Watching the Edmonton Oilers slowly suffocate the Ottawa offense Monday night made the game feel like a lowpoint in the Senators season for good reason.
It was the middle game, the valley between two peaks, the supposed "gimme game" between the Saturday night special against the Leafs (which Ottawa won) and the Thursday night return date with Dany Heatley and the Sharks that's been marked on calendars across the NHL since the schedule was released.
Reading the papers and watching the blogs, it was like this game meant nothing and was a certain two points in the bag.
Not to Martin Gerber.
The once spurned ex-Senators goalie barely had to do anything (but what he did have to do, he did well) as he watched the young Oilers play a near perfect road game against an Ottawa team that still seems to have no clue how to score goals.
The coaching staff' for the Senators have been shaking up the lines every which way for nearly two weeks now but when they really needed to make a change - late in the game to get something going - Cory Clouston kept sending out trio's who just weren't working well together all game long.
It's a bit strange that Clouston has completely abandoned the Jason Spezza- Alex Kovalev pairing that worked so well for awhile before being split up, and the third period was the time to try them together again.
People will point to all the penalties the Senators took, and the tying goal given up while short-handed, but the real culprit is a lack of cohesion among the lines Clouston has going right now, even after the great game Kovalev, Milan Michalek and Mike Fisher had together on Saturday night.
And it's an extra shame for the Senators because this was a match they should have won with two tougher games ahead against San Jose and Buffalo.
Now, if you can believe it, the Senators have more regulation losses than the Edmonton Oilers. Those same sad sack Oilers who everyone is writing off as a lottery pick.
Now that's a lowpoint no matter how you look at it.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
Edmonton 4 Ottawa 1
No stars awarded tonight, for the 6th time this season.
....At least it was a good move by the Senators to pick the game against the Oilers to be their first time wearing road whites this season at home, allowing locals to get a look at the nicest non-original-six jersey's in the NHL. Those Oiler throwback's are pretty stellar. Now if only they could switch back to the original white jerseys that Gretzky and company wore and they'd be in business. As it is, the Oilers current road whites are the plainest, dullest, most uninspired sweaters in the league by far. Most other teams practice jerseys are nicer.... I've never been much of a gambler or a guy who plays the lottery, but those 50/50 draws at the rink suck me in every time. I spend most of the game completely believing I've got the winner in my hands and then sit dejectedly for the last half of the 3rd after they announce the numbers. There's a sucker born every minute....
....This Opinion Won't Be Popular Dept.: Fans are going to have their fun booing Dany Heatley and they definitely deserve to vent their frustrations after all this time, but if you really look at things honestly, the guy who did the most damage to the Senators during a similar time span was on the ice tonight for the Oilers, and that would be Martin Gerber. Frankly, John Paddock's little golden goalie was brutal during his time in a Senators uniform and set this franchise back much further than Heatley's trade demand ever did. At least when Heatley was a Senator he helped lead this team to the Stanley Cup final and twice scored 50 goals. Yet it was Gerber who became a minor folk-hero in town during the Ray Emery fiasco because the Swiss goalie apparently was the "nicest guy in the world" and the "hardest working athlete in sports history". And I'm barely exaggerating the remarks that were thrown out in the media about this guy. That golden rep has followed him around ever since. "Luckiest guy in the world" would be more apt. Still, you have to give Gerber credit for fighting his way back to the NHL with the Oilers this year. But let's just say I never have and never will drink the Kool-Aid concerning this guy..... That was a tough summer for former Senators GM John Muckler back in 2006. He lets Zdeno Chara and Dominik Hasek walk and signed Wade Redden and Gerber instead. Even a trip to the Cup final was not enough to save his job after that....
.....Tough to see Jesse Winchester getting a penalty for lightly laying his stick across an Oiler with only one arm in the second period, but that's a call the referees need to keep making. There should be zero tolerance for using your stick on a player who's carrying the puck. I lived through the "dead puck" era where obstruction was king, and I never, ever, ever want to go through that again. Sitting through Stanley Cup final series like the Avalanche-Panthers in 96, Stars-Sabres in 99 and Stars-Devils in 00 was like getting a hockey lobotomy. The game is so much better now, even if the price is a few chintzy penalties here and there that annoy everyone..... There was also an interesting discussion on the Healthy Scratches show on the Team 1200 today, where they discussed how hard it is to get pucks to the net in the modern NHL because everyone is so good at blocking shots and collapsing in front of the net. They re-set Bob Gainey's idea from a few years ago to make going down and blocking shots on the ice an illegal defensive move. Sure, it seems silly at first, but I actually think it makes sense. A lot more pucks are going to get through all those bodies if defenseman are only allowed to do the standing flamingo in front of shots. Combine that rule with even smaller goalie equipment and you may have something that will make a difference. The NHL needs to keep pushing for more offense. The game is better, but there's still a ways to go....Speaking of making the game better, where have all the big hits gone? Was there even one hit thrown in the Oilers-Senators game other than Nick Foligno's in the third that got him a penalty? Players are spooked by the new blindside rule and don't seem to want to commit themselves to any kind of hit anymore, legal or not. It's a sad state of affairs.