Ottawa 4 NY Islanders 2
Jason Spezza & Dany Heatley. Sometimes the offensive stats aren’t a fair reflection of who was the best player in a hockey game. This wasn’t one of those instances. Heatley and Spezza combined for five points (Heatley two goals, Spezza goal and two assists) and were head and shoulders above every other skaters with one possible exception on the other side. Spezza was flying out there, and it sure seemed as if every time he and Heatley hit the ice something was produced, even if it was just chances. These two are back in the groove that lifted them atop the league’s scoring race in the first half of last season. Heatley’s finish is scary good and Spezza is not only making plays but is also a legitimate threat to score now as well. Teams have to respect the way he’s firing the puck, and when they do that, it opens up more room for the rest of his linemates. With more natural playmakers, you don’t have to play the shot because the logic is, he’s going to dish it. But Spezza has scored enough blasts so far this season that he can no longer be looked at as a one dimensional offensive player. I feel bad for Chris Kelly, having to keep up with these two the way they’re rolling right now. He must feel like the fat friend that rolls with the two 10s Saturday night at the bar. His role is important, but at the end of the day, no one cares about him, try as he might.
Peter Schaefer on the PK. The penalty killers in general were quite good, but Schaefer deserves special mention. Great at winning battles for loose pucks, very strong with the puck on his stick, and was the reason the Isles spent significant time in their own end with the man up.
Martin Gerber. When the Islanders turned it on into the second and third, Gerber stood tall and answered the call every time. I think I’m past the point where when a shot is fired on him I hold my breath. He always looks to be sound positionally and isn’t giving up those juicy rebounds that were commonplace when he was in the midst of that awful slump. Now, when he’s handling the puck, that’s a different story.
Andrej Meszaros. I think we can officially say the sophmore slump is gone and not returning. Meszaros is playing his ass off right now. Blocking shots both on the PK and even strength, real strong on the point on the PP, is carrying the puck with a ton of confidence, and playing the body consistently.
Daniel Alfredsson, goal scorer. He left the game with what looked like a nasty foot sprain. The only word we’ve got as of this writing is that it’s a lower body injury. No shit. But up to that point, he couldn’t buy a goal if it was being sold 2 for 1 for a nickel. He missed the net three times, two of which were prime scoring chances, and in the first period had the net W I D E open with Mike Dunham down and out, and he fired the puck right into his pads.
After the first 20 minutes, I thought to myself, these are those shiny new Islanders I’ve been hearing so much about? I thought maybe my TV was broken, and the 2006 Sens were playing the Isles of 10 years ago. They were awful. The only reason it wasn’t 5-0 after the first was because of Dunham, who stood on his head, which has apparently happened more than once this season. While Rick DiPietro has the big contract, Dunham has supposedly been the superior goalie. Is there a goaltending controversy on Long Island?
I assume something was said by Ted Nolan after the first because a different team emerged, and they made a game of it. It was pretty clear Ottawa was the better, more talented club, but at least the Islanders gave a good honest effort. Some shined brighter than others. Jason Blake may be the most underrated player in the NHL. If he was on a line with some guys who could finish, his numbers would be through the roof. His speed and tenacity make him one of the most dangerous players currently in the game, but there isn’t much for him to work with, especially with Yashin out.
I also liked the games of Mike Sillinger and MSG Goat Tom Poti. Poti has been driven out of two NHL cities yet he was their best d-man on the night, in both ends. Yes Rangers fans, you read that right. Tom Poti was good defensively.
No rest as they travel to D.C. and face the Caps. This one will be interesting. The last time these teams faced off, a month ago to the day, it was one of the lowest lowpoints for a team that had been experiencing a ton of them. I warned that the Sens could not take Washington lightly because while they may not be the most talented club in the league they don’t give up and with A.O. in the line-up can turn a game around in a heart beat.
What happened? Ottawa got up big early (and either were or were not rubbing it in, depending on who you believe), took their foot off the pedal, got sloppy, and Washington clawed their way back into the game, eventually winning it in OT.
A lot has changed in a month. This really does seem like a different team. Not only will there be a different goalie in between the pipes (I assume) but the big guns are performing in a major way. But if Ottawa is their worst enemy, again, the result will be the same.