Sunday, November 29, 2009

Top Ten Most Annoying Things In Today's NHL

1. Broadcasters Still Complaining About The Shootout: Whenever a game goes to a shootout, 8 times out of 10, one of the TV analysts will inevitably say, “I hate seeing a game decided in a shootout”. Sports talk radio is even worse. It probably gets mentioned by someone at least once a day. The fact is that the shootout isn’t going anywhere and that most fans love it. So get over it folks.

2. Broadcasters Still Complaining About The Delay Of Game Rule: See above. I don’t really understand why everyone gets up in arms over this rule. It’s the same for both teams yet when one team gets the penalty, the TV analyst will imply that it’s an unfair rule. Essentially, this rule forces defenseman to make a play rather than wildly shoot the puck out of the zone. It creates more opportunity for turnovers and penalties, thereby creating more offense in the game. And that’s always a good thing. It sucks when your favourite team gets called for it, but it’s just as fair as a tripping or hooking penalty. Get over it.

3. Broadcasters Still Complaining About The Two Referee System: This isn’t as talked about as the above two rules but it still creeps up from time to time. How anyone can pine for the old days of the one ref system where obstruction was rampant is beyond me. The NHL will certainly never go back to the one ref but some diehards out there still prattle on about “the good old days”.

4. Goalie Equipment Is Still Too Huge: It seems like an issue that’s gone away in many people’s minds, but the Michelin Men are still out there. Have you seen the catching gloves lately? Tell me one reason why the gloves have to be that big? It certainly isn’t for protection. The NHL should finish what they started and shrink that equipment even more.

5. The Endless Head Shot Debate: Whenever a hockey player gets hurt, Canada goes into an outright panic. It’s funny that the public was unanimously against the players union in the lockout debate and constantly complain about inflated salaries, but if one of them gets hit, we cry like it’s our union brothers out there. Give me a break. The rules can certainly be tweaked to give more protection, but do we really need to talk about it every single day like it’s an epidemic? Those huge hits are actually pretty rare and at least half of them are perfectly legal. The sport it rough. Get over it.

6. Arena Name Sponsorships: I find it personally aggravating that every time I want to mention the rink the Senators play in, I have to give a plug for Scotiabank. It’s also next to impossible to identify the rinks where other teams play from year to year. I realize it’s not going away so maybe I should take my own advice and stop complaining about it.

7. The Thing That Everyone MUST Mention When Talking About Alexei Kovalev: Do we really need to hear it every game? “Kovalev is the most talented player in the NHL...when he wants to be”. “Which Kovalev will show up tonight?” We get it. It’s not something we haven’t heard before. This is almost as annoying as the “Keys To The Game” that nearly every broadcast feels the need to shove down our throats. Kovalev will never change. Get over it.

8. Trade Rumour Web Sites: In a league that has no trades, the existence of these sites seem to finally be waning. Yet they have probably permanently wrecked the reputation of bloggers everywhere.

9. Hamilton: No offense to the thriving metropolis of Hamilton, but it’s getting old hearing how every southern team might end up playing out of Copps Coliseum. It’s an aging, tired rink that the NHL will never embrace. I have no problem with another team coming to Canada but it’s also a little repugnant for Canadian hockey snobs to be openly cheerleading for other markets to lose their teams. What makes the fans in Phoenix any less important than the ones in Canada? It’s a tragedy when a city loses a team. Canadian fans should know that all too well.

10. Ugly Uniforms: You just have to shake your head sometimes. We’re lucky that vintage style uniforms are popular right now because it looks like Buffalo and Edmonton may be soon reverting back to their classic looks. But when vintage goes out of style, the NHL will no doubt be hiring some company like Reebok to design some more wacky pajamas for their athletes to wear.


Another tough shootout loss for the Senators on Saturday night. Yet, they keep getting points and otherwise playing tough, consistent hockey.

It was interesting to see Erik Karlsson get called up and Brian Lee sent down. I expected to see Karlsson back with the Senators but not this soon. I really like this move by Bryan Murray and he's made the Senators better for it.

Lee can certainly skate and move the puck but his upside is a fraction of what Karlsson's is. If Karlsson is good enough to play in the NHL, and he certainly is, then why block his way with Lee?

The Senators are not going to get close to a Stanley Cup with this defense. Why not start moulding your defense crew for the future? Karlsson is going to be this teams number one defenseman in a year or two and he offers more than Lee even at this early stage.

Of future moves the Senators might make, you have to think that Jonathan Cheechoo is going to start being made a healthy scratch soon. There can be no justification in the world to take Jesse Winchester out of the lineup, and Peter Regin and Ryan Shannon have improved of late as well. Winchester and Regin are going to be core players going forward and Shannon has so much more speed than Cheechoo that it's barely even worth arguing the point.

Since I missed blogging about the game on Saturday, here are the belated 3 Stars:

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Milan Michalek
2. Daniel Alfredsson
3. Brian Elliott

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sens Grind Out Another Close Win - Ottawa 2 Columbus 1

Beating Columbus on the back end of two games in two nights shows that Ottawa isn't lacking in the grit or heart department.

Injured, tired and facing a Blue Jacket team that was waiting for them in Ottawa, the Senators somehow managed to keep their home winning streak alive on a wraparound goal from Nick Foligno.

Not much time to blog tonight so the 3 stars will have to do.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Brian Elliott
2. Jesse Winchester
3. Jason Spezza

Honourable mentions: Alex Kovalev, Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba.

Here's the updated standings on the season long Black Aces 3 Star scorecard.

Alfredsson – 14
Spezza – 13
Michalek – 11
Fisher – 10
Neil - 7
Leclaire – 7
Elliott – 6
Ruutu - 5
Winchester - 5
Kovalev – 3
Volchenkov – 3
Phillips - 3
Carkner – 3
Kuba – 3
Regin - 2
Lee – 1
Donovan – 1
Kelly – 1
Shannon - 1

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pain Game - Devils 3 Ottawa 1

It was a battlefield out there on the ice tonight.

And not because it was overly physical, but because Senators were dropping to the ice clutching various body parts at regular intervals.

There is not much to talk about in this loss other than the injuries that occurred before and during the game.

Since the win over Washington, we've learned that Pascal Leclaire has a broken jaw, Anton Volchenkov is still not ready to return, Mike Fisher hurt himself during practice and Alexei Kovalev is still in Russia attending to family matters.

Then they dropped the puck.

Chris Neil took a big hit from Andrew Peters and left with what looks like a charley horse or, worse, a knee injury. He did not return and that, combined with losing Fisher, is a big blow to the Senators physical presence.

Then Alex Picard took a hit (again from Peters) along the boards and fell awkwardly, forcing him to leave (but he returned in the third). Peter Regin took a puck in the face and had to return with a face shield. As if that wasn't enough, Matt Carkner took a Patrick Elias slapshot off the hand near the end of the game and immediately went to the locker room after unsuccessfully trying to pick up his stick with the damaged digits.

Not good news if you're an Ottawa fan. The end of the 4 game win streak is almost inconsequential compared to the possible loss of both Neil and Carkner going forward.

As for the positives, the Senators played well considering the circumstances and were in a position to get a point right up until the last minute of the game. Brian Elliott was strong and looks like he will be able to at least give the Senators a chance every game while Leclaire is on the mend.

Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon continued to play well, especially Winchester who seems to be close to where he was before he got injured in training camp. He's the best Senator along the boards since the days of Peter Schaefer and consistently makes nifty plays to give his line chances to score.

The good news for the Senators is that they get right back to it tomorrow night against Antoine Vermette and the Columbus Blue Jackets for a chance to at least keep their home win streak alive.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jesse Winchester
2. Milan Michalek
3. Daniel Alfredsson


I've been a member of the NHLFA (National Hockey League's Fan Association) for a little over two years now and occasionally partake in surveys and receive newsletters and the like. Nothing too onerous but initially, I liked the idea of the fans loosely organizing to try and influence some of the decision making of the NHL.

Then I got this ridiculous e-mail the other day from the NHLFA explaining that they are demanding Gary Bettman resign by New Years Day.

After I finished laughing for two minutes, I only felt pity for the NHLFA for forcing themselves into this unwinnable, boneheaded and completely unnecessary campaign that will ultimately make them completely irrelevant and a laughingstock at the league's head office. Read the email of their mission statement below:

"We recently solicited feedback from you and determined that the NHLFA's priorities for this season are twofold. American fans want better access to televised games and Canadian fans want Gary Bettman replaced as commissioner. We believe that if the Canadians objective is achieved, the Americans objective will be reached sooner.

A few of our Members have indicated that they do not support the effort to remove Bettman from office, however, this contingent is small. Many times over the years coordinating the NHLFA, we have found ourselves advocating issues that do not necessarily align with our personal beliefs. Nonetheless, we continue to push the opinions of the majority of our Members, understanding that we are united for a larger cause.

We subsequently asked you to suggest ideas that could help in our effort to have Bettman replaced as commissioner. Some suggested boycotting games, but that is not realistic with our current numbers.. Others suggested protests. Many Members suggested a coordinated writing campaign towards the league's board of governors. Specific details of our plans will be unveiled in early January if Bettman has not already resigned by that time. An open letter to Bettman was posted on The Hockey News website ( this week asking Bettman to resign before January 1, 2010.

Jim Boone
Jim Spendlove
( "

This is the NHLFA's plan going forward as an organization? To demand Gary Bettman resign by sundown? Is this a John Wayne movie?

For one, it will never happen. No chance in hell.

Bettman has never been more popular among the Board Of Governors. They are reaping the very obvious rewards of Bettman breaking the players union to the point that they barely even exist as a functioning organization. Bettman could probably write himself a lifetime contract and 75 percent of the board would sign it.

Two, the NHLFA is way overestimating their influence and are simply making fools of themselves here. Most fans don't even know they exist. You'd think that the organization would aspire towards smaller goals that are somewhat achievable and that would actually benefit fans in some way. Like maybe lobby their local networks and newspapers to increase their coverage of NHL games or perhaps push for the NHL to set aside some seating for financially strapped fans so they can enjoy a live hockey game once a season. Whatever. There's plenty of positive things for an organization like this to do.

But no, the NHLFA is puffing out their puny little chests and demanding a showdown with the big guy. And for what reason? They don't even state the reasons why. They just want him gone.

It's too bad because they won't be taken seriously going forward as a partner with the league and that hurts all fans. If you want to be a partner, why are you declaring an unwinnable war?

No doubt the voting was led by elitist and reactionary Canadian hockey snobs who think the NHL should be a tiny regional league like the CFL and oppose any American influence on the game whatsoever.

The NHLFA should know better and use their heads to come up with some kind of campaign that at least has a chance to be taken seriously.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ottawa 4 Washington 3 (OT) - Sens Storm Back For Victory, Streak Still Alive

Can it get any better for the Ottawa Senators?

That's the question they have to be asking themselves right now as they stormed back in the third period against the Caps to tie the game and then Mike Fisher clinched it in overtime to extend the Senators win streak to 4 games and put them on top of the Northeast division.

Forget the numbers for a moment. The Senators haven't been this good in two years, not since the early weeks of John Paddock's shortened reign. But instead of just a few superstars driving the bus, the Senators are getting contributions throughout their lineup and are showing some unfamiliar grit and tenacity in this modest but character-building streak.

You'd have been excused if you turned off the television after the second period. The Senators looked outmatched by Washington's speed and showed no signs of being able to storm back.

The turning point was Chris Neil delivering a big hit and then tipping a Filip Kuba point shot past Semyon Varlamov to cut the lead to 3-2. And the Senators didn't stop until they were mobbing Mike Fisher along the boards while the Caps skated off the ice dejectedly, wondering how it all went so wrong, so fast for them.

How do you explain Filip Kuba getting another 3 points to make it 7 in just 2 games? How do you explain Jason Spezza being unable to get a puck past anybody yet the team still scores in bunches? How do you explain the strange phenomenon where Chris Phillips seems to turn into Paul Coffey whenever he gets the puck in overtime?

Every night, it's something new to talk about. The line of Jesse Winchester, Ryan Shannon and Peter Regin probably surprised everyone, including themselves, by being the best line on the ice. For a while there, it also seemed like Fisher was getting double shifted in place of Winchester and he even replaced Spezza on the top line for a while to try and get Spezza away from Alex Ovechkin.

Whatever Fisher is doing differently this season, it's working. The Phillips pass from the sideboards during overtime was in the air, like it had just been tossed over a fence with a shovel. Yet Fisher seemed to have no problem ticking it in and sending the rink into hysterics.

It was a game that Ottawa could have lost and no one would have been too upset. Coming off three straight wins, people would have understood, and maybe even expected a little bit of a letdown. After all, Ottawa fans have gotten used to such unpleasant things.

To call this the biggest win of the year might be a little overboard, but it might just be the game where three months later, everyone points to and says "that's when it all started to turn around".

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Mike Fisher
2. Peter Regin
3. Ryan Shannon

Honourable mentions: Filip Kuba, Chris Neil, Chris Phillips, Alex Picard and Brian Elliott. Might as well just name the whole team on that third period alone.


Talk about being injury prone. Pascal Leclaire, already slightly injured but healthy enough to sit on the bench as a backup, took an errant puck to the side of the face and had to go into the dressing room to get checked out....... Beauty hit by Matt Carkner on Ovechkin late in the 2nd period....... When trades are almost extinct in the NHL, you can get a lot of mileage out of a fairly minor deal the likes that Montreal and Minnesota cooked up today. I'm not sure how much of an impact Benoit Pouliot is going to make on the Habs fortunes.....

It didn't take long for the blogosphere and message-boarders to get on Chris Neil. He takes one bad penalty and it's like everyone has forgotten how good he has been this year. Over at Silver Seven (which is a great blog by the way), they even stated that he should be made a healthy scratch! For one, he took the penalty on Patrick Kaleta who is, if not the biggest diver in the league, then the 2nd biggest. Better players than Neil have lost their cool when dealing with Kaleta. Two, guys like Neil and Jarkko Ruutu will tend to take more penalties at sensitive times because they are physical players who are always playing right to the edge of legality. That's exactly what they are paid to do. Sometimes they get calls go against them and sometimes they don't. I'm not saying it wasn't a bad penalty, but come on, have some perspective. All Neil has done is help the Senators win games all year. And to top it off, the Senators killed the penalty and won the game by two goals. I've said it before and I'll say it again, only in Ottawa could Neil not be an across the board fan favourite. Only in Ottawa....

With that being said, it's about time I ate some crow about Alex Picard. I've been knocking this guy all season and now he's really starting to make a name for himself here. He's still horrifying in his own zone at times, but now he's making amends by producing at the other end. His underrated shot has become a real weapon on the power-play.......

The Panthers wore their new third jersey's for the first time tonight. Not bad, but they sort of have a St.Mike's Majors feel to them don't they?

I was catching whatever time I could on the St. Louis - Boston tilt when a commercial caught my eye. It was for a place called "Dirt Cheap' which is a "Cigs - Beer - Liqour - Wine" store and they had their chicken mascot wearing a St. Louis Blues jersey throughout. They describe their store as the "Last Refuge of the Persecuted Smoker" and one of their slogans is "The More She Drinks, The Better You Look". I'm sure the Blues organization is really happy about the unintended "tie-in" or "sponsorship" the commercial seems to imply. You can check out their "classy" website which features a female chicken bursting out of a bathing suit at It seems like something only Corey and Trevor could come up with....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ottawa 5 Sabres 3 - Sens Keep Rolling Despite Distractions

Sometimes, you just have someone's number.

That's been the story of the Senators dominating the Sabres ever since the lockout and tonight was no different as Ottawa continued their offensive binge started against Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

There were a lot of great performances from the guys in black and red but none better than the one from captain Daniel Alfredsson who was a team high +3 and was all over the puck - even-strength, power-play and penalty kill.

The captain has missed consecutive practices which leads one to the conclusion that he's currently playing through some kind of injury but it didn't seem to show tonight (or any other night for that matter).

While Alfie was the best of the bunch, a few others really stood out, including Filip Kuba who had a career high 4 point night, Jason Spezza with 2 assists and another strong all-around game and Mike Fisher who helped Ottawa to a 38-21 faceoff advantage.

The Senators penalty-kill was also strong, giving up only one goal on 7 chances and killing a handful of late penalties from Matt Carkner and Chris Neil that threatened to bleed the Senators of their huge lead. Again, Chris Kelly continued to impress with great defensive play and contributed a goal for his second straight game.

You had to feel for ex-Senator Patrick Lalime, who always seems to get lit up by his former teammates but he played well in the early going before getting burned by Alfie in the second period.

The Senators may have caught a lucky break due to the Sabres having played the night before and sitting Ryan Miller. But it's not luck that Ottawa now sits only 1 point behind Buffalo for the Northeast division lead.

For 3 games, the Senators have overcome various injuries and personal tragedies to seemingly quiet their ever present critics with consistent, spirited play. They've also developed the knack to score big goals at the right moments in games.

Their hot streak couldn't have come at a better time as the Boston Bruins have started to get their heads together after a mediocre start to the season. The Senators leapfrogged them tonight and still have two games in hand.

The only worry to come out of the Sabres game was Pascal Leclaire leaving after the second period with what seemed like a neck or head injury due to a previous pileup in the crease. Leclaire played through it for awhile but it obviously wasn't good enough to go in the third. Brian Elliott played okay after coming off the bench but the last thing Cory Clouston wants to see is Leclaire nursing a nagging or even a serious injury in the coming weeks.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Daniel Alfredsson
2. Filip Kuba
3. Jason Spezza

Honourable mentions: Milan Michalek, Chris Kelly and Mike Fisher.


Here is the updated scorecard of the Black Aces 3 Stars so far this season. (3 points for 1st Star, 1 point for 3rd Star)

Alfredsson – 13
Spezza – 12
Michalek – 9
Neil - 7
Leclaire – 7
Fisher – 7
Ruutu - 5
Elliott – 3
Kovalev – 3
Volchenkov – 3
Phillips - 3
Carkner – 3
Kuba – 3
Lee – 1
Donovan – 1
Kelly - 1


It was tough to see a guy like Shean Donovan go down with a major injury. To be fair to Matt Cooke, I don't think it was necessarily a dirty play. You may disagree. It looked like a normal collision though some say he led with the knee. I've watched the play a few times and I can't see that it was overly malicious, despite Cooke's reputation. That being said, I wouldn't at all be surprised if Cooke had the intent to do some damage but he disguised it pretty well if he did. As Donovan tends to be, he seemed positive during his first post-injury interview and with any luck, that ACL will be okay and he'll be back on the ice in two or three months. If the Senators can get into the playoffs, and I think they will, getting Donovan back will be like adding a grizzled playoff warrior at the trade deadline....for free.......

The black sweaters the Senators wore tonight are starting to grow on me. I actually kind of like the "SENS" lettering though I would prefer a real logo on the front. But that "SENS" font would look decent on a t-shirt...... Speaking of which, I spent an hour in the Kanata Hockey Life store today going back and forth over which t-shirt to buy. I opted for a New York Rangers logo shirt. That shield is pretty sharp looking..... Don Cherry called Cory Clouston something that sounded like "Colson" after the game on HNIC....... I love the Coach's Corner segment but Cherry seems even more hyper and entertaining after the games and right before the second game of the double-header. He seems to be able to freewheel a little more during that time because the Coach's Corner segments are so tight with time and loaded with topics. After the game, Cherry can sort of wing it with any issue that came up during the last two hours and it's usually worth waiting around to watch. If only he could ever find anything nice to say about the Senators.....

The Hockey News Ken Campbell with his take on the Senators attendance problems:

"Everywhere in Canada except one place, not a single seat has gone unsold since the lockout. But when your arena is miles out of the city and your team has generally been a disappointment the past two seasons, it does present some challenges....

A lot of that has to do with a pricing structure that charges top prices for those games, but the fact people aren’t willing to shell out big dollars for those games is telling. Through 13 games this season, the Senators are averaging 18,000 per game in the 19,153-seat Scotiabank Place. They haven’t sold out a game since they attracted 20,154 against Boston Oct. 24 and they’ve played seven home games since then."

Personally, I'm still convinced that extremely bad press has been part of the cumulative dwindling of the paying fan base over the past two seasons. Certain print journalists and a pair of prominent radio hosts spent all their influential energy trying to portray the Senators as careless and arrogant party animals who were fleecing fans out of their money. That sentiment was consistent and driven home almost daily for two straight years without the Senators so much as lifting a finger to defend their players or their product. It stands to reason that the image of the team has been damaged and the local public's attitude towards athletes has never been more cynical. Once Dany Heatley was traded, the press has once again turned into cheerleaders but it's probably a little too late to fix the damage for this season. No one doubts that a troubled economy, high ticket prices and poor performances have hurt sales, but no one seemingly wants to admit that a full media blitz against certain players (one of whom is still on the team but apparently forgiven overnight) may have contributed to the negative atmosphere that still clouds this franchise.....

In case you missed this the other night, Scott Niedermayer set off a free-for-all the stands...when he tried to give his game stick to a little girl in a Ducks jersey after the game. This might be one of the funniest things I've ever seen at a hockey game and it is all Niedermayer can do to keep from laughing during the post game interview on the ice. You can imagine the laughs in the locker room afterward as Niedermayer tried to explain to his teammates.

It still doesn't top this classic drunken player-fan brawl from MSG in the 70's... Make sure you catch a fur coat wearing Phil Esposito explaining that when fans throw "beer and whiskey" in their faces, he would be okay with it landing in his mouth once in a while.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ottawa 6 Pittsburgh 2

Finally, the breakout game Ottawa has been waiting for.

Not for Spezza. Not for Kovalev. But who's complaining?

I don't have time to do a proper game review tonight but a few things that stood out:

- Chris Phillips getting 2 goals just over 2 minutes apart in his 800th game and trying to conceal his incredulous smile after the 2nd one went in from almost exactly the same spot as the first. Phillips is a guy who is virtually never in the spotlight, but for his 800th game, the steady veteran deservedly gets the first star.

- Matt Carkner getting the Senators back into the game with a seeing-eye shot in the 1st period. And this from a guy who can barely see out of his right eye due to it being almost swollen shut from a battle with the Leafs Colton Orr the other night. As he sat on the bench, the Pittsburgh play-by-play guy said "There's the face of a hockey player". Couldn't have said it any better.

- Chris Neil going out and hitting Penguins heavyweight Eric Godard and starting a fight just a few shifts after the Senators lost Shean Donovan to a knee injury on a hit from pest Matt Cooke. The game was a foregone conclusion at that point and Neil wasn't obliged to do anything, but he wasn't about to let Donovan's hit go unnoticed. He got bloodied in the battle but once again showed he will do anything for his teammates.

- And finally, Jonathan Cheechoo, ever the candidate to be a healthy scratch, got another goal and is managing to stay just ahead of the big hook at the most important times. With Peter Regin and Ryan Shannon just waiting to get back into the lineup, Cheechoo needs to be good on a nightly basis now and he didn't hurt himself tonight by any means.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Chris Phillips (2 goals, shut down Crosby)
2. Mike Fisher (3 assists, continues his strong play)
3. Matt Carkner (1 goal, 21 minutes, +3, 1 good eye)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ottawa 3 Toronto 2

With the entire city on pins and needles, waiting to see how Pascal Leclaire would react after a rough stretch of games, the young French netminder made a statement against the Toronto Maple Leafs, making 30 saves and a few hair-raising ones late in the 3rd period to preserve the comeback victory.

To be honest, it was a must win game, not only for the Senators, but for Leclaire as well.

If the Leafs had managed to sneak one out on the road, the outcry would have been nasty. Not only did Leclaire restore a bit of his reputation, he also eased the burden on some other non-producing Senators players who surely would have felt the wrath of the fans and media if they dropped an important game to the inter-provincial rivals.

But it wasn't all champagne and roses for Leclaire. He still looks like he's living in the wild west sometimes, sliding around in his crease and often finding himself in strange positions far from his net. Yet, his reflexes and athleticism served him well tonight, as he never gave up on a play, especially when the scene turned scrambly late in the third with the Senators barely hanging on.

There were a few yanked collars when Phil Kessel skated over the blueline and put a bullet past Leclaire in the first period. The initial reaction was probably "he should have had that one" but Kessel is one of the few pure goal scorers in the game today and sometimes nothing is going to stop a shot like that.

But it will be the important saves late in the game that everyone will remember. Leclaire stopped half of the shots (15) in the third period alone, which was really a carry over from a rip roaring last 5 minutes of the second where the two teams traded chances, hits and crowd momentum. For a while there, it felt like the rivalry of old.

Mike Fisher continued his excellent season and was one of the standouts on a Senators squad that had virtually everyone going. Even Alex Picard, the oft criticised defenseman.

When the 1st power play unit was squandering their opportunities, Picard came on with the 2nd unit and kept it simple by taking a pass from Chris Campoli and putting it straight at the net where Milan Michalek tipped it past Vesa Toskala for the tying goal. I've been giving Picard a ton of heat for his poor play but you have to tip the hat when someone does a good job as well.

Another one of the standouts for me was Chris Kelly. He ended up -1 but I see a player who is excelling in his role as a fourth line centre, despite the probability that he expected to be higher in the pecking order coming into the season. Along with Jarkko Ruutu and Shean Donovan, that fourth line just seems to have perfect chemistry and they are a threat at both ends whenever they go over the boards.

Perhaps it's just a cumulative effect of seeing Kelly embrace his role over the past few weeks, but I thought he was one of the most important players on the ice for the Senators tonight.

With the victory, the Senators give themselves a 10 point lead over the Leafs in the standings and keep themselves in the middle of the pack for a playoff spot.

Realistically, with the uneven results they've been getting, the Senators are in a decent position right now. They can afford to tread water for a little while longer, hoping that their offense starts to take off again and their power-play gets its act together.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Pascal Leclaire
2. Mike Fisher
3. Chris Kelly


Just one more reason for Clouston to dress Shean Donovan every single game: his first shift.
It was a thing of beauty, enough to bring a tear to Don Cherry's eye (if he didn't despise the Senators on general principle). For those of you who saw the shift, you know exactly what I mean. He followed that up with a great rest of the game....... Jesse Winchester also showed why he's being wasted as a healthy scratch in the first period. He landed a huge hit and then wins a scrap with Jeff Finger on the same shift. I thought Winchester had a great second half of the season last year and solidified his place on the team. You hate to see a guy lose his role because of an injury but unfortunately, that's what happened to Winchester here. I'm not saying there's an easy solution. I'm also a believer in Peter Regin and to a lesser extent, the speedy and skilled Ryan Shannon. But you have to find a way to get Winchester and Donovan on the ice every night. They have speed and they can hit with the best of them...... That was painful to see Alex Kovalev do the double-clutch when he was given the puck right in front of the net on a Sens power play in the first. The puck ended up bobbling away. It's just not happening for Kovie right now. Yet I'm still convinced he'll end up having a positive effect before the year is out. He's just too skilled to be snakebitten for so long..... Kovie did make a nice play when he fed Fisher for the winning goal. Smooth as silk.....

Even more painful was watching Colton Orr do a hammer job on fan favourite Matt Carkner. The ex-Ranger heavyweight Orr stunned Carkner with a couple of rights and the Sens defenseman, who hasn't lost a fight yet this year, couldn't recover. It did not end amicably either. Both fighters were chirping angrily after that one. But Carks will live to fight another day. The old maxim: it's not how many you win, it's how many you show up for. Yet no one wants to lose like that on home ice, especially against the Leafs. I feel sorry for the next guy who has to go up against Carks. It could get ugly......

Hard to believe a lot of people here in town wanted to see Chris Neil leave. Imagine he was causing the ruckus he did tonight for the Leafs instead of the Senators? Don't laugh. It came close to happening.....

Ruutu v Mitchell. Senators fight of the year? If not, then it's in the top 3. Ruutu is an underrated fighter and never seems to get overpowered.....

I may be in the minority here, but the Garrioch article concerning Alfie staying with the Senators for the remainder of his career should give fans pause. The striking revelation is not that Alfie wants to spend his last years in Ottawa - we already knew that because of the contract he signed - but it was that he left the door open to asking for a trade someday to a contender.

“I can’t see (asking for a move). Never say never. It could happen in the future, but I don’t think it’s probable.”

That's a direct quote. And I'm not blaming Alfie here. But it should open the eyes of some people who take the captain for granted. Some big name players have either asked out or walked away to free agency without shedding a tear of regret. If Wayne Gretzky can leave the Oilers, Alfie can certainly leave the Senators one day. If Bryan Murray can't get this team turned around in the next two years, we may be looking at a very uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. Just saying. ......

The Toronto media are certainly getting their shots in at the Senators. It should be noted that it was a Toronto reporter who solicited Alfie's response about one day asking for a trade. Then Mike Zeisberger couldn't help point out that the morning of the game, the Senators were far from having a sellout for the battle of Ontario. Those are two sensitive issues that Bytown reporters don't seem to want to touch very often........

I just picked up the Senators first ever media guide from 92-93 on Ebay for a measly 6 bucks. It's a great little piece of history (as are all media guides). For instance, you can find out that the original 2-D Senators logo (still the best) was designed by a man by the name of "Mr. Tony Milchard".

Also, for some reason, the Senators decided to forgo traditional pictures of the players and instead commissioned an artist to do really ugly and awkward drawings of every single skater. Has to be seen to be believed. Below is Brad Marsh and inaugural captain Laurie Boschman. Oh, the horror of it all!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back In The Day...

Back in the early part of the decade, Black Aces was a .ca address and was more of a traditional kind of hockey website, before I even knew what a blog really was. It was run by myself and my friend Simon and we kept it up for upwards of two years until the hosting fees became too big to handle. When I discovered the free service Blogger, I rebooted the Black Aces name a couple of years later and that's the site you see now.

For a peak at what that old site looked like, check out a 2004 archive right here courtesy of the Way Back Machine website.

It's a little crude and semi-pro looking but we "captured the spirit of the thing". Most of the articles seem to be working so you can check out the once popular "Classic Takes" section which is a compilation of some hilarious quotes from years past (these are also archived on the current site under the label "Classic Quotes". And you can probably tell that I was (and still am) a massive Mark Messier fan....

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flyers 5 Senators 1

Obviously, a game to forget for Ottawa.

It seemed as if the Senators went in to Philadelphia intent on playing the perfect road game - laying back and waiting for the Flyers to get frustrated.

That's a good recipe if you have a solid defense core that can put bodies on Flyers forwards.

Unfortunately, Ottawa's defence is missing Anton Volchenkov and features the likes of Chris Campoli, Alex Picard and Brian Lee.

Can you imagine going into a hard fought, blood and guts playoff series with those 3 players on your back end? Against a team of men like the Flyers? No chance. You can't even mention the Stanley Cup in the same sentence.

Somehow, Cory Clouston found 24 minutes to give to Alex Picard. That was the highest ice time mark on the Senators. Higher than Chris Phillips. Higher than Filip Kuba.

So what is going on here?

Another head scratcher is Clouston's unwillingness to dress Shean Donovan, a player who at least gives a damn about what he gives on the ice. He was part of a very effective fourth line which was helping the Senators win games early in the season. He won't be the difference between winning and losing, but the Senators seem to perform better when he's in the lineup giving his all on limited shifts.

You can point the finger at Pascal Leclaire and Alex Kovalev for having another bad game but to me, the Senators are carrying an inept set of defenseman who have zero defensive acumen and zero character on the ice. They simply don't register against a character team like Philadelphia. Yet Campoli and Picard seem like they are here to stay because of their cheap contracts and their supposed "offensive ability".

In short, the Senators were outclassed by a much better Philadelphia team tonight. When Alex Picard plays almost two more minutes than both Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timmonen, you know the Senators are in deep trouble here.

So what is Bryan Murray going to do?

If you take him at his word, he's not even concerned about his defenseman. He says the Senators need another forward.

Oh brother.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Ray Emery (still being paid by the Senators to beat them)
2. Jason Spezza
3. Mike Fisher

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sens Survive Another Scare

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).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jersey Steals Two In A Heartbreaker

What happened to Ottawa's penalty killing?

They let in 3 straight to New Jersey tonight and two against Tampa Bay on Thursday. What was their biggest strength in the early part of the season has suddenly gone over the wall and fled the rink when they've needed it the most.

While it's no huge shame to lose at home to a team like New Jersey which came into the game having won 7 straight on the road, but it's the way it happened that gives one a reason to be concerned.

The Devils have had a hard time scoring this season, and with Ottawa up 2-0, you'd think the Sens would find a way to tighten the screws.

Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester and Chris Campoli were the players who put their team down by a man with penalties, but none of those guys were top penalty-kill regulars anyways. Instead it was the mainstays on the special unit who couldn't get the job done, and Pascal Leclaire had a few rough moments in an otherwise solid game.

Discipline has been a bit of a problem but not in the ways you'd think. Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu both took game misconduct penalties but those aren't the ones that hurt the team because they didn't result in a man disadvantage. Instead, it was the chintzy penalties that drive coaches crazy such as hooking and shooting the puck over the glass. When Campoli made that last mistake, he seemed to know that it was going to come back to haunt the team as he immediately hunched over in despair, knowing he had done it at the most unfortunate time of the game with the score tied.

The goalie and the penalty-kill couldn't bail him out, as is often the case with those types of penalties. If a guy takes a penalty by roughing someone up, at least there's emotion involved from that play which can carry a team through a treacherous two minutes. An unfortunate blooper like sending the puck into the stands is only deflating, and that's probably as good a reason as any that teams have a tougher time killing those ones off.

Regardless, the Senators find themselves in a weird state of flux. They've had too many long breaks in the schedule to get any momentum from their positives or any quick closure to their losses. With a slew of games coming up in the next few weeks, they hope to be able to find their identity again - and their penalty kill.

While I haven't heard the post-game pressers yet, I expect there to be an angry Andrew Peters accusing Jarkko Ruutu of some kind of dirty shenanigans yet again. In what had to be one of the most entertaining games of Ruutu's season thus far, he jumped into a fray that included Peters and seemed to start choking him from behind before wrestling the big lug to the ice. With arms and legs flying everywhere, it was hard to see what was going on at the bottom, but Peters emerged holding his hand and screaming at the refs about something Ruutu did. Remember, it was Peters that Ruutu bit last season and this was almost a replay of that scene, with Peters clearly being caught by the CBC microphones calling Ruutu a "f**king fa**ot" and later in the penalty box screaming "you're a f**king joke!"

Ruutu just smiled like a shark, thoroughly enjoying himself. The best part was that Peters and Ruutu got identical minors and the Senators weren't hurt as a result (Ruutu also got the misconduct). To say that Ruutu is in Peter's head is probably an understatement.

Ruutu also had a comical moment earlier when a Jersey player softly got a glove around his neck and Ruutu jerked his head back like he'd been shot, trying to draw a penalty on the play. The refs probably had a good laugh about that one after the period. They weren't falling for it one bit.

Black Aces Senators Three Stars

1. Milan Michalek
2. Jason Spezza
3. Brian Lee

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spezza And Neil Stun The Bolts

With his body bent over and his fist pumping the air, Jason Spezza was the very picture of relief as he led his Ottawa Senators to a gritty 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lighting.

Not only was it Spezza's third point of the night after sitting out two losses with a back injury, it was his first goal of the season and you could just sense the world tumbling off of his shoulders as the crowd and his teammates jumped to their feet in unison.

You could sense that the players were genuinely just as thrilled to see Spezza break the goosegg as they were about winning. Guys were laughing and giving him facewashes in a scrum after the goal and Spezza skated away as the 1st Star of the game.

And this offensive explosion couldn't have come at a better time for the young centre. If you listened to the call-in and pre-game shows on the 1200, fans and media members were getting tired of repeating the refrain that "at least he's playing well defensively". In particular, a couple of the pre-game show personalities were getting on his case, most noticeably Mike Eastwood, who seemingly never has anything nice to say about a skilled hockey player in this town.

For a guy who was asked to play better in his own end for years, Spezza complied this season but his point production wasn't as high as it used to be, due to losing his 50 goal scoring linemate and adjusting to new players on his wing while struggling with a nagging back injury.

But, as some have noted, Spezza seems to be a different player this season. Always a popular player in the room, Spezza is now becoming a leader (that's the sound of Jacques Martin's jaw hitting the floor). It's the little things you notice. He got married in the off-season. He hosted the team's annual Halloween bash at his home downtown. He stuck up for the organization in the Dany Heatley dispute, even though it meant he had to criticize his best friend on the team.

And perhaps the biggest sign is the way the players reacted after he scored that goal. It showed respect for the guy who was once one of the most criticised players in Ottawa Senators history.

The other item of note from this game has to be the absolutely crushing hit that Chris Neil delivered to rookie Victor Hedman in the 2nd period. It was like watching a wrecking ball crumple a phone booth. After the perfectly legal hit, Hedman was crumpled up on the ice gasping for breath and the big-minute player didn't return after going straight to the dressing room. With sensitivities heightened due to the near tragic hit in the OHL recently, you might expect some to call the hit "dirty". Yet TSN's Bob McKenzie, who is no fan of head shots and vicious acts on the ice, called it an "outstanding hockey hit". In a bizarre moment, a Tampa TV colour commentator (who I believe is Stanley Cup winning coach Terry Crisp) took offense at the hit and accused Neil of only being brave on home ice.

Anyone who has watched Neil over the course of his career knows that number 25 plays the same way every night, whether he's at home or not. It's unfortunate that Hedman was hurt, but that's part of hockey. Always has been and always will.

The real dilemma is how do you encourage hits like Neil's, and discourage the unfortunate hit and run we saw in the OHL recently that may have ended a young man's career. The line is very thin and often a couple of inches either way is the only difference between a clean and a dirty hit.

Otherwise, a fine night for the Ottawa Senators. It was a much needed victory for a team that is going to start playing a ridiculously compressed schedule between now and the Olympic break.

Full marks to the Lightning for a solid road game, but it was Spezza's night to shine.

Black Aces Senators Three Stars

1. Jason Spezza
2. Daniel Alfredsson
3. Mike Fisher


Alex Picard showed up to play tonight. He had a hell of a first period and was all over the puck. If only he could find that confidence on a regular basis. He'd play Chris Campoli out of a job...... You know you're watching the Tampa Bay broadcast when one of the main sponsors for a ticket giveaway is "Mr. Empanada"........ You have to see this picture...... The Tampa play-by-play guys couldn't get over how aggressive Ottawa was on the penalty kill. When you think about it, the Senators are just as exciting to watch shorthanded as they are on the power-play. The ice just always seems to open up for Alfie, Fisher and Michalek.... With that being said, the Senators gave up two power play goals tonight, one of them a beauty by Steve Stamkos. The sophomore star is starting to explode in this league right now. The worst and best thing the Lightning have done in the past two years is hire then fire Barry Melrose. Rick Tochett came in and has done a real good job with this team and more importantly, he believed in Stamkos and didn't try to coach him through the media like Melrose did....... Speaking of Tochett, he is still a mean looking s.o.b. He looks like he could lace them up and hold his own in the corners of any NHL rink. Could you imagine what Tochett would have done to a player like Brian "Peach Fuzz" Lee back in the day? The would have had to get the shovels out to clean up the debris......

One sentence I could never have imagined writing this season: Antero Nittymaki is pretty good, but he's no Ondrej Pavelec......... You have to feel for Ryan Shannon. It seems like opposing players are always looking to crush this kid, kinda like the way Sylvester starts salivating when he sees a vulnerable Tweety out in the open. Except Shannon isn't as lucky as Tweety. He's had at least two concussions in two seasons and Andrej Meszaros was the latest player to take a healthy run at him. Fortunately, Shannon avoided the oncoming train.....

Want to see a ranking of NHL fighters based on a sophisticated interpretation of statistics based on the principals of chess? Behind The Net has the top 10 for you and, no surprise, Montreal's Georges Laraque is at the top of the list. What may surprise Sens fans is that there is no Chris Neil on that list. How sound can the list be without Neiler anyways? ..... There's something wrong when two heart and soul guys like Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester are forced to sit because of hockey politics. The politics I speak of? Jonathan Cheechoo getting far too many chances to wow us with his non-existent skating ability because the boss traded for him as part of the Dany Heatley package. It's just not right..... For all the talk that the Leafs may have handed the number one pick in the 2010 Entry Draft to Boston for Phil Kessell, wouldn't it be funny if the Carolina Hurricanes keep bottoming out and scoop up the lottery pick from under the Bruins? Brian Burke would be the happiest guy in the NHL outside of Taylor Hall.......

All aboard the Carkbus

Matt Carkner has a fan club in Westport, Ontario, where he reportedly spends his off-season (he was born in nearby Winchester) and they actually charter a bus and take fans into Kanata from the Cove Country Inn. And yes, it's called the Carkbus. Thanks to Andrew for sending the email out and for the picture below of the actual flyer that hangs in the "Cove". So good...

The Tampa play-by-play guys evidently have no idea where Carkner is from. When Carks took on Ryan Craig at the end of the 2nd period, one of them blurted out something about the "two big Western boys". Craig was born in Abbotsford, B.C. so 1 out of 2 ain't bad. Carkner played 1 game for the Sharks so maybe that is what they were referring to. To be fair, with a name like Carkner, how can you not envision bone-cold ice rinks in the middle of Moose Jaw or Red Deer?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ugly Flames Moment

Just a quick post while I get my new desktop up and running today (upgrading to Windows 7 is posing problems - anyone else have issues?).

With the Senators having a week off and everyone fretting over the same issues (injuries, Kovalev, Melnyk going after Heatley), I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said by everyone else all week. With all the recent losses, you'd be tempted to hit the panic button but Cory Clouston has kept the fans and media at bay by praising his team's efforts and lamenting some bad breaks.

But without Spezza and Volchenkov, this team is going to be in tough to win on any night.

One non-Senator issue that did strike a chord with me today is the revelation that the Calgary Flames skipped the que for the swine flu shots in Alberta last week while little kids and pregnant women waited in line for days (and in some cases were turned away when the clinics closed over the weekend due to mass confusion).

This story hit home because a) I have a pregnant wife who has been anxiously awaiting her chance to get the shot, and b) I am a strident supporter of universal health care in Canada.

I don't blame the players for this because players just do what they're told. But Flames management should have known better.

Think of the optics: millionaire hockey players jump the line because they can afford private health care while kids, pregnant women and cancer patients wait outside in long lines, not even sure if there will be a vaccine waiting for them at the end.

Being able to access health care because of your financial clout is anathema to what Canada is all about. But Canadians have a long standing tradition of chastising "millionaire hockey players" and this story just feeds the monster, even though the players are innocent in all of this.

"It's a failure of leadership that we are providing vaccines willy-nilly to whoever has money, to whoever has access, when cancer patients, when chronic lung patients, when pregnant women and their children can't get it," said Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann.

"It's a violation of the basic principles of public health care."

Hard to disagree.