Another tough loss for the already desperate Ottawa Senators, but if you want you can count that one as a "moral victory" because they played a near perfect road game but got beaten by a better goalie in Tomas Vokoun.
True, they came out sluggish again in the first frame and still looked somewhat shell-shocked from the Colorado disaster on Thursday night, but you could see some structure starting to come into their game. The fact they took the play to the Capitals in the last two periods by outskating and outshooting them seems to bode well. Even if the Senators are going to lose games, they should be fairly entertaining to watch if they skate like that the majority of the time.
Some positives for Ottawa? Right away the name David Rundblad comes to mind.
Thankfully Paul MacLean discarded the seven defenseman rotation he experimented with against Colorado (ironically that would have helped them tonight because Sergei Gonchar left after the 1st after getting hit with a hard shot). On Thursday, it seemed that Rundblad and Brian Lee took turns taking shifts with Chris Phillips and you have to wonder how a defenseman can get a rhythm going in that kind of scenario. Tonight, MacLean scratched Lee in favour of Rundblad and it paid off.
With the exception of one tough shift where he gave the puck away to Alex Ovechkin's line which hemmed the Senators into their zone, Rundblad played his best game with the Senators so far and sometimes made it look easy out there. There were two or three hard passes right onto the sticks of breaking out forwards through the neutral zone that just left me shaking my head. His panic level is basically a flatline and he can glide with the puck almost as fast as some can skate with their heads down.
So far it's just the little things you notice from Rundblad and he has yet to make that sort of defining play that lets you know he's ready to roll here for the rest of the season. But if MacLean keeps playing #7 regularly in the next few weeks, I have a feeling we'll see that sort of moment from the young defenseman.
As for the rest of the Senators, they can at least take the fact they should have won this game if not for great goaltending from Tomas Vokoun. That's not very inspiring for fans, but after the Colorado shellacking, it's a small step forward for this team.
Their veterans on defense played a lot better tonight, in particular Chris Phillips who has been the best of the veteran lot anyways. Erik Karlsson was the best player on the ice tonight for Ottawa with MacLean playing him a whopping 27-plus minutes, about 3 more than Phillips. Rundblad played just over 17 minutes picking up an assist and going +1 on the night.
Next up for Ottawa is Philly at home on Tuesday. Philly looks loaded and ready to go this season. Jaromir Jagr still has that sneaky fast shot and great hands, Claude Giroux is sickening to watch and even Sean Couturier fits in well (from just the two games I've seen, mind you). They are going to be scary good if Ilya Bryzgalov lives up to the hype. The hope for Ottawa in this one might be just to survive and keep playing that fast puck chasing game, even if the results don't show up right away.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Erik Karlsson
2. Daniel Alfredsson
3. Milan Michalek
Honourable Mentions: David Rundblad, Chris Phillips, Jason Spezza and Chris Neil.
....CBC Colour commentator Greg Millen brought up a frightening alternate reality. If the 2004-2005 lockout hadn't taken place, there would have been a good chance that the rebuilding Capitals would have ended up with the first overall pick, something I had never thought about before until he mentioned it. Which also means Sidney Crosby would have been centering Alex Ovechkin for the past six years. But if you want to play that game, you can go all the way back to Wayne Gretzky, who was put on a plane by Indianapolis Racer's owner Nelson Skalbania in 1978 and didn't know if he was going to land in Edmonton or Winnipeg because negotiations for his trade were ongoing while he was in the air. The plane touched down in Edmonton and the rest is history.....
....Tough thing for a guy like Don Cherry to swallow some pride and apologize on Coach's Corner tonight. After he did so, he went right to the video of Arron Asham's apology for the unfortunate hot-dogging against the Capitals. Wonder if Asham's sincere apology inspired Grapes to do the same thing? Or it may be the fact that everyone in the hockey world with an axe to grind against Grapes took their opportunity the past two weeks, some of them just as viciously as Cherry went after Stu Grimson et al. Hopefully that puts an end to that particular sideshow. Either way you take it, hockey is pretty much a huge bummer right now with everyone sniping at each other and at the game itself. Everybody wants to prove themselves right which means proving someone else wrong. And that kind of game usually gets ugly. Like I said in a tweet earlier today, "How did hockey become so much like politics in the past few years? Anger, cynicism, pushing agendas, slagging our great game. What a drag." I truly believe the NHL game is fantastic just as it is, despite the fact that nobody seems to be happy with it anymore. Over-the-line violent incidents are still very rare, as they always have been since at least the 70's. They will always happen in such a fast, physical game with everyone running on adrenalin. But now every incident seems to start a flame war and it's very easy to get sucked into it all and forget just how great this game is in the first place. There's no doubt in my mind that someone like Don Cherry goes overboard once in a while simply because his passion for the game is unsurpassed. A guy like that sees the game he's dedicated his entire life to, being picked apart on every newscast, on every radio show and in every newspaper. He came back swinging because that's what Don Cherry does. That's why people watch him. But that invited others to swing back and out came the pathetic "old man" insults and the usual "caveman" jibes. But I'm telling you, sometimes I'd rather stand by someone who's in the wrong occasionally but who clearly cares for the game rather than side with the smug and cynical folks whose only passion is to tell you how awful the NHL is. Because I know they're wrong every single time.....
...Good on Todd White, working the pre-game show on the Team 1200, for not taking the bait and burying Sean Avery, whom he was a teammate with for a short time in Manhattan. White said Avery was a friend to him and couldn't say a bad thing about the controversial winger, even after he was asked by Bruce Garrioch more than once. White also threw doubt on Garrioch's info that Avery operated on an island in that dressing room. It's always good to hear from real players who are in those dressing rooms instead of listening to speculation from people removed from the situation... Speaking of listening to the players, Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals let his thoughts be known on the current concussion protocol in the NHL, and although the media and the bloggers have already criticised and disregarded his "outburst", it's always worth listening to the players who actually put their necks on the line out there. Not sure if this is the view of more players than just Laich (we know that Sidney Crosby certainly doesn't feel this way, and for good reason), but this is what he said if you missed it: "I really don't care about that awareness crap. To be honest, I'm sick of hearing all this talk about concussions and about the quiet room. This is what we love to do. Guys love to play, they love to compete, they want to be on the ice. How do you take that away from someone? We accept that there's going to be dangers when we play this game. We know that every time we get dressed. I don't know, sometimes it just feels like we're being babysat a little too much. We're grown men and we should have a say in what we want to do." There are certain segments of the media who are very patronizing towards players, thinking they know more about the game than the people who actually play it. It's always refreshing to hear a player speak his mind, even if you don't agree with what he's saying...
....A lot of people seem to be upset with Nicky Filatov's demotion to Bingo. I was somewhat surprised as well, thinking he didn't get much of a chance. But maybe it's exactly what Filatov needs in order to get his confidence back, as backwards as that may seem at first. If he has some strong games down there (and he's off to a fast start with a multi-goal game on Friday), he'll get called up very quickly and by the end of the year this may all seem like a minor speed wobble on the way to a redemptive season. A few games in Bingo didn't hurt Erik Karlsson any either. It can only help Filatov and the kid seems to have accepted the decision in a mature way. The one thing going against Filatov in this town is that some of the media and a lot of the fanbase simply don't have much patience for skilled players, especially of the Russian variety. Don't shoot the messenger folks, because you know it's true. Ultimately, that says more about those people than it does about the player in question, but Filatov, rightly or wrongly, is going to have to work harder than anyone else to erase that stigma. He has a tough road ahead, but not an impossible one by any means.....
... Just wondering – is there a hockey fan who doesn’t read the Puck Daddy blog every single day? It’s become more than just essential reading to keep up with day-to-day hockey news. It has clearly replaced The Hockey News, once known as the Bible Of Hockey, as the premier source for info on the game. I still pick up a copy of The Hockey News every week from the newsstand and read it cover to cover, but their website seems stuck somewhere in 2004. Don’t get me wrong, the Hockey News employs some good writers, but I find they all have nearly identical views on the game with nary a dissenting voice in sight. The Hockey News has always been known as an entity strongly against fighting and other hockey violence well before the rancorous debate flared up this past summer and they have pushed that agenda with intelligent writing over the years by a lot of different people (Adam Proteau has a new book coming out on that very subject). I’m not saying they need to hire a ballbreaker like Don Cherry to start pouring gasoline on the fire but some more editorial balance might work for them. That is one thing Puck Daddy does well. They have hawks, doves, and every animal in between. There’s a lighter tone on Puck Daddy that feels natural, but it doesn’t stop them from covering the more serious issues with integrity. The Hockey News does the serious stuff better than most, but when they try to do “quirky” bits, it feels somewhat forced, like your grandfather showing you the Three Stooges and saying “this is what real comedy is all about”. I get the feeling a lot of people don’t even read the print version of The Hockey News anymore and that’s a shame because it’s still a top notch magazine. But it is clear Puck Daddy is running away with the ball game right now….
....Count me in as someone who strongly favours a Detroit move into the Eastern Conference. In fact, they should go directly into the Northeast, pushing Buffalo where they belong, into the Atlantic with the rest of their New York State cousins (or you could push the Bruins into the Atlantic and try to catch some of that Boston/New York buzz that works so well in baseball).That would then push the Penguins into the Southeast where they can battle the Caps six times a year instead of four. The one rivalry that would be diminished would be the Pens/Flyers Pennsylvania feud, but is that really as good as the Pens- Caps rivalry that has been going on since the 90’s? Now that Alex Ovechkin and Sid Crosby are locked into their respective franchises for years and years to come, that rivalry can only get better. Time for the West to stand on their own without the Red Wings as an anchor tenant. There are also teams in the East who could use the extra gate revenue when the Wings come to town, Ottawa being one of them. The Wings have certainly paid their dues longer than the Predators or the Blue Jackets. Plus, who wouldn’t like to see more Original Six games, such as the old Wings/Leafs rivalry? Boston vs. Detroit six times a year? Amazing. The latest rumblings are that the Wings are willing to stay in the West if their travel is strictly curtailed, but that seems like a mediocre solution at best. They’ll still get dinged with travel in the playoffs. Hopefully the NHL makes the sexier move and puts the Wings back where they belong – in their own time zone….
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.