Thursday, October 30, 2008
It was a good day for Bryan Murray.
The Shawville native has taken some heat early in the season for moves he didn't make this summer, but a huge signing today and two in July have certainly quieted his critics for now.
With the hard-fought win over Florida, the Senators are now only one win away in Tampa on Saturday from being back to .500. And just a week ago, that idea seemed almost preposterous.
And a lot of credit should go to two individuals - Craig Hartsburg and Alex Auld.
Hartsburg has the Senators playing in ways they haven't even attempted since the Jacques Martin era.
For at least two games now, they are playing with a rock solid structure to their game. Their play in their own end is night and day from early October and the forwards are committed to the system which allows for heavy forechecking and a defensive 2-2-1 setup when it's needed.
What you're seeing is a total buy-in from the players to Hartsburg's coaching. From the first line to the last, the Senators are grinding it out no matter what the circumstance in the game.
And they're getting some much needed help from Alex Auld who seems to have already won the number one position after only four games. Some would say that's presumptuous but isn't it pretty damn obvious? The confidence starts in his net and you can see it spreading throughout the team after all those gun-shy years with Martin Gerber at the helm.
Both Auld and Hartsburg were Murray signings and he deserves some credit for taking a chance on a junior coach who once failed miserably in the NHL and a journeyman goalie who has had glimmers of excellence when given the opportunity.
Getting Daniel Alfredsson signed today is another big achievement for Murray after locking up the likes of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley to long-term deals.
Now two games doesn't win you Stanley Cups but two games can go a long way to restoring confidence in a team and the short-term trend is certainly encouraging for the organization going forward.
Now, Murray, how about that puck moving defenseman?
It was probably a sign the Senators weren't anticipating having to hold a press conference in Florida when you see two white numberless jerseys (from the extra supply teams travel with) hanging on wire hangers behind the podium as a backdrop.
Wire hangers? It looked like they were holding the conference in a Salvation Army if you didn't know better. I thought they would be toting around that familiar blue backdrop they use back in Kanata for these things, especially with talks ongoing. It was strange to see two multi-millionaires in Melnyk and Alfredsson standing in front of a couple of wire hangers.
Why do I keep saying wire hangers? Because it gets me a chance to show a clip from the epically awful Mommie Dearest, the movie that made wire hangers a part of bad cinema history.
NO WIRE HANGERS .... EVER!!!!
What's with the moustache on Alex Picard anyways? It's not that it's a bad idea but when you go 'stache, you better go all out or just shave it off. Picard's stache is a little like his play on the ice - timid but with potential.
David Booth of the Panthers tried to shave it off with his stick in the third period but got two minutes for his troubles. The stache was unharmed.
A lot of people don't like the instigator rule and it's pointed out as a reason that vicious head shots are so prevalent in the NHL. The theory goes that players aren't afraid of the consequences so they hit whomever and however they please.
Except the penalty for instigating a fight is actually just two minutes. If a player feels he needs to make a statement and pound someone for a transgression against one of his teammates, he should just do it. And the team, including the coach, should be more than happy to kill off the two minutes. That's what you call a "good penalty".
Of course there are more severe penalties depending on the situation (see NHL rule 47) and how many times you do it in one game or the season. But if you keep it to less than 3 times in a season, that's a lot of instigator penalties you can burn throughout the year spread across different members of your team while basically just having to kill off a measly two minute power-play.
Old-school justice can still be meted out in the modern NHL. You just have to pick your moments to do it.
Speaking of old-school, Chris Neil had another great game on that line with Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu. The black eye and the missing front teeth are about as old-school as you can get.