Saturday, November 14, 2009
Rangers 2 Ottawa 1 (SO)
That's why they call him the "King".
Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers single handedly shutdown the Senators on Saturday afternoon, stopping 35 of 36 shots, including 16 in the second period.
Lundqvist got some competition from Brian Elliott who had a really solid game in the nets in relief of a struggling Pascal Leclaire but he was unable to stop the opposition in the shootout, which has been the case with every Senators goalie since format was introduced.
There was not much for the Senators to hang their head about. In what was a very tight and competitive game, Ottawa gave it everything they had but went 0 for 5 on the powerplay and even gave up a shorthanded goal to ex-Senator Vaclav Prospal.
Shean Donovan got called back into the lineup in place of healthy scratch Ryan Shannon and managed to be on the ice for the Senators only goal, scored by Brian Lee. Hopefully Cory Clouston gets the hint and keeps Donovan in the lineup for good. The intangibles and hustle Donovan brings are almost becoming a cliche by now and he seems to make that fourth line complete along with Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Kelly.
Senators who had strong games were the aforementioned Ruutu, Lee, Chris Neil and Filip Kuba. While Alex Picard and Chris Campoli continue to bring almost nothing to the table game after game, Lee seems to be improving and looks more assertive out there than during training camp when he was surprisingly cut.
Clouston still seems to believe in Picard as the smallish error-prone defenseman was given 22 minutes of ice time, behind only Chris Phillips and Kuba. The previous game against Philly, Picard led the team in ice time... and errors.
Some have suggested that Clouston is playing Picard so much as a way to showcase him for a possible trade by Bryan Murray.
I don't buy it. Why would Clouston intentionally hurt his team's chances of winning that way? He seems like a hard-headed, no-nonsense type of character and that scenario just doesn't fit.
The only explanation is that Clouston likes the way Picard plays and trusts him on the ice. Perhaps he see's something we all don't. Picard is certainly mobile and can move the puck at times with a lot of skill. Clouston was equally hard-headed by keeping Jonathan Cheechoo in the lineup and that actually seems to be paying off as the struggling winger recently picked up his first goal.
Can a similar renaissance for Picard be in the works? I doubt it very much but we won't really know how Clouston feels until Anton Volchenkov is healthy enough to play. Does Clouston sit Picard or Campoli? You can make a case for both quite easily but if ice time keeps getting distributed the way it is now, you can bet that it will be Campoli sitting in the press box and not Picard.
Regardless, it may be worth noting that perhaps we're all making too much out of a few defenseman and some fourth liners. Yet this season, it seems like how those secondary players go, the team goes.
Game after game, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza provide what's needed from them. It almost takes them out of the equation now when you talk about what happened during the game. Like it or not, the competition is so fierce in the NHL that it often comes down to the bottom defense pairings and the third and fourth lines in how matches are decided.
The yo-yo season continues for the Senators on Tuesday when they host the Leafs.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Jarkko Ruutu
2. Chris Neil
3. Brian Elliott
Just as an exercise, I've been keeping track of the 3 stars I give out at the end of every game (well, almost every game. I'm bound to miss a few here and there when I can't blog) and these are the results so far this season. The criteria for the scores is 3 points for 1st Star, 2 points for 2nd Star and 1 point for being the 3rd Star. Unscientific and probably argument worthy, but here are my results so far:
Black Aces Senators Star Scorecard 2009 - 2010 Season
Spezza – 11
Alfredsson – 10
Michalek – 9
Neil - 7
Ruutu - 5
Leclaire – 4
Elliott – 3
Fisher – 3
Kovalev – 3
Volchenkov – 3
Carkner – 2
Lee – 1
Kuba – 1
Donovan - 1