Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nightmare Goaltending Sinks Ottawa, Likely For Good This Time

That was a tough game to watch for Senators fans. The dream died here tonight, even though the technical elimination game will take place at Mellon Arena on Thursday night.

It's still a little too early to sum up a series that isn't officially over yet, but tonight's game was a clear indication that the Senators are being outclassed in all categories, in particular the goaltending department. To call the Senators goaltending a debacle is probably being too nice.

But more on that later.

And it's also clear that Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world right now, with Evgeni Malkin not far behind.

Despite all this, the Ottawa fans down at the Kanata rink have been the brightest spot during this abbreviated playoff season. They've been loud and mostly supportive even when the team was clearly getting run into the ice, an embarrassing situation for any professional athlete.

The team itself clearly haven't given up despite being outmatched and that's a testament to the Senators character which they've shown all season. This is a good group of guys who deserved better, but injuries ultimately led to their downfall.

On top of losing Filip Kuba, Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek, it's clear that Daniel Alfredsson isn't healthy and I'd be willing to bet that Jason Spezza is being bothered by that chronic bad back. He's playing exactly the same way he usually does when his back is acting up but that isn't giving him any leeway with the fans, who openly booed him during game three. His giveaway to Crosby tonight in the second period that led to a goal didn't help his popularity much, but he at least got that one back later in the game.

It's also much too early to say what will be the result of this inevitable series loss on the Senators in the off-season. But you can probably guess that a few things will dominate the spotlight.

There is going to be a predictable and massive backlash against Spezza from the fans, and it may even chase the affable centre to another city this summer, either by him requesting a trade or Bryan Murray doing him a favour by getting him out of a city that has never liked him much. I think it's unfortunate that things will turn out that way, but when Ottawa fans get carried away, there's not much to be done to save whoever is the target of their ire. We've seen this story played out many times before. Hopefully, he'll get the chance to keep maturing in a Senators uniform, as we saw a more determined Spezza this season.

I can also see the number of season tickets being a big issue. The Senators need a bigger number than they had this year and will likely make a big push this summer with some new marketing, but will a token appearance in the playoffs after a years absence be enough to get the fans to open their wallets? It's a problem that shouldn't be a problem in a hockey town like Ottawa, but there's a reason that Leafs and Habs fans can invade the arena at will - those tickets are perpetually available.

The other major concern will obviously be the goaltending. Brian Elliott has his fans (Coach Clouston) and his detractors (everyone else), but I don't really blame him for what's transpired. To me, Elliott played to his potential, which is as an average goaltender without the ability to make game stealing saves. He's likely not going to get much better but he could still be a great backup who is capable of getting streaky, but Clouston was not rewarded by favouring his familiar AHL goaltender.

Leclaire is a goalie with much more skill than Elliott, but injuries, and a coach who didn't seem to believe in him contributed to a disaster season for him. He may even be done as a Senator altogether.The organization's firing of goalie coach Eli Wilson didn't help matters one bit and the whole department is in a complete shambles right now.

But a more detailed analysis of those situations can wait for the idle days of summer.

For now, the Senators are just going to have to salvage a little pride by trying to delay elimination in Pittsburgh. They have nothing to be ashamed of, as they have given it their all throughout this series.

But like I said before, they lost their chance to face a weaker team by being so damn inconsistent during the regular season and ended up with the worst case scenario - a motivated Sidney Crosby looking to repeat as a Stanley Cup champion.

We'll see how it all ends up in game five.


Anonymous said...

As tough as this loss was, I think you're letting your emotions get the better of you on most fronts. First off, few picked Ottawa to be a playoff team this year, so just reaching the playoffs has to be a measure of accomplishment. If the Sens lose this series, for sure people will be upset but I would think the majority of fans realize that the team really is short-handed by injuries. As for season tickets, this season was a step in the right direction. This team is reloading with some great young players that fans can be excited about. Plus, the organization is getting more aggressive with its STH incentives and have dropped prices on a number of sections. I don't see tickets as a major issue going forward. Goaltending is the place where I agree with you. Elliott is serviceable at best and Leclaire has lost all semblance of confidence. We will most likely be looking for an answer again this off-season. Turco on a short-term deal perhaps? Here's to extending the season on Thursday! Go Sens go!!!

matthias said...

I hope management doesn't make decisions by listening to it's fickle fanbase. While some changes may be needed, the usual Team 1200 listening group will expect a housecleaning and trades, because reality should not hinder a "Fan's" whim....

It was indeed an achievement to make the playoffs....

You refer to damn inconsistency, (which I'll admit they are) but I look at the effectiveness of the Flyers, Habs and Bruins in their respective series....and I'm trying to figure out who the easier opponent would be?

I'm not knocking your article...but I think this has to be looked at realistically...they are playing the Stanley Cup champs..with a young goaltender and a handful of rookies....what did we think might happen?

Anonymous said...

No no NO. I totally agree 100% with everything you said, not the posters above.

The goaltending is in shambles and always has been. This needs to be repaired, and Turco is not the answer. I can count the number of times I picked Dallas to come out of the west and perpetually Turco let them down in the post season - and that was during his good years.

Spezza is a total disaster and the experiment is over IMO. Send him packing, for the good of both parties.

Anyways, we can examine the changes in the offseason, or on Friday, BC there is one more game to play.

To answer the last post above - we totally could have won this series. We dominated games 1 & 2 and lost two by blown officiating and shoddy goaltending. We were close in game 3 but again the goaltending wasn't there.

But game 4 was a disaster, in all respects. A new low for the franchise I feel. I am ashamed of the team and the piss poor effort & management. Coaching is a huge problem in Ottawa. How does Neil take that penalty after scoring? How in the world do we take 2 penalties in the same game of too many men on the ice? (three in the series and 17 all year!!!!!!!!!) How does the coach not get a handle on that?

When the Senators needed a big win they couldn't even keep the game respectible, in their own rink. It stinks and I'm embarassed to be a fan.

Anonymous said...

I hope management doesn't make decisions by listening to it's fickle fanbase. While some changes may be needed, the usual Team 1200 listening group will expect a housecleaning and trades, because reality should not hinder a "Fan's" whim....

I'm not sure I understand this. What reality are you talking about? Has it not become undeniable that the core of this team just can't get it done? How many blown seasons do we need before things are re-jigged?

The commenter above, and this post, suggest that Ottawa has a tradition of overreacting and destroying the team. That's nonsense. Every season management tinkers around the edges, signing a couple middling players or past-their-prime veterans and every season they end up sitting out the latter half of the season or completely disappearing. What on earth is it going to take for people to wake up and realize that this team just can't do it?

I love the team, I do, but they're average in every single way.

Good blog by the way!

Anonymous said...

good post above. our team is starting to resemble the maple leafs.

BUT, lets leave this discussion for friday morning ok. There is technically one game left, so let us enjoy what little playoff time we have remaining.

Willy Wonka said...

You people are fucking assholes. Embarrased to be a fan? Why don't you strap on the blades and go out and win a gmae then? Oh, because you are a talentless loser sitting on your couch and critisizing eveything around you.


Anonymous said...

I've got a lot of opinions with regards to the problems with the hockey club, but I want to save the comments for one of your season ending posts.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not over, 'til it's over. Our goalies could put in a few strong performances, and then, all of a sudden, we're back in it.

With regards to the daggers coming for Spezza, it's getting old. We've seen this movie before.

From 2000 to 2007, the star of that movie was Daniel Alfredsson. Every year, a very vocal minority tried to scapegoat Alfie.

Since 2007, the scapegoat has gone from Redden to Spezza.

He's got 5 points in four games. We were not going to win Game 4 unless the Sens got 8 goals. Pitt scored 7, after all. How many times did the Sens score 8 all year?

The problem is not Spezza, it's the D and goaltending.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, Spezza only showed up for the series and scored AFTER it was 4-0 Pitts and we were already down by 2 games in the series. Don't give me that bullsh*t - Look at what Pittburg's best players have done and now look at Spezza's performance. Blind giveaway's, key faceoff losses, turnovers, lack of coverage on assigenements, lack of offence, on and on and on.

Willy Wonka - you are just as anonymous as the rest of us with that name. Why don't you put your real name address and phone number up here and then thow insults at people? The guy above has a right to his opinion, as do you, and everyone else. Keep it respectful ok.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 9:12am

Even before the last game, Spezza had three points in three games. That's his career average, a point a game.

He's not Crosby. Could he be better? Absolutely. But, he's not the reason for the team's struggles. Where's Fisher? How's the D doing at shutting down Crosby?

Alfie and Spezza have the same stat line in the playoffs so far.

The Sens are nor as good as the Pens. They were the underdogs. The real anger should be directed at management building a roster that had obvious shortcomings that are being revealed in the high pressure environment that is the playoffs.

Andrew said...

Clouston's in full panic mode today. Leclaire starting and Donovan (finally) inserted.

Dude's got a problem.