Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rookies Had A Good Run In The Spotlight, But It's Time For The Vets To Take Over

There was a telling moment in tonight's final pre-season game for the Senators just after Daniel Alfredsson buried a perfect wrist shot past Tim Thomas to tie the game early in the third period. The captain finished his skate by the bench and pointed to goalie Craig Anderson at the lonely end of the ice with a knowing smile on his face.

And that's because right before the captain's clutch goal, Anderson, the most important player this year if the team has any hope of making the playoffs, made a critical pad save from point blank range and stopped the score from tilting 2-0 in favour of the Bruins, who were badly outplaying and outshooting the Sens all night long in their home rink.

The rookies like David Rundblad, Jared Cowen (who played 22 minutes, second only to Sergei Gonchar) and Mika Zibanejad finished out the pre-season strong, but the Sens won this game on the backs of the veterans and now the focus is going to shift accordingly starting next week against the Red Wings.

No more fretting about whether this player or that rookie is ready. They'll be ready or they won't be around long enough to commiserate about it. Exhibition game heroes are quickly forgotten if they're playing in the AHL or in Europe by November.

When the puck finally drops on the season, it's going to be all about Alfredsson, Anderson, Spezza, Gonchar and the other vets who have to drag this team back to respectability. The Senators are currently a joke among most pundits around the league who don't even feel the need to explain why they pick the Sens to finish dead last. To them, it's a gimme, an easy prediction pick from the hockey gods.

But I don't know. I have a feeling about Anderson. It just seems like the Senators are due for some good luck with their goalies. The Sens still seem a little soft on defense, especially if Matt Carkner is starting the year off with a nagging injury and Filip Kuba still looking "off" somehow, but Anderson seems like a goalie who can thrive off a lot of shots like he did tonight against the dominant Bruins.

It doesn't take many of those kinds of grinding, opportunistic wins for a team to start accumulating points that all the so called experts don't think they deserve.


Here's an interesting take from Tony Gallagher of Post Media about where the game could be headed in the future if the crusade for world peace continues (or rampages) on at its current, soul-annihilating pace:

"This may take a couple of years to come about, but once a significant number of stars have received stiff suspensions ... you will eventually see a reduction in not only illegal hits, but hits period. How far will it go? Well of course nobody knows. Will it get as bad as the all-star game for instance? That’s unlikely, but let’s be clear here, the players are going to be on board with this and for very good reason.

Anything that’s going to reduce the risks of playing the game for big money is going to be welcomed by the majority of players. Hell, why get the crap kicked out of you when you can cruise around the ice without getting hit? Talk about heaven. They’ll essentially be playing Rec league hockey for millions if the hitting is really curtailed and what player wouldn’t be thrilled about that. You get all the rewards without having to take any of the risks. It’s player paradise."

Never thought of that angle. I think it's a valid, if humourous point but I'm going on a hunch here that you, dear reader, will strongly, strongly disagree.


Anonymous said...

Anderson is key, and I agree with you in that he's capable.

I don't think our defense is soft. I think that the major shortcoming of this team is goal scoring. Everything else is just a distraction from this major shortcoming.

If we have to struggle to score 2 goals a game, we aren't going to win too many, plain and simple. Anderson is not going to have a GAA of 1.00.

Last year, we averaged under 2.5 goals per game and we allowed over 3 goals per game.

I think that Anderson and our D will help our goals against, but I don't see where the scoring is going to come from; unless some guys really transform themselves, or we trade for someone.

And, I also don't see any goal scoring help in the pipeline. Maybe Pumpel is that guy in three years? I think that it's crazy to bank on that.

Alfie, Spezza, and Filatov are high-end guys, so maybe they get it done.

Completely disagree with the Gallagher quote. Hitting will never disappear as long as it helps a team win a game.

You think Jared Cowen is going to wake tomorrow and not hit someone. He cleanly took someone out today. He'll do it again. Guys who know how to hit wil keep on hitting, and they may even get paid more for it, because it'll be recognized as a real skill.

Volchie, Fisher and guys who hit clean will thrive. The Matt Cookes of the world are in danger of losing their jobs because teams won't bother acquiring guys who are always suspended.

hambown said...

Filip Kuba still looking 'off' somehow

He's been 'off' for quite a while now. It would be more surprising to see him turn back 'on'. I hope that he's still got enough left in the tank to put in a good showing this season, and that he can stay healthy. It would both help the Sens in the standings, and create value at the trade deadline.