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.

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