Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coyotes recap/Panthers thoughts

Maybe the idea of 'tough love' isn't as efficient as it's suggested to be.

After a few days of the media focusing on Clouston's new "good cop" routine in practice, (as opposed to the bag skates and screaming of the few practices beforehand) the Senators came out and played their best game of the season Tuesday night against the Coyotes. Kovalev looked inspired, Campoli and Karlsson were at their play-making best, Alfredsson was showing shades of his 2005-06 self, Elliott didn't let in any deflating goals, and the 3rd and 4th lines provided energy every time they hit the ice -- in a nutshell, nearly everything that was going wrong seemed to right itself. Hell, even the powerplay was strong.

It's important to keep in mind, first of all, that the Coyotes played 3 games in 4 nights. Weak excuse, maybe. But there's no denying that they looked sloppy in the first period and only appeared to get going in the second. Secondly, take back the weak goals Jason LaBarbera let in by Kelly and Kovalev and it's a whole new game. And thirdly, while it'd be amazing to say that the team has turned a corner and are back to our usual selves, it's just one game. You can't make the playoffs by just winning one game. Unless it's the last game of the year and you're tied for 8th... but I digress.

Tonight's game against the Panthers should be a much better test for the team. Florida, coming off a controversial 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in which the game winner came as goaltender Tomas Vokoun was essentially being assaulted in his own crease, will be fighting hard to avenge this loss.

A few key points to consider:
  • Milan Michalek has missed the past two practices and will play, despite his knee not being 100%.
  • There's a huge difference in penalty minutes between the two teams: Ottawa has five players (Neil, Ruutu, Carkner, Fisher, Michalek) with more penalty minutes than Florida's PIM leader (Wideman)
  • Ottawa won the last matchup between these teams by a score of 5-2.

It should be a good game if the same team as Tuesday shows up tonight. The game's on at 7:00 p.m. on Sportsnet Ottawa.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I'm going to take a page out of The 6th Sens book and recap this game with a haiku.

Daniel Alfredsson
The man, the myth, the legend
Nothing more to say.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disaster Strikes

Amazingly, still better than his play last year.

Frustrating. Aggravating. Irritating. Pathetic. Hopeless.

Pick any three, and that pretty accurately describes what it was like to watch the Senators get spanked by the Penguins last night. Sure, 5-2 doesn’t look HORRIBLE, but don’t let the score fool you—they really, really were that bad. If you didn’t see this game, consider yourself lucky. The entire 60 minutes of play was a frustrating combination of no firepower, even less defense and a general inability to stop even a feather, let alone a Penguin, from getting into the offensive zone.

About the only highlight worth mentioning is that Robin Lehner, wunderkind extraordinaire who came in halfway through the second to replace Elliott, still hasn’t let in a goal at the NHL level and leads the league in save percentage and GAA. You know you’re reaching for a silver lining when your subject hasn’t even played in a full game yet…

Flat-footed, uninspired, effortless games like those seem to be the norm so far, this season. Brian Lee, for one, seemed way more useless than usual. It’s still too early to write the team off for the year, but they need some wins and they need them fast. Of their next three games, (Buffalo on Friday, Montreal on Saturday, Phoenix on Tuesday) our best chance to win looks like Buffalo. The team having Tuesday through Thursday off will undoubtedly be dedicated to bag skates, intensive workouts and a lot of yelling from Cory Clouston. And for all we know, this might help. It definitely can’t hurt, anyways.
It’s the lean days like these where you can really separate the true Sens fans from the bandwagoners, but goddamn do I miss the days where it was easy to be a supporter. The days where we had secondary scoring… hell, the days when we had primary scoring. The days when our defense was the class of the league. The days where our goaltending sucked a bit less. But what about the days when players still gave a shit? Because I’m not seeing any of that so far this season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Musings on Squandered Opportunity

If only things worked out the way they look on paper...

My apologies for the lack of recaps. With mid-term session in full swing, it's been hard to find a moment to sit down and blog.

That said, there's been an abundance of time to watch the Sens play, and there's no doubt in my mind, or anyone's, really, that this is a team that needs a lot of work. On paper, this roster should not be 1-3-1. Theoretically, we should've been able to beat Buffalo in the season opener. Practically, we probably should have beaten Washington instead of getting a charity point. Factually, we DEFINITELY should have beaten Montreal on the weekend, and would have if not for the typically deflating bad goal by Brian Elliott, combined with a total team collapse in the late 2nd/3rd period.

Is it the coaching? Logic would say no. Clouston's been solid behind the bench for us since he was hired in early 2009. He turned around the fortunes of a then-horrible team and hasn't looked back. Can it be blamed on the 3rd and 4th liners? Hardly. The Ruutu-Kelly-Neil line has been mostly dominant, while players like Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon have been solid on the puck.

No, the real blame should be placed on the first liners and the defence. Apart from Milan Michalek's 3-point game against the Canadiens and Mike Fisher's 2-pointer against Carolina, they've been virtually invisible. None of Nick Foligno's success in the pre-season is translating to the regular season. (Brandon Bochenski, anyone?) Peter Regin's great two-way play in the playoffs has returned to the way it was before--reliable defensively, but not putting up many points. Alexei Kovalev has been his usual self, vanishing off the face of the Earth for the first five games. Jason Spezza, although contributing at a point per game average, hasn't done anything to really spark the time. And Daniel Alfredsson, Lord and Saviour though he may be, is beginning to show that he can't make plays single-handedly like he used to.

The defence, meanwhile, has been a clusterfuck, to say the least. It speaks volumes to the atrocity of our defense when people are singing the praises of Brian Lee (that said, his play has improved this year). Chris Phillips is looking flat-footed, Sergei Gonchar is providing none of the firepower he was signed for, Matt Carkner has shown that he can't handle top-4 duty, Chris Campoli has been mediocre and Erik Karlsson is suffering from the "sophomore slump" something fierce.

The only constant on this team, Pascal Leclaire, may as well be a porcelain vase--hell, I'm sure even it would break less. Look for Pazzy to try and rush himself back. On a contract year immediately following a bad year statistically, Leclaire's got something to prove if he wants to stay in the NHL.

The Senators are in Pittsburgh tonight to face the Penguins, who have only won one game (vs the New York Islanders) at their new arena. Ottawa should have a good chance at winning this one... but then again, if things happened as they "should", Ottawa wouldn't be a 1-3-1 team and Toronto sure as shit wouldn't be undefeated. Pittsburgh has Brent Johnson in nets, while the Sens are going with Elliott. Should be entertaining if for no other reason than the growing rivalry between the two teams. The game will be on Sportsnet at 7pm.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Memo to the Senators

Did you get the memo?

To: Ottawa Senators
From: Lewy
Date: October 10th, 2010
Re: Shellacking by the Leafs

At this point it's painfully obvious that no one got the first memo I sent around except Leclaire and Foligno, so here's the upshot of it: THE SEASON HAS STARTED. Though, Nick, any time you want to pretend it's the preseason again is fine with me.

After being two games in, usually a fanbase has a sense of direction as to how the season's going to go--Cup contender? Dark horse? Sneaking in the backdoor of the playoffs? In line for a top draft pick? If the first two games have shown anything at all, you should probably be brought to a shed out back and be put down. No effort. No heart. Two goals, both scored pretty much the same way. 0/9 on the powerplay despite bringing in powerplay specialist Sergei Gonchar. And if it weren't for another great game by Snoopy, you would have lost by a wider margin than four goals. Against the Leafs.

I'll let that sink in.

The fans are starting to panic, and rightly so. A one-goal loss would've been acceptable if there had been any real sense of trying. A four-goal loss is pretty much always unacceptable, but last night's was made all the worse by bad skating, sloppy passes and some of the worst penalties I've ever seen a team of "professionals" take. Zack Smith's boarding on Schenn in the first, right after theteam showed their first signs of being awake? Terrible timing. Chris Kelly's holding the stick after being knocked down? Nearly as selfish as Fisher's penalty against the Rangers in the preseason. And, to top it all off, Kelly's penalty (along with a smart penalty by Gonchar) led to the 4-0 goal.

And the goal to make it 5-1? Good for you, Spezza, for not celebrating much. For one, the game was already over. Two, it was a lucky bounce on a bungled icing call. Thirdly, that pass was so perfect even Jesse freaking Winchester could've scored it.

Pull your heads out of your asses and show up for Monday's game against Washington, because the last team to have an 0-3 start was the Toronto Maple Leafs from last year, and we all know how well that season ended.

So, get it together, already.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

One game down, eighty-one to go in the regular season. Though the 2-1 final score seems to indicate a close game, the Senators were outplayed for a large part of it, including most of the second period--oddly, the only period in which they picked up a goal.

If Ryan Miller weren't Superman, we might have a different game recap here. In the span of the first few minutes, Ottawa forwards were buzzing around the Buffalo end while the Sabres defensemen looked stymied. Crisp passes and great scoring chances were there, but Miller shut down each and every one, and the Sabres never looked back from then on. They dominated most of the game except for the last bit of the 3rd period, in which the Sens had two powerplays and a pulled goalie but couldn't score the equalizer--this despite a great chance by Alfredsson at the side of the net and another where Leopold got a stick on the puck before Regin could.

The story of the game for the Sens though, of course, has got to be Leclaire's game. As a self-admitted Leclaire apologist, I was beyond happy for Snoopy, who seemed to be getting nothing but flak last year (most of which was rightly deserved, mind you). He made a few great saves, including a couple where Connolly was essentially pushing Leclaire out of his crease. As the always astute Ryan Classic (editor at Silver Seven Sens) pointed out on Twitter:

"Pascal Leclaire is the pitcher who gets no run support, no matter how well or poorly he plays."

And really, if you think about it, there's a lot of truth to that analogy. The offense rarely shows up when he's lights-out, and when he flops completely, there's not much the offense can do to salvage the situation. A strong defensive team seems like the best place for Leclaire, but... uh, have you seen our defense? Then again, having a point-per-game player in Jason Spezza sitting out tonight's game didn't help the offensive production, either.

But for all the above, there's one really important thing to remember: it's only one game. There's no way we can safely assume that this one game is a microcosm of our season. Otherwise, Chris Kelly would be an 82-goal scorer and Daniel Alfredsson would be held scoreless all year long. Likely? No. So there's no point getting irrationally upset or torn up about tonight's loss.

If we lose to Toronto tomorrow night, though? Whole other issue.