Friday, February 8, 2008

Sens Stop The Bleeding

It was sloppy, but the Ottawa Senators managed to snap out of a disturbing funk to beat the middling Florida Panthers 5-4 last night in Kanata.

Everyone is celebrating the fact that Dany Heatley roared back from a separated shoulder and got 3 points but the win had as much to do with the Senators finally getting some clutch saves late in a game from Ray Emery.

The beleaguered goalie had a strong first period (after getting booed by the fans when he was announced as the starter prior to the puck drop), a shabby second but finished strong with a game saving stop in the last minute. For once, Emery looked confident and concentrated, clearing rebounds and staying in position. He let in four goals but, as Don Brennan noted in today’s Ottawa Sun, don’t let that fool you. “Emery was solid.”

Unfortunately, the defence again looked porous and soft, especially Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros. Redden coughed up the puck at the start of the first period right into the slot but Emery made the save. Senators colour commentator Gord Wilson was raving about Redden’s game but I’m not sure what kind of Kool-Aid Gordie was drinking. At least twice Redden bobbled pucks at the Panthers blueline forcing the team to skate back onside and looked like he has zero confidence. He can still contribute on offense but at this point, even Joe Corvo looks better in his own end.

Jason Spezza looked like his old self now that he has Heatley to pass to and played a hell of a game.

As big a relief as this game was to Senators fans, the team is nowhere near the juggernaut that they should be.

One theory might be that because John Paddock depended on his first line so much through the first half of the season, the rest of the forwards didn’t have as much responsibility as last year and found it hard to crank up their games when they were finally given a chance to play important minutes. I’m talking about the likes of Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond who still haven’t regained their form. These are important players who must be better for the Senators to contend and so far, Paddock hasn’t managed to light a fire under them.

Brian McGrattan is finally getting some minutes from Paddock and is probably playing the best hockey of his life right now. He is a tenacious forechecker and surprisingly nimble and defensively aware (if you can call a freight train nimble). He might have made the defensive play of the game when he raced back and lifted the stick and stole the puck from a Florida player who was breaking into the Ottawa zone. Here’s hoping Paddock can realize that McGrattan can serve a role on the fourth line. You don’t see the Anaheim Ducks sitting George Parros for ten games in a row and they manage to win here and there. They even win Stanley Cups.

Who knew?

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