Ottawa 6 Toronto 2
The big guns. It started in Saturday night’s blowout victory over the Devils, and thankfully carried over into tonight’s game. In addition to putting up points, both Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza had strong all around games. Spezza’s turnovers have been reduced tremendously, and when he did make the occasional drop pass, he figured it wise to at the very least look back to ensure the person receiving the puck was wearing the same sweater as he. Both men displayed an impressive defensive commitment as well, playing as hard in their own as they did in the opposition’s. A great example of this was how Dany Heatley basically saved a goal, as Mats Sundin had Martin Gerber down and out on a wrap-around in the second period, yet it was Heater who stuck with him and got a sick on Mats’ to block any shot attempt. And while he didn’t have as significant a game offensively, Daniel Alfredsson did all the little things right. He was good in transition, moved the puck well, and was a big reason the penalty killing was so good. This kind of effort from Ottawa’s best three players will pay dividends down the road.
Mike Fisher & Chris Neil. What a game from both men. Neil has probably been the Senators most reliable forward this season, which is remarkable in itself when you realize how far he’s come as a player. It wasn’t that long ago that Neil was used sparingly in a four line role, mostly filling the job of enforcer for the club. Now, he’s on the ice in key moments, often. And Mike Fisher was on fire. While officially it says he logged 17 minutes, it sure seemed like 30 to me. Every time I blinked Fisher was on the ice rushing the puck up the ice. How many scoring chances were generated strictly by Fisher? Half a dozen? He was in mid-season form, and needed to be.
Joe Corvo & Chris Phillips as a defence pair. Redden and Corvo was a nice duo in theory, as was Andrej Meszaros and Phillips, but it just wasn’t working. Credit to Bryan Murray for noticing this and making an adjustment. Redden and Meszaros had an average game, with shifts ranging from awful to excellent, but Corvo and Philly were steady throughout. They seemed to have a natural chemistry and had no difficultly finding each other on the ice.
Some powerplay goals. The PP is still very poor, and needs a ton of work, but some goals scored with a man advantage is a start.
The penalty killing. The Leafs didn’t do themselves any favors with their poor execution on the powerplay, as they just didn’t have it tonight, however, the Sens made it difficult for them. Ottawa clogged the neutral zone, making it extremely hard for them to penetrate the zone, let alone sustain some pressure.
Defence joining the rush. This was what we were told to expect when Joe Corvo was signed and Tom Preissing was acquired in the Martin Havlat trade. I like it.
Complacency. Ottawa owned the Leafs in the first frame. The 3-0 score was flattering to the Buds as they were outplayed in every facet of the game. However, the Sens did not keep the foot on the gas pedal, playing quite poorly in the second period, allowing the Leafs to get back in the game ever so slightly. On the one hand, I’m glad they did, because it would have been a very dull two or so hours if they hadn’t, but it reminded me too much of the infamous FLU game between these teams.
Martin Gerber in the third period. I was getting flashbacks of Patrick Lalime, and it sure seemed like the Leafs were too based on how often they were firing the puck from any and every angle. Gerber had a decent enough game overall but was not very reassuring at various points and has pretty much established himself as the worst puckhandling netminder in franchise history. And considering we’ve had both Lalime AND Hasek, that’s saying a lot.
Losing Anton Volchenkov. The severity of the injury remains a mystery at this point, but it sure would be a shame for the A-Train to go down when he’s playing his best hockey in forever.
Darcy Tucker gooning Patrick Eaves. A dirty act that even the most diehard Leaf Nation members must have a hard time defending. Tucker’s vagina hurt because his team was down and went after a kid who doesn’t fight. What big balls he has.
The Leafs remain an enigma to me. Does anyone know which team will take the ice each game, because I sure don’t, and I’ve seen more of their games this season than I haven’t. There are some old faithfuls, as Mats Sundin came to play as always and the aforementioned asshole Tucker who was his usually pesty self . But where was Kyle Wellwood? Mike Peca?
Don’t get me wrong, there were spurts where they were all over Ottawa, and points in the game when they were dictating the pace of the game, however, these moments could not be sustained for extended periods, and truth be told, most of them occurred as much because of Ottawa’s poor play as it Toronto’s good.
Their defence is in big trouble, and I’m not sold on the idea that it’s solely because they’re without Pavol Kubina, though there can be no disputing the fact it hurts. Are Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe burnt out or was this just an off night for the pair of workhorse rearguards? That was one of the worst games I’ve seen Kaberle, who is usually their one reliable blueliner, play in many years. Not only was he not a factor, even on the powerplay where he and McCabe shine brightest, but he routinely hurt his team in his own end.
And I hate to say I told you so, but holy fuck does Hal Gill suck. I believe I said as much when he was signed but too many of you were won over by size, overlooking the fact the guy really can’t play. It pained me to see Brendan Bell struggle because I’m a big fan of his. Ian White was the lone defenceman who didn’t embarrass himself. I become more impressed with his game each time I see him play.
Thursday night, the Leafs need to come out with a much better effort if they want to quiet the whispers that they’re an inconsistent bunch.
These same Leafs. You know their pride will kick in and they’ll come more prepared Thursday night. The last time Ottawa beat them up on home ice, they did much worse in response. It looks like Ray Emery will get the nod for the Senators. I have no opinion on that one way or another.