Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Montreal 4 Ottawa 2

THE GOOD:

Yet again, the penalty killing. While the powerplay remains ass (more on that soon, trust me), the penalty killers continue to bail out the Sens when they take thoughtless infractions. In particular, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Kelly, and Mike Fisher.

The return of Peter Schaefer. He wasn’t as effective as he is when he’s playing his best, but you saw the value in having #27 back in the line-up. He was his usual great self along the boards, showed no signs of a sore hip when he was throwing checks, and was good on the forecheck.

THE BAD:

The powerplay. At this point, criticizing the Sens’ PP is beyond redundant. It’s a complete clusterfuck. What was the one goal that Ottawa scored tonight? A puck thrown at the net. Why don’t they seem to realize these are the goals they need to start getting to get themselves out of this funk? Stop being blinded by your own individuals talents. Yes, you’re terrific players, but these cutesy highlight reel plays, with tic-tac-toe passing, are not effective. They haven’t been all season. Maybe it’s a good idea to cease attempting them? Bryan Murray needs to send a message and, for an entire powerplay, give some ice time to Denis Hamel, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, and more to Mike Fisher, because at least with know with those guys, this nonsense won’t occur. They may not score, but it won’t be because of hubris. Let the big guns watch from the bench. Oh, and another shortie scored against. Wonderful.

A lack of confidence. Ottawa is a team that, when things are rolling, boy are they ever. During that terrific three game romp of the Devils and then the Leafs twice, they looked like one of the best clubs in the league. They’re back, we thought. Boston was a bit of a reality check and tonight was the splash of water in the face we needed to realize, this team has a lot of issues. They can’t play from behind, for one. That was theme that reared it’s head at various points last season but is especially prevalent now. If they can score the first goal then all’s well, but this team cannot face adversity, it seems. Is it because they lack the character to dust themselves off after being knocked down?

Bad defensive zone coverage. It was common to see a Canadiens skater open and free throughout the game. On two of the Habs’ goals, a player was left all alone. Jacques Martin is rolling over in his grave. He died from seeing these games, you see.

Key players taking shifts off. Heatley, Alfredsson, and Spezza all had points in the game, and in some cases more than a few, where they looked to be coasting. This cannot happen. As cliché as it may be, this team’s best players need to be their best players. The 8-1 win over the Devils saw Heatley and Spezza in particular do all the little things well. Those things were ignored far too often tonight.

Taking early penalties. Going into Montreal is never an easy task. Even when the Habs are not playing especially well, the Bell Centre is a difficult place to get two points in. Ottawa has, historically, been pretty inconsistent when traveling to La Belle Province, and this season, so far, has been no different. The shootout win from a few weeks saw Ottawa play well but fall apart in the end. This game saw them play with little life for 50 minutes, score a goal, get back into the game, but ultimately fall short. And I believe it all stemmed from those first 5 or so minutes, when Ottawa took two very unnecessary penalties. Right away, Montreal had the momentum and, with the exception of a shift here or there, controlled the game the rest of the way through. Penalties are going to happen. Players are still adjusting to the new rules. But the ones that they got whistled for, a stupid holding penalty by Chris Phillips and then a really sloppy hooking penalty by Daniel Alfredsson six seconds after the Senators killed off the first one.

Denis Hamel only playing 3:33. If a team is struggling to score, is it not wise to throw a guy who scored over 50 in the AHL last season on the ice every now and then to see what he can accomplish? Shit, even Brian McGratton played more. Let’s remember that Hamel scored in the last Sens-Habs game, with a goal that’s just the kind they need right now: hard work and a big second effort. Hamel got one shift in the third period.

THE OPPOSITION:

The Saturday night shootout game between the Habs and Leafs was a treat to watch as a fan with no significant rooting interest, but truth be told, the Habs were badly outplayed and were lucky to get the single point. They rebounded well.

The big talk in Montreal, with that relentless media, was Alexei Kovalev being moved to center so Sergei Samsonov could play on the second line with Kovalev and another Russian, Alexander Perezhogin. Even Guy Lafleur chimed in with his thoughts on the high paid Ruskies. It was only one game, but I thought they played real well. In fact, both the Russian line and Saku Koivu’s group had strong games, with Chris Higgins being the best Canadiens skater.

As well, the much heralded freshman, Guillaume Latendresse actually looked liked the guy the French media has made him out to be. Without question, the best game I’ve seen of his thus far. Very physical, good speed in both ends, and generated some offensive spurts.

And how long before Montreal has a true, genuine goaltending controversy? David Aebischer wasn’t tested on a major level, however, he answered the bell when called upon.

UP NEXT:

The Sens don't play until Saturday night, when the defending Cup champs come to town. Carolina isn't exactly firing on all cylinders either, with a 5-5-2 record and having allowed 45 goals in 12 games. Has Cam Ward come back to Earth? Will be and Cristobol Huet fight it out for the 2006 Jim Carey Award? Last season, the games between the Sens and Canes were real barnburners, however, last season seems like an eternity ago for both clubs.

I haven't decided if having three days between games is a good thing or not for the struggling Senators. Clearly, there are some serious things that need to be worked on. Will three days of hard practice fix things?

1 Comments:

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Ottawa Sports Guy said...

Couldn't agree with you more concerning the power play. They looked utterly lost out there.

 

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