Montreal 6 Ottawa 3
The first period effort from the Sens. Ottawa was all over the Habs in the first frame. Physically, they were dominant, and were generating far more offensive opportunities than the Canadiens as well as outshooting Montreal by a wide margin (17-7). It looked as if a fire was lite under them as a collective, and the kind of fire that would sustain itself for the full 60 minutes. It didn’t happen, unfortunately, and I think a big reason was because despite being, far and away the superior team, the Sens went into the first intermission tied 1-1, thus deflating them.
Coming back, sorta, in the third period. I must admit, when Lantendresse scored his second goal off the blast from Souray to make it 4-1, I figured, it’s a wrap. If I was there in person I probably would have headed for the exits, just based on the way this season has gone. There was absolutely no reason to think the Sens would claw their way back into this game, yet that’s exactly what they did. They had some assistance from the referees, who put the Habs in the box with some questionable penalties (perhaps making up for all the calls they missed earlier, including the hit from behind on McGratton), however, Ottawa managed to get back into the contest and for a few minutes, with the momentum decidedly on their side, it looked as if they would tie the game 4-4. Then Martin Gerber shit the bed, again.
Denis Hamel. He got a little more ice time than usual (over 9 minutes), including some shifts on the second unit of the powerplay, but there still wasn’t enough Hamel for my liking tonight, especially based on how well he played in the first period, where he went hard to the net with regularity while also finishing every check he could.
Patrick Eaves. Good drive to the net on his goal, Eaves played a great game, but just didn't get much help from those around him. Threw a ton of hits as well. If everyone came to play like Eaves, Ottawa would be 2 points better.
Martin Gerber lets us down again. It’s a shame. It really is. I truly believe the guy is trying, and he looks to be taking this slump hard, however, the bottom line is, nice person or not, an NHL team needs a goalie they can depend on, and right now, the Ottawa Senators don’t have such a thing. Despite his big salary and supposed pedigree, Gerber is not that person. Now, it would be both incorrect and unfair to pin this loss entirely on his shoulders, because he made some strong saves throughout the game to keep Ottawa involved, including a gave-saving glove in the second period that looked to have the potential to rally his troops. Ottawa didn’t lose because of Martin Gerber, however, they do need him to come up with the saves, including ones on soft shots. The Mike Johnson goal to make it 5-3 and essentially ice the Senators’ chances should not be going in on any supposed NHL caliber starting goaltender. Some are claiming it was a deflection but it if so wasn’t significant. It wasn’t as if the puck changed direction drastically.
An inconsistent effort. Again. While the game was 60 minutes, the Senators only came to play for 30 and the result indicates that. As I’ve said time and time again, this team simply isn’t good enough, nor are they getting the lucky bounces that a team firing on all cylinders does, to not work hard for the full game and expect to get the two points. Certainly not against a team that works hard more often than not and is coming off a rather humbling experience in front of the country on Hockey Night In Canada and especially not without their best defenceman Wade Redden. Ottawa’s collapse could be seen coming a mile away. As soon as they didn’t leave the first period up three goals, they started having doubts, and the effort got worse as the game went on. By the mid-way point of the second, Montreal was dictating the pace of the game, outworking Ottawa, beating the Sens to all pucks, and even out muscling the bigger Ottawa team in the corners and in front of the net. That carried over into the third when the Habs were able to net two quick goals to put three goals between themselves and the Sens. Bryan Murray talked about being proud of his players despite the losses they took on this past road trip. That they worked hard. Nothing to be proud of here, coach. Your boys let you down, and I didn't see you doing much to change it.
The big guns not delivering. All three had decent games as far as effort and scoring chances, but Ottawa’s big three up front, Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza had to produce tonight and were unable to do so. People talk about secondary scoring, but what this team needs most, night in and night out, is for these to be factors on the score sheet. I’ve defended Daniel Alfredsson as vehemently as anyone in this city, yet my patience is running thing. There’s only so much effort and no production you can take, and I’m reaching my breaking point. And Dany Heatley’s act is getting REAL old. For a supposed natural goal scorer, he’s sure managed to make not scoring goals look easy.
The Habs should have counted themselves lucky to get out of the first period not down a few goals. Some bad puck luck around the net by Sens skaters as well as good goaltending from Cristobol Huet keep them in the game and they built from that point to take over when Ottawa’s effort fell off a cliff. Montreal got strong games from rookie senation Lantendresse (who didn’t look a bit out of place alongside Koivu and Ryder) as well as, of all people, Radek Bonk, who displayed good chemistry on a line with Alexander Perezhogen. Suddenly the loss of Christopher Higgins doesn't look so crippling.
On the road again. Ottawa leaves town to visit, oh shit, the Buffalo Sabres. You know, the best team in the NHL. Buckle up friends, because this one could get VERY ugly. Either that or the team will get their shit together knowing if they do not the odds of being utterly humiliated are very good. If I was a betting man, and the guy at the local Quickie who sees me stumble into his store every Sunday at 12:50 knows I most certainly am such, I'd wager that the Sabres make the Sens look quite foolish.
The city of Ottawa went to the polls tonight and made it clear they want a change. A fatcat politician was booted out in favor of someone who, hopefully, has new ideas and new vision. I can’t help but think that if such an election was held amongst the fanbase of this team, there wouldn’t be a single person within the organization left standing, from the President to the kid who rips tickets.
We’re now 17 games into the season. How long before the mentality that the team will right it’s own ship, that things will turn around on their own, is thrown out the window? In a conference as tight as the Eastern Conference, Ottawa cannot afford to fall too far behind early because we’ve seen what happens when a team has to dig themselves out for a big hole. 20 games just may be the magic number and with the next three contests against Buffalo, New Jersey, and Buffalo, John Muckler and Bryan Murray might consider it wise to call a real estate agent because they don't look to be long for this city.