The Senators have had their share of bad breaks over the past two weeks, but tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, they finally had a couple go their way and pulled out a much needed victory at home.
Did they deserve to win the game? That's debatable but no one will care in the morning. What matters is that a pinball style game ended on a pinball goal by Jason Spezza in the shootout, where he saw his shot hit the post, bounce out and hit Jeff Drouin-deslauriers and then slide into the net for the win.
Yet the Senators had more than enough bad luck to almost sink them in the third period.
For one, they got zero power plays in the entire game, a stat that covers up the fact that the referees missed at least 3 or 4 bonafide penalty calls against the Oilers, including a too-many-men situation and a blatant trip on Daniel Alfredsson along the boards in overtime.
Despite coach Cory Clouston's exhortations for the players to stop yapping to the refs, you couldn't help spot him dropping some F-bombs on the bench if you were a decent lip reader.
That wasn't the only matter turning the coach's hair white prematurely.
Alex Picard played a game that can only be described as unacceptable due to a series of endless giveaways late in the game (more on Picard in the Notes section) and Pascal Leclaire let in another soft goal for the second contest in a row.
Leclaire has been very good all season but he seems to have lost a little bit of his swagger ever since he went down with that flu a while back. He's still making big stops but seems a little scrambly at times. In all likelihood, Leclaire will settle down now that the games are coming more regularly but like the rest of the team, he's struggling against making untimely errors.
But enough with the gloom, as there were many positives to come out of the night.
Jonathan Cheechoo scored his first goal of the season on a nice pass from Alexei Kovalev, who really came to play tonight as well. Kovalev seemed to have the puck on his stick during every shift and scored a beautiful backhand goal during the shootout which was important because Leclaire had just given up the first shot to Patrick O'Sullivan. Spezza and Leclaire would finish the job from there.
As for Cheechoo, he couldn't have picked a better game to score his first, with the trio of Oilers in town who were GM Bryan Murray's first choice as the return on Dany Heatley. With all the talk of how good Dustin Penner has been, Cheechoo's goal was a little reminder for everyone that the Senators got more than just the speedy Milan Michalek in the San Jose option.
Chris Neil played it low key after getting some criticism for taking a misconduct the last game, and got zero penalties while scoring a nice goal in the 3rd by crashing the net. He seemed to pass up a few opportunities to mix it up with Zack Stortini in order for the Senators to stay focused. He did manage to get in a few nice hits along the way in case you thought he was too well behaved.
The Edmonton Oilers played a terrific road game for the most part and under Pat Quinn, they look as good as any time since the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. They seem to have their identity back by being a very fast and aggressive team.
Black Aces Senators Three Stars
1. Jason Spezza
2. Chris Neil
3. Matt Carkner
I slapped my knee in anger when Michalek hit the post in the first period. My wife (who hates hockey), looked at me and said "Why are you mad? He tried." After I stopped laughing, I had to admit, she made sense in her own weird way....
It struck me as strange that Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen that he needed another forward instead of a defenseman. I understand that slow starts by Cheechoo, Kovalev and Ryan Shannon have left the scoring depth thin but it seems clear to me that the big weakness on this club is on the backend. Ottawa has three almost identical defensemen in Brian Lee, Chris Campoli and Alex Picard, the 3 twins if you will. If Erik Karlsson makes a successful return to the club (as I believe he will at some point), that makes the 3 twins expendable. The Senators have four effective d-men in Phillips, Volchenkov, Kuba and Carkner. You never know what kind of game you'll get from the 3 twins. When they're on, they're mediocre. When they're off, they're terrible. Brian Lee has the most potential from that group and that's not really a compliment to Lee. It's clear that Murray needs to add another shutdown defenseman with some size and grit. The 3 twins are going to get awful tired getting run over every night.....
Uni File : If the Oilers don't have the worst road (white) uni's, then they certainly have the most boring. You have to look very hard to find even a trace of colour and when you do, it's a washed out orange on the sock stripes. A far cry from the bright orange and blue glory days of the Oilers. The only thing the current white sweaters should be used for is practice or as pyjamas.....
Funny, when Chris Neil scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, all anyone wanted to talk about was Alex Picard and what a great play he made to rush up the ice. Then Picard goes out and almost gives the puck away again on his next shift. And then the shift after that. And then Dustin Penner blew by him with ease a few plays later. It was ugly........... When Murray hinted he needed another forward, he wasn't thinking of Mike Comrie was he?
Count me in as AGAINST changing the trapezoid rule. And you can count me in against repealing any of the rule changes implemented after the lockout. The reason? Hockey hasn't been this entertaining since the early 90's and the changes have worked in tandem to help bring up scoring and increase the speed of the game.
It would be a complete shame to let certain reactionary elements in the hockey world chip away and repeal some of the most positive changes the game has seen in a long time. The same people aren't happy with the delay of game "puck in the stands" rule and they are often the ones who wish the refs would "let the players decide the game" (a barely concealed wish to allow massive obstruction back into the game). Chances are they are the same people who cry in their pillows night after night when a hockey player gets hit out there. In essence, they want to turn the NHL into a basketball game on ice, where even brushing against someone is considered a foul. Maybe the NHL season should be simulated on a video game so the only risk of injury is a sore thumb.
The NHL product is relatively good right now. Enough with the constant yammering for a repeal of rules that work. Thankfully the GM's shot down the idea of dropping the trapezoid rule today:
...the cost would be that the game would run the risk of going back to the offense-challenged style that marked the pre-lockout era.
“The game was turning into a tennis match,” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. “Now, with the soft chip in the corner it becomes a puck battle, which is exactly what we want.”
Campbell said people who want to remove the trapezoid might forget how pedantic hockey was prior to the lockout and one of the reasons for that was goalies were simply firing the puck out to the neutral zone on the dump in.
Fan of comedian Nick Swardson? I highly recommend you check out his new CD/DVD. Yes, it's called "Seriously, Who Farted?". Here's a clip (Warning: Not suitable for work).