Monday, March 24, 2008

Comeback Falls Short ... So Does Ottawa Goaltending

The Senators get blown out after two periods by the Canadiens one night, but get a chance to redeem themselves against the Sabres the next.

That's an opportunity the Senators must make good on as they fly out of Montreal and land in the Queen City. There's a positive in there as well due to a belated comeback that fell short in the third period against a high flying Montreal team that is looking like a true contender down the stretch (There's no truth to the rumour that I picked them to miss the playoffs....ahem...).

Martin Gerber played badly but Ray Emery was no better when he came in at the start of the second period. Granted he made some big saves early on but his rust started to show after sitting 11 straight games. If Gerber continues to falter, Emery's banishment to the bench for such a long period might be construed as a mistake by Bryan Murray. But it's hard to blame him for trying to instill some stability to the team with Gerber in goal.

More and more, it's looking like the defense core might have to be overhauled during the summer with the only safe players being Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and the young Andre Meszaros. Wade Redden hurt himself against Montreal but he has largely been ineffective on both offense and defense anyways. Somewhere along the way, Redden lost his confidence and that decision by John Muckler to let Zdeno Chara walk just looks worse after every game Redden struggles through.

Yet Ottawa fans shouldn't completely write off the team just yet. The Senators look tired physically and mentally right now but once the playoffs start, a new infusion of energy will happen and they will at least be focused, even if they lack the stamina for a long playoff run.

If they can clinch a playoff spot, the first thing Bryan Murray should do is shut down Daniel Alfredsson for a few games to get him some rest. Alfie just isn't the same player he was the first half of the season. Perhaps it's a lingering hip problem.

My bet is it's mental and physical fatigue.

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