Saturday, October 9, 2010

Senators Look Lost Against Leafs

What a mess.

The Senators have now dropped 5 games in a row to the Leafs dating back to last season but the loss tonight was a new low in what is quickly becoming a tradition of playing terrible when featured on Hockey Night In Canada in front of a national audience.

We get to hear cliche opinions about the Senators reinforced by nodding analysts like Glen Healey who have seen this Senators style all too many times.

Like Jason Spezza giving the puck away behind his own net for a crucial first goal. Like Alex Kovalev floating around the ice barely touching the puck. Like the Senators being pushed around (until they decided to fight back in the third period).

One we haven't heard before is the Senators are too slow, but that seems to be the case so far this season. It's only been two games (on back to back nights no less), but the Senators look completely unprepared to compete.

That's the basics of it. They look slow, they look disorganized and they look dispirited. Pascal Leclaire gave them a chance in the first game against Buffalo but even he couldn't keep his woeful team in the game tonight.

What are the reasons?

You could point to a few likely suspects. A ridiculous pre-season schedule of 8 games which included a back-to-back on a Friday and Saturday night against the Rangers last weekend which forced the team to play mostly veterans two nights in a row, something that should never have to happen in the meaningless pre-season.

Then they were taken to a military boot camp for team bonding, but which, as Sun columnist Don Brennan pointed out, consisted mostly of brutal physical endurance tests for the sake of team bonding. Fine.  The players seemed to enjoy it, at least publicly.

Then Spezza pulls his groin shortly after and the lines get thrown out and reassembled. They go into their first game without much practice in the new combinations, and it's not much of a surprise that the best line was the only one they kept together - the third with Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu.

Watching the first two games, it simply looks like the team has no legs. They have zero jump and they can't execute special teams play.

The fact that they have to go right to Washington and do it again on Monday night may be a blessing or a curse. It doesn't give them much, if any practice time (with Sunday likely being a day off) but it at least offers them an opportunity to forget about the Toronto-HNIC debacle rather quickly.

There is no need for Senators fans to start inundating call-in shows with panicked phone calls demanding firings and benchings and trades. The team will get better. They have too many quality players and a smart coaching staff for that not to happen. But it really puts them in a bad situation against a Washington team that just went out and put up a 7 spot on the New Jersey Devils tonight. The Senators will be hard pressed to avoid going down 0-3 to start the season.

Obviously, we won't be going through the motions of offering you the Black Aces Senators Three Stars of the night.

Enjoy your Sunday and Happy Thanksgiving.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Phillips is again flying under the responsbility radar. Criticism of his play has been overshadowed in the past I.E. partnered with Chara and Volchenkov. I think we need to have a conversation about him and not bury our heads in the sand.

Anonymous said...

I think you're reaching with the excuse of 8 pre-season games. The Leafs played nine.

Also, I think many Sens players only played 4 pre-season games.

The word that you used that resonates most with me is "dispirited". They looked defeated before the puck was even dropped. No swagger. You can't fake that.

When Tortorella was on the TSN panel a couple of years ago, he said that when Tampa would play Ottawa he would look at the Senators during the pre-game warmup and they acted like the they were going to win the game, before it even begun. They had swagger.

What are the reasons for the poor performance? It's probably too early to tell for sure.

But, Messier and Shanahan have said many time that winning is an attitude.

Jean Beliveau credited the success of the first 100 years of the Habs to ownership. Yzerman has credited the success of the Red Wings to ownership. I think expectations start at the top. The winning attitude starts at the top.

I don't question Melnyk's desire to win. He's committed, you can tell. But, I question why he sticks with a GM who has turned our once dominant team, into a mediocre one.

It's probably too early to do anything just yet. But, It's funny how many people expect much better results from Tampa just because they have a new GM. Yzerman's presence, along with his winning pedigree just makes people feel more confident.

Even if you look at the Oilers, they don't just have a few great young players. They have a couple of young players, in Hall and Eberle, who have contagious winning attitudes. You can see that it has affected the whole group.

We used to have that. I remember Comrie saying that he had never been in a room like Sens room, where the guys just expected to win every night.

It's still early, hopefully the team gets back on track.