Sunday, October 19, 2008
Losing the second game of a back-to-back is not really unexpected, and the Senators fell to the Boston Bruins in a frustrating game against the tight-checking Bruins last night. There is certainly no reason to panic at the Senators respectable 2-2-1 record but there are certain trends which can now be reasonably commented upon after the first 5 games.
1. The good news is that the penalty kill remains strong, ranking 6th in the NHL. The Senators have only taken 23 minor penalties, the 9th least in the NHL. The part that really gets strange is that they have 0 major penalties. They are only one of four teams not to have at least one scrap so far this year (Detroit, St.Louis and Carolina are the others). Chris Neil might need to drop the gloves soon because he doesn't have anything going for him on scoreboard either (0 points, minus 4).
2. Although it might be hard news for fans to comprehend, the simple fact is that the team is simply just not as good as in the past, especially on defense and in goal. When you lose a ton of skill players in such a short time, that should come as no surprise.
Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Andrej Meszaros, Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing are gone from the blueline since the lockout and that is almost too incredible to believe. Their replacements in guys like Filip Kuba, Alex Picard, Jason Smith and Brian Lee just don't provide the same level of skill (although Kuba deserves credit for an impressive 7 points). The Senators need to get a defenseman who can run the power-play or they simply won't contend.
Martin Gerber again let in the first shot he saw and went on to play his usual mediocre game, allowing 4 goals which ballooned his GAA to 3.46 (32nd in the league) and lowered his save percentage to .896 (19th in the league). Obviously that's not going to cut it and there's doubt that he can improve on those numbers. Alex Auld is still a mystery because Craig Hartsburg seems determined, like John Paddock and Bryan Murray before him, to force Gerber into a number one role, whether he deserves it or not. In fact, Gerber must be luckiest guy in the world to have so many successive coaches believe in him despite his performance. It's quite the meal-ticket he has.
3. Thank the heavens for Nick Foligno because all that secondary scoring expected from Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette is simply not there right now. Fisher is pointless in 3 games but is at least his usual physical presence on the forecheck.
But what's up with Vermie?
Here's a game log of Antoine Vermette's very ordinary season so far:
Game 1 vs Pittsburgh
Ice time: 22:44, Shots: 3, Points:0, +/-: -1
Game 2 vs Pittsburgh
Ice time: 19:03, Shots: 4, Points:1, +/-: +1
Game 3 vs Detroit
Ice time: 16:26, Shots: 4, Points:0, +/-: Even
Game 4 vs Phoenix
Ice time: 19:12, Shots: 3, Points:0, +/-: -1
Game 5 vs Boston
Ice time: 14:55, Shots: 1, Points:0, +/-: -1
He needs to rebound quickly before the trade rumours start up again.
Maybe Christoph Schubert's ticket back into the lineup will come as a defenseman after all. Brian Lee does not look good so far this year. In fact, last night against Boston, Lee was clearly out of his league and might benefit from some more time in the minors where he can rebuild the confidence that he displayed at the tail end of last year. Hartsburg is clearly trying to protect him right now by doling out some very limited ice time to the youngster (13 minutes on average, well below the next lowest defenseman in Picard who is getting around 17 minutes).
Strangely, the player with the least amount of average ice time on the team is tied for fifth in scoring.
Who's that player?
Shean Donovan, with 3 points in 5 games.