Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ottawa 4 Toronto 1

THE GOOD:

Martin Gerber. One regular season game won’t quell the concerns of an entire city, but at least we now know the Swiss netminder can play well in a Sens uniform. After that pre-season, such a thing seemed pretty unlikely. And not just well, but very well. Martin Gerber was the reason Ottawa was in this game early, as it was his big timely saves that prevented the much more assertive Maple Leafs team who were all over Ottawa in the first 10 minutes. Bryan Murray is right that Gerber is the anti-Hasek, and I for one like it. There are no sprawling snowangel saves, just sound positional play with minimal rebounds and few unnecessary risks. There were, literally, a dozen excellent saves made by Gerber.

Christoph Schubert. He came into the game their sixth d-man, only playing because of the foot injury to Joe Corvo, and yet by the end of the night, I thought he was one of their better players on the night. Schubert saw significant time with the man advantage, manning the point, was very physical, made smart plays with the puck, and pinched or joined the rush when the appropriate opportunity arose. Considering Schubert played only one pre-season game due to a vicious virus he picked up down in the Caribbean, his game was superb.

Andrej Meszaros. Tom Preissing’s injury, which I’ll touch on in a bit, forced heightened minutes by players who weren’t expected to play that much, Meszaris chief among them. The other sophmore rearguard was also very good on this night, and overall, may have been Ottawa’s best defenceman, playing overall 25 minutes due to t. He threw many big hits and was probably the only Sens blueliner who wasn’t running around like a madman in his own zone. He was the stabilizing force back there. With Chara gone, he’ll gave to log similarly big minutes this season and he sure looks up to the task.

Dean McAmmond. You wouldn’t know the $700,000 man was one of Ottawa’s most senior players based on his jump. The veteran was flying out there, and created plenty of chances with his speed. This is a signing that may end up paying bigger dividends than we thought.

Patrick Eaves. The whole top line of Heatley-Spezza-Eaves, who’s average age among them has to be like 23 years old, was good, but I loved the game of Eaves, who tallied a goal and assist.

Chris Neil. If someone would have showed you Chris Neil's goal three years ago, and said this is the kind of player he would become, I'm sure most of you would have thought they were a dirty filthy liar. Neil was, sometimes, overaggressive and could've taken a few more penalties on top of the one he got whistled for, but at least he was into the game. Why he didn't get more ice time confuses me.

THE BAD:

Anton Volchenkov & Chris Phillips. Yama hama, it’s fright night! Yikes. Who thought this pairing was a good idea? It seemed as if every time they stepped on the ice, horror ensued. I realize Phillips moving to the right side is a major adjustment, but Jesus Christ, the guy’s an eight year pro. Is it THAT drastic? And Volchenkov, what the fuck. He was terrible. Volchenkov was a step slower than everyone else on the ice, responding to plays five seconds too late and as a result was constantly out of position. Phillips and Meszaros were consistently solid in the pre-season while Volchenkov and Redden have had some success together in the past, so why not go with those pairings instead of trying this fiasco?

Daniel Alfredsson. I liked that he scored the empty net goal to shove it up the ACC faithful’s asses, however, overall, Alfie had a pretty ordinary game. Not quick with the puck and some uncharacteristally poor plays in his own zone had been confused. The chemistry that he and Mike Fisher had in the pre-season was non-existant here.

The first period, both from an entertainment factor and as a Sens fan. I realize organizations like doing those pre-game ceremonies, honoring this legend or that one, but can we keep the players in the room for them? Because every time they take place, one or both teams end up losing their steam and the quality of the game suffers. Next time place some sappy sentimental video with some ass Sarah McLachlan song in the background to pay tribute to Red Kelly.

Ottawa’s faceoffs. Draws have been a problem for as long as I can remember, and they were awful here, only winning 36% of the draws. Chris Kelly, who’s usually money in the circle, won a pitiful 2 of 14 faceoffs and Spezza won 7 and lost 15. Mike Fisher and Dean McAmmond were slightly better but the other two really hurt the team. Michael Peca himself carved the Sens up on puck drops.

Denis Hamel. Not bad by any means, but I expected more enthusiasm and energy out of a guy who you'd think would be superpsyched for what seems like his first steady NHL job in a while. Hamel seemed tired and played with a lackluster effort. Did he blow his load in the pre-season, just winning the job?

Tom Preissing’s injury. The last thing the Sens needed was another defenceman going down hurt. The extent of the injury isn’t known. As of 11:30pm, all we know is that he left with a lower body injury. Apparently the Sens training staff are still in playoff mode. He looked good in the first period, and was a big part of their first goal, but it’s a shame we didn’t see more of him. Cross your fingers that it’s not serious because if so we might be in trouble.

THE OPPOSITION:

Toronto would have been up a few goals if not for Martin Gerber during the first 10 or so minutes of the game, and were the dominant team in the first period, however, they were unable to sustain that pressure and fell apart in the second, allowing Ottawa to blow the game wide open by capitalizing on their mistakes.

Mats Sundin was sensational. He’ll need to be for the Leafs to have any shot at a playoff spot this season, however, we saw proof positive that even he can’t do it alone. He needs help. Kyle Wellwood provided spurts of offence alongside Sundin and Alex Ponikarovsky had a handful of decent shifts, but beyond that, Toronto’s forwards were very impotent past the 10 minute mark. Most of the chances that came after were generated by Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe who had good games both on the PP and at even strength. As mentioned, Mike Peca was a beast on the draws and was busting his ass, but he’s just not much of an offensive presence. I hope they’re not counting on him to be a major contributor when it comes to goal scoring, because they’re in for a major letdown. He provides excellent defensive play, can kill penalties, and, but he’s not the cure to their goal scoring woes.

I have no clue what happened to Darcy Tucker, but I can’t remember a Leafs-Sens game where he was such a non-factor. Besides his slashing penalty on Patrick Eaves, he wasn’t involved in the game at all. The scoresheet says he played nearly 19 minutes, third among Leafs forwards, but I would’ve thought he played 10 or so. When the Leafs were struggling in the second, getting manhandled by a rejuvenated Sens team, I was waiting for his usual act of foolishness in an attempt to rally his teammates. Alas, it didn’t happen. Has Sideshow Bob been tamed?

Hal Gill played like Hal Gill, which is to say slow and prodding. I’d hope this isn’t news to the organization. Meanwhile, the other new face, Andrew Raycroft was strong but ultimately outdueled by Gerber. Still, besides the Schubert goal that had him looking quite silly, he looked good in nets, including two big stops on two breakaways, by two pretty good snipers in Spezza and Heatley.

Also, the Leafs powerplay let them down big time. They certainly had their chances, but had to have buried some of them if they wanted to win.

UP NEXT:

The Leafs again! Fun.

5 Comments:

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Rachael said...

Remind me again why Volchenkov is in the NHL? Recent history is showing he really doesn't have the talent, although he did have a couple of good hits, more often than not he looks like a chicken running around with it's head cut off.

Oh and if TSN shows the Pommenville goal one more time I'm going to scream!

Chris..What's your take on Tie Domi's new career?

 
At 12:49 PM, Anonymous pete said...

I think your comments on the Leafs are actually bang-on, Chris. The positives I took out of it as a Leaf fan were that Raycroft played well, Sundin and Wellwood were our two best players.

Hal Gill was truly, and expectedly awful. I counted 2 giveaways, 3 penalties he got away with and 4 times that he single-handedly got beat 1-on-1. Not good for a 2million dollar free agent signing.

For the Sens, I was most impressed with Eaves. He's a player. Redden, Heatley and Krusty, to me, were total non-factors. It bodes well for you that your lesser-known players stepped up.

I think a 4-1 score is a tad misleading. The bottom line is both teams got more than 30 shots, you guys buried your chances and the stone-handed Leafs didn't.

I also hate those pre-game festivities and this one was particularly long and drawn out. Respect the past. But I don't know why the Leafs had to stand around on the ice for nearly 30 minutes before the game.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger Fauxrumors said...

1) The Sens may not be a super power in the NHL, but they will be tough to beat night in and nght out.
2) Also won't have to hold your breathe every time your goalie does the splits worrying his groin may ut him on the shelf all season
3) the loss of Hvlat/Smolinski will give the younger guys more ice and they won't disapoint

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Rachael,

I thought Domi did already. A few of the bits seemed scripted, which I assume most of those shows are, but at least try and make it feel on the spot and spontaneous. As well, they were really busting his balls. He looked to be taking it in stride, but a few times both last night and on Tuesday night's preview show, I thought he was going to leap the desk and pound Darren Dreger to bits. Not that I'd blame him.

As for Volchenkov, he can be a very frustrating player. I'm not going to dismiss him as drastically as you did and say he's not an NHL calibre defenceman, but when he struggles, it's hard to watch. Considering he's in the last year of a contract and at $1.25 mil (cap hit anyway) he's pretty overpriced for a 5th or 6th d-man, I wouldn't be shocked to see him get moved at some point this year. Despite his struggles, he's still very highly regarded by other GMs I hear.

 
At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Mrs. Tucker said...

I see Darcy Tucker showed up.

 

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