Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Don't care about the olympics -- back in March, unless Mr. Bettman does something (else) stupid.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sens Win Wild One

Man that Washington game was wild, wasn't it?

Washington reminds me a lot of the "good old days" where the Senators were a run-and-gun team. Sure, the defense was porous and the goaltending inconsistent most of the time, but it didn't matter because the Senators were rolling lines that could put pucks in the opposition's net faster than they could put pucks in the Senators'. A team like that only has two modes: full-on attack, and tired-out-from-full-on attack. And both modes showed last night. The problem is that while this works in the regular season, over a playoff series your opposition is going to figure out how to shut down your main producers enough so that you can't keep it up. The Senators showed that how many times?

About the game itself, a few comments:
  • The officiating was pretty bad at times, with a missed call in the second leading directly to a Washington goal. But I guess that's the way the league wants it.
  • Good on Alfredsson, Fisher and Kelly to keep Ovechkin blanked on the night. This is a really good shut-down line, one I hope we see rolled again in future. The only problem is that our three guys might see lower production numbers because they are playing this kind of role.
  • Spezza's opening goal: nice to see poor defensive coverage working for us instead of against us for a change.
  • Hat tip to Semin for his hat-trick in a losing cause. He has a seeing-eye shot through crowds, and I don't think Elliot was to blame on any of them.
  • Beautifully ugly goal for Neil in the second to pull the Senators back square. And calling for the review? Never should have happened -- it was in, baby. No doubt.
  • The Senators did well in the dying moments to keep the win in their pocket. Washington never really looked like they had it together.
Whee, that was fun!

Cheechoo train, now with service to Bingington

SenSay on Cheechoo being waived:
I respect the hell out of Cheechoo, and would be the first in line to support him in regaining his NHL form, but business is business, and if you want to cash big cheques, you can’t blame the one writing them for expecting you to earn it too.
Cheechoo is a guy I wanted to like. For all my too-hell-with-him about Dany Heatley, he was an asset and you want to see some kind of return on losing that kind of talent. Michalek has potential, but Cheechoo was widely seen as nothing more than a blatant salary dump.

Sort of like having us give up an asset and take out San Jose's trash at the same time.

I liked Cheechoo's effort on the ice. He was always willing to... well, "rush" is the wrong word... up or down the ice chasing the puck. He was always willing to get into the corners and grind for the puck. He was always willing to helplessly flip the puck into the goalie's pads take that shot.

The problem was, the results were not there. For all the effort, he was a step late and a step slow. He didn't win his share of battles in the corners. And most of the shots he took got flipped into the goalie's pads.

Unfortunately this isn't grade school where "effort" is what wins. This is a big dollar business where results are what wins. Cheechoo's lack of results saw him slide down the lines until he was only doing five or six minutes of ice time a night. And reduced ice time does very little to give you the chance to improve matters.

I thought putting Cheechoo up with Spezza and Michalek was a good move. Spezza and Michalek are going to draw the defense coverage because... well, come on. Of course they are going to draw the defensive coverage. This opened up ice time and space for Cheechoo, and I thought that was rewarded with more shots on the net and more generally quality chances. Had the team stuck with this for a while I think some results might have come, albeit at the cost of Spezza and Michalek's lower production.

Today's move is a cap-space clearing exercise, one which means that Murray has something in the hopper that requires more space. Therefore there will probably be some other move happening tomorrow. Otherwise, why bother doing this now? While Cheechoo was playing, it showcased what he could do to potential trade partners. Burying him in the AHL distinctly lowers his already low trade value.

This is a first for me -- a hockey trade where I am genuinely sorry that it didn't work out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sens Beat Another Dominator

OK -- my number one comment for this game is where the hell are the refs at the end of the second? Stajan piles into Kelly just off the boards and both refs stand there with their thumbs up their asses. Letting a dangerous hit like that go uncalled is why the players feel justified in piling on each other. And what happens? Players pile on each other. Call the damn rules, OK? That's your job. If you don't call the rules, then it doesn't matter what rules you make because if the refs ignore them, the players will ignore them, and we'll be back to the league's Random Wheel of Consequences.

OK. Enough of such drivel.

Tonight's win is the first time Ottawa has beat Calgary since some time in 2004. Now this is distorted by the lockout and the fact that east and west just don't play each other very often in this new-look NHL, but Calgary has owned Ottawa pretty consistently.

It was turnover-city for most of the early-going. The color-commentator said that the NHL recorded 14 turnovers in the first period, and by his count they had missed 3 or 4. Most of those had been Ottawa turnovers, but fortunately Calgary didn't capitalize too often.

500-game-man Jonathan Cheechoo had a good game tonight, lots of quality chances, some he just didn't put away. Cheechoo is one of those guys I want to like. He always seems to be putting in the effort, even if it comes up half a step late or half a step slow, which is why he comes up short in the results as well. He's aggressive on the forecheck, and isn't afraid to grind in the corners. Tonight's effort was rewarded when his pass to Michalek banked off a Calgary skate to give Spezza an opportunity he didn't miss, one of those bounces that go in rather than one that doesn't. If he keeps getting chances like this, the goals will come.

So right now I am undecided as to whether Cheechoo stepped up his game for his pairing with Spezza and Michalek, or whather Spezza and Michalek flattered Cheechoo's effort. Probably a little of column A, and a little from column B. Hopefully for him this line will stay together, and hopefully for all of us his game will continue to rise.

Next up: Washington comes to town on Thursday. Buckle up, boys, we probably won't win this one. But here's hoping the team brings their A-game so we can see how this team stacks up to one of the best in the East right now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sometimes You're The Puppy

Let's get the honest stuff out first: the Leafs were the better team out there tonight. They won the battles for loose pucks, they didn't make stupid errors in their own end, they capitalized on the Senators' mistakes, they kept the shooting lanes full in front of their goalie and limited the number of truly great saves he had to make.

Other thoughts:
  • Toronto's acquisition of a goalie equips them nicely to drag themselves just out of contention rather than sinking to, and bouncing off of, the bottom of the standings. This is in Ottawa's interest so that Boston ends up with a smaller chance of drawing a franchise player in the entry draft with Toronto's pick. Yes, we are in a position of wanting Toronto to win (more) so that Boston doesn't get any better. That's hockey for you.
  • I don't blame either Elliot or LeClaire for either of Schenn's goals. Neither one of them should have ever got that far. However, I expect a chorus of disdain for "momentum-sapping soft goals" from the bloggosphere, when the real culprit is a failure to control the offensive blue line properly, coughing up a bad rush.
  • Similarly, the first goal, poked in by the Ottawa player, was a bad bounce. It set the tone for the game, where Toronto got the bounces and Ottawa didn't. Fine; in the grand scheme of things it all evens out, and I am sure that Ottawa benefited from their fair share of good bounces through the previous eleven games.
  • But take the two Schenn goals and the first goal off the scoreboard, and Ottawa still got owned 2-0 tonight.
  • So with the almost comically bad defense that Ottawa played tonight, I guess the reaction has to be Wow, maybe Karlsson really is that good.
  • Toronto had a surprising amount of jump for a team that had played, and lost, and traveled, the night before. I guess winning the game does that for you.
  • Someone explain to me again why Carkner and Orr going at it like that was a good thing. Ottawa was only down by one at that point, and was pressing Toronto pretty good -- had anything gone in at that point, it would have swung the momentum far better than monkey bashing would have (even if the "correct" monkey got bashed from Ottawa's point of view). Dumb. But shows what I know.
  • The slashing call on Kovalev was lazy-assed officiating. But the hooking and slashing that Kovalev was doing was lazy-assed hockey, so that's karma for you. Ottawa benefited from the lazy-assed officiating with the Orr penalty for cross-checking, so it all more or less evens out. As you would expect. For the most part the officials stayed consistently out of it.
  • I'm really tired of listening to the ACC crowd booing Alfredsson. It makes me think of Scotiabank Place booing Chara. At least the Toronto fans have reason to be aggrieved with Alfredsson -- but it still comes across as a bunch of ignorant hicks. Unfortunately the only way to shut up the ACC crowd is to beat their team on the ice, and Ottawa couldn't do that tonight.
Next up is Calgary visiting Scotiabank Place. I'm 0-2 with my last two predictions, so I'll pick Calgary to win, and I promise to only watch the third period (since whenever I do that, Ottawa wins). But realistically the game is one of those games which is too close to call ahead of time. Calgary has fewer points than Ottawa does, but does so in a stronger conference; but on the other hand, they are travelling.

The real test will be how the team faces this setback. And this week never looked good for Ottawa. The opponents we get between now and the Olympic break? After Calgary, there's Washington, Detroit, and the New York Islanders. Of those, only the Islanders can be considered close to a gimmie -- but how many of us assumed Toronto would be a gimmie?

Let's hope Karlsson isn't really that important to the defense.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Apparently I'm late with the Spinal Tap jokes

...but these guys go to eleven. So they're better.

So as per usual, I tune in for the third. And as per usual, I was totally wrong about my prediction: the Senators were up 2-0 against Vancouver. Un. Friggin'. Believable.

My take-away from the game: do they shoot Vancouver games with a different film speed? Because holy crap are these guys fast. All four lines. Zip, zoom, zapow. The Senators were working hard to keep up, and kept the energy up going the other way too -- the third featured some real end-to-end action.

Too bad about Karlsson getting injured, but as has been pointed out elsewhere getting hurt now means he has two extra weeks to get healthy again through the Olympic break. Karlsson is really blossoming as a player, and I think a lot of commentators (me included) feel a bit sheepish for underrating him at the beginning of the season. He did his time in the AHL, where he did very well. However I don't think many people expected his absence to be a net negative to the team this soon in his career...

Nice to see Spezza continue his scoring streak, and nice to see Alfredsson continue to see returns on his constant hard work.

Fabulous to see, and the win makes it all the more sweeter.

Next up: the Leafs. Fresh from blowing a two-point lead in New Jersey, they will be at home and they will be mad. And tired from the travel, so really it's all good. This one will be very winnable for the Senators.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ten In A Row

I think this is worth preserving: the standings line for the Senators on 4 February 2010, including the perfect last-10 number. The current run is a franchise record.

It is weird how this year is almost winding down. I got an email today advising me that there are only 10 more home games this year including tonight. Now I know that the Olympics and the resulting diddling in the schedule is what brings us to this point, but it still seems early to me.

Personally I expect Vancouver to beat the Senators tonight. In general the west fields better teams, even if they coughed up a two goal lead to Toronto and then followed that up by losing to Montreal. Vancouver's numbers show them as having the Senator's kind of results, but in a tougher conference. Not to say that this game isn't winnable -- I just don't expect the Senators to win it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clean Hit

TSN's Bob McKenzie on hitting in hockey:
The truth is if we actually fear "taking hitting out of the game" we wouldn't allow a player to start a fight over a perfectly clean hit in a game that is suppose to encourage body contact. Unless, of course, the desire for fighting in hockey trumps bodychecking.
This is what I've been on about. Fighting is allegedly a way for the players to police themselves for bad actions on the ice by others. However the recent trend is for monkey-bashing to happen after a perfectly clean hit. Ottawa is not immune to this -- witness Michalek jumping on Pittsburgh's Craig Adams after the hit that injured Alfredsson in December 2009. It was a clean hit, and Alfredsson later admitted he'd got himself out of position a bit so that the hit hurt more than it should have.

So -- clean hit == monkey bashing?

Not to mention the baying for blood when the Senators re-played Pittsburgh later. It was just stupid. Of course Ottawa didn't indulge in such stupidity, and won the game instead. Winning is much better revenge.

Defending fighting on the grounds that the officiating is bad is defensible, although I would much rather see proposals or efforts to fix the officiating instead.

Defending fighting as a means to intimidate other teams and players is just stupid.