my heart in the first period and then late in the game, when desperation had set in, Alfie continued to falter with the puck. Along the boards he was holding onto it for too long and when he would get the puck in transition instead of throwing it at the net or passing he would put on the breaks, allowing the Sabres forward caught out of position to recover. Oh, and let’s not forget that puck he fired over the net with the thing wide open and Miller down and out. That’s not a play a guy like Daniel Alfredsson is supposed to miss. Alfie has one goal in seven playoff games, and that one was an empty netter. Something needs to be done, and I suspect Alfie will be thrown on the Big Line to start Game 3. Murray better hope its not too late because the second guessing on that decision has been prevelant all playoffs.

Jason Spezza’s behind the back pass in the 2nd period. Utterly unacceptable. This kind of bullshit should’ve stopped in November. In May, when you’re down a goal in game that’s sort of important, these kind of plays are enough to warrant a benching. On this play in particular, Spezza could’ve thrown it at the net and let one of the forwards hop on a rebound, but elected to be a jackass instead. The puck was taken by the Sabres and Wade Redden was forced to take a penalty to stop a near breakaway. The excuses of “he’s a young kid, he’s learning” are out the window. He is this team’s number one center. In the past, he talked about wanting to carry a big load and has supposedly welcomed it this season. Yet he continues to make terrible plays. Someone needs to remind Jason this isn’t pee wee or even the AHL. This is the National Hockey League, and you’re playing an incredibly talented team who has proven themselves quite capable of burying the chances you give them. People always say you don’t want to stifle his creativity, and the truth is if that pass is made, we’re probably all calling him a hockey God, however, the odds on that play are not good enough to justify attempting it. At any point in the game.

Spezza & Heatley’s chemistry. Did it miss the afternoon wake up call? Usually these two can find each other with crisp passes, but boy was that not the case here.

Defensive errors. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Buffalo’s two goals were on shitty turnovers by the Senators. We can talk all we want about two goals on four shots in the 2nd period but when those two shots are a breakaway and an odd man rush. It was better than the disaster that was game two but still too many for my liking.

Zdeno Chara. This is the guy who is likely going to get $8 million+ in the offseason from some team? If that’s his pricetag, you guys can have him. He has yet to assert himself as a factor in this series and is routinely pinching. Pinching! What the fuck are you thinking! Buffalo burns pinchers, and you’re a 260 pound guy and you’re pinching? Pinching! What the fuckity fuck. You’re too big and slow to be taking these kind of chances because we all know you won’t be able to catch up to correct your mistake. Oh, and wanna start hitting somebody, please? I know you’re probably planning your move about now and your mind is clouded by visions of dumptrucks filled with Benjamins being backed up to your house, but you’re still an Ottawa Senator, and we need you to win. Thanks in advance.


Buffalo fans should, and probably are, thanking their lucky stars, because they’re going back to Western NY up 2 games without playing very well. In the first game Ottawa gave it to them and the second was stolen by Ryan Miller.

To say Miller was sensational wouldn’t be doing his performance justice. He gave one of the best playoff goaltending exhibitions I’ve seen in some time, and that’s saying something because Ottawa’s franchise history is full of being stonewalled by redhot netminders. Usually, they wear blue and white rather than black but the Devil comes in many forms I suppose.

In contrast to Emery, who though once again not the reason they lost could not make the big saves when called upon, Miller seemed to have a countless array of them in his back pocket.

Buffalo found a way to win, and that's all that matters, shot count disparity or not. I still don't think we've seen the best Buffalo Sabres in either game, and that's what scares me most. I have to believe they'll be much better in game 3, and with a red hot goalie, it's difficult to see how they can be beat.


At 11:27 PM, Blogger LC Scotty said...

While we have certainly been whinging about the officiating, I haven't really heard a bunch of complaints about the Schaefer hit. For the record, I agree that that hit was clean. It appeared that Connoly got hit with an elbow, but not because Schaefer raised it-Connolly was low when they collided.

Ryan Miller absolutely stole a game for us. I would also say that while the Sens got lots of shots, the overwhleming majority seemed to come outside the circles.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What next? Well check out my blog entry entitled "Never Surrender"

The problem with the Sens is NOT a red hot goalie. The problem is their ample offense has gotten themselves in a funk when they tried to be more smart defensively.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Sabremark said...

Gotta agree with 90% of what you said, Chris. You're half right to be down on Chara and wrong to be so down on Spezza (I've seen similar plays work great this year). The guy is a creative force, and on occasion it is not going to work. You don't score over 100 points by playing not being creative.

One guy I am surprised you didn't include in the BAD column is Wade Redden. His pinching on the Dumont goal was an utter and complete Donkey Move. It was one of those nonsensical pinches that even if he keeps it in, his team wasn't really in the position to capitalize on it. Risky move with no reward in sight.

Other thoughts - The Senators in general played an awesome game and I tip my hat to them. Sometimes you run into a brickwall and nothing is going to go in. It was just one of those nights.

- You gotta hand it to the Sabres generally and Chris Drury specifically. They got the snot knocked out of them and they kept getting up. Drury got leveled by Chara (yes he DID hit someone) like 3x on the same shift, and he kept on going. This is just the definition of playoff hockey, and why hockey has the best playoffs anywhere.

- It can't be overstated how big the loss of Connolly is going to be. It's not etched in stone yet, but I am not optimistic, given his past concussions. This guy has been an absolute superstar in the playoffs, and he probably owns half of the top 10 goals in the league this year. I guess you can never tell with these concussions, however. I thought it was convinced that Umberger wasn't coming back after that hit, and he came back.

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

The Schaefer hit was clean. He tucked his arm into his body when he made the hit.

For Bad, I would have added the Volchenkov/Gaustad colision. That was brutal with both of those guys heads smacking.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Tom L said...

You're being kind calling that a collision. The responsibility lies with Volchenkov on that, and if he wasn't trying to take Gasutad's head off with his shoulder then their heads would have never collided.

He chose an angle of approach that led to that collision. He could have chosen differently... you know like trying to hit Gaustad cleanly on the hip/torso... but didn't.

Stupid and irresponsible and I hope we don't see Volchenkov in this series again and, if injured, should sit out the first few games of next season.

Schaefer's hit was unfortunate. Connolly makes a bad cut-back across the middle and Scheafer gets his good.. he does use his forearm and not the shoulder, but I'm not complaining (just clarifying). Tim's got to be smarter.


At 8:47 AM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Are you serious? The only reason it looked bad was because Gaustad pulled up. Volchenkov's done that several times this year, he's just trying to get the shoulder on shoulder hit along the boards.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Rob Wiebe said...

Man, I was coming here to rag about Emery, but your analysis has shown that there is so much more wrong with the team than just poor goaltending.

Obviously what worked in the first half of the season isn't goingta work now. When will the Sens learn to adapt their play? When will they do what it takes to WIN? When will someone step up and lead the way to the CUP? when when when ...

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you rag on Emery after a 2-1 loss, with one goal scored on a 2-on-1 and the other a breakaway?

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Michael Templeton said...

Yes, the Sens have made stupid individual errors that have cost goals that sometimes Emery had no chance in hell at stopping.

But at some point, you have to blame the goalie when you allow 9 goals in 40 or so shots.

With Emery in net, we have no chance of winning. If Hasek is 80% fit, then go with him!

If you like beer and pubs in Ottawa, then check my blog:

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Rob Wiebe said...

yes, anonymous you have a good point, one that i got when reading this post this morning. I was focussing only on the shot disparity without considering the poor play of his teammates. Just frustrated 'cuz i feel the Sens are going down in 4 ...


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