Sunday, November 27, 2011

Filatov Gets His Last Shot To Stick In Ottawa

Ottawa 4 Carolina 3

When the Ottawa Senators went into Pittsburgh on Friday night and got humbled by a much better team, you could sense that some kind of change was about to take place.

To start with , they made a minor move that paid off well when they put rookie David Rundblad back into the lineup and he ended up scoring his first NHL goal tonight against Carolina. But the one that will make all the headlines is the fact they called up the now controversial winger Nikita Filatov from Binghamton, presumably to give him one last chance to stick with the big club before they inevitably bow to his demands to take his career to Russia.

That meant another struggling rookie, Stephane Da Costa, traded cities with Filatov and suddenly a Sunday afternoon game against the vanilla Carolina Hurricanes had a little unexpected hype.

You couldn't label it a must-win game for Ottawa but if they had dropped this one, they would have found themselves on a three game losing streak as they head back out on the road for the next week with no easy games on the schedule.

So they went out and took care of business against Carolina with a new look on their top two lines, as coach Paul MacLean went out of his way to give Filatov a chance to succeed by playing him with Jason Spezza and Colin Greening. That meant the team's best goal scorer, Milan Michalek, was put on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and newbie centre Nick Foligno.

It worked. Sort of. Spezza had a great game with two goals but Filatov was a minor presence (he's played a lot of hockey on consecutive nights in the past week). The Michalek line didn't make much of a ripple either so in order for the new set-up to have a chance of continuing, both Michalek and Filatov have to prove they can put up some points with their new centres. No doubt that the club wants Filatov to suceed, but if Michalek gets quiet playing with Foligno and Filatov isn't producing with Spezza, there will be too much at stake not to reunite the top line that has been working so well all year.

It sounds like Filatov is already penciled in for the three game road trip starting on Tuesday, so expect MacLean to give these new combinations some time to breathe and grow together.

Filatov had a couple of chances against Carolina, in particular a two-on-one where he showed good speed but seemed to hesitate when it came time to shoot or pass. There's a lot of pressure on the kid to do well and no doubt he's feeling it right now. With a week on the road, you never know what that can do for his game.

Basically, it's now or never for the slick Russian winger. If he can't create offense with Spezza as his centre, you can start saying your goodbyes.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jason Spezza
2. Zack Smith
3. Sergei Gonchar

Honourable Mentions: Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Colin Greening, Zenon Konopka and David Rundblad.


I wonder what it is that GM Bryan Murray is writing down on that pad of his every time the TV camera's focus on him up in the box. Maybe it's a crossword puzzle......Have to agree with Sidney Crosby on this one. Nick Foligno made a bit of a fuss that he got hit in the face by Crosby during a scrum in front of Marc-Andre Fleury on Friday night. Foligno basically called Crosby a hypocrite for advocating tougher rules on headshots but turning around planting an elbow into Foligno's face. But come on, Nick. It was a hockey scrum. You had just bowled over his goalie. He gave you a little shot in the face, not a blindside hit that put you on a stretcher. No need to go crying to the press......That being said, I actually like the fact that Bryan Murray sounded off a little bit about the whole thing. He sounded pretty angry about it and mentioned that he'd have a much tougher lineup the next time they face the Penguins. That's the way to do it. Foligno should let Murray handle the off-ice ranting and instead, take a number for the next time they play Crosby. When a player whines to the press, it makes him sound like he wants somebody else to fight his battles for him. And it also makes them sound like Ryan Miller, and nobody likes listening to Miller drop f-bombs and pout every time a microphone comes near his face...except the press (actually, it's pretty entertaining for everybody, but that's besides the point). As for Murray, he's let some opportunities to defend his players in the past go by without saying a thing. This year has been different. He's been on Brendan Shanahan for the Wolski/Alfredsson incident and now the Crosby/Foligno mess. You can guarantee the players love it when the GM goes to wall for them, even if it's much ado about nothing, which is exactly what this whole thing is about. It was a glorified face-wash......

......That's how you break a scoring slump that had gone into double-digits. Jason Spezza's goal 55 seconds into the game was a thing of beauty. He decided the streak was long enough, grabbed the puck, blew through the Canes and almost casually slipped it by Cam Ward's left pad. Done......It was pretty funny hearing Sportsnet colour commentator Denis Potvin let out a big sigh of disgust when the refs called Jared Cowen for a hooking penalty in the first....... Poor Jesse Winchester. He was initially pegged to be Daniel Alfredsson's centre before news broke that Stephane Da Costa was demoted to the B-Sens and Filatov was promoted, causing coach Paul MacLean to scramble his lines. Winchester got pushed back down the depth chart in a hurry.......You've already seen it, but if, miraculously, you haven't, make sure to watch two 70 year old CFL legends swinging at each other at a press conference which was put on to promote awareness about post-concussion syndrome in athletes. At first, a lot of people thought the fight between old rivals Joe Kapp and (ex-Ottawa Rough Rider) Angelo Mosca was staged but that wasn't the case. These two lads went at each other and Kapp planted one right on Mosca's chin. Kapp then kicked Mosca on the ground, walked back to the stage, threw up his arms and inexplicably yelled "SPORTSMANSHIP!". This CBC article reveals that before the press conference, Mosca had extended a hand to Kapp but was refused. When Kapp started waving flowers in Mosca's face, something snapped for Mosca and he swung his cane (!) at Kapp, and then came the punch which wobbled Mosca (who has trouble standing up at the best of times, let alone taking one on the button). Unbelievable. In hockey terms, this would be like Ted Lindsay and Bobby Hull swinging on each other at an NHLPA function in Toronto......

....Tough to see ex-Senator and current Red Wing Patrick Eaves block a shot with the side of his face and break his jaw. He's gone for two months with jaw surgery. It wasn't that long ago but it's almost hard to remember Eaves as a Senator at all. Yet he did score 20 goals in only 58 games during his rookie season in Ottawa. He's currently playing with Mike Commodore on the Red Wings, one of the players he was traded for when he was sent to Carolina in 2008 along with Joe Corvo. Cory Stillman was the other player going Ottawa's way. Almost four years later, you might say that the Hurricanes won that trade but it's important to remember that Corvo had requested a trade. Stillman was the best player in that deal, with apologies to the hard-shooting, very tattooed Joe Corvo. Eaves has never come close to replicating that 20 goal season, either with Carolina or Detroit.....Also of note against Carolina, Tim Gleason played his 500th career game tonight against the team that drafted him 23rd overall in 2001. He didn't play a single one of those 500 games in a Senators uniform because they dealt him to L.A. for Bryan Smolinski, who was a pretty good second or third line centre for a while here in Ottawa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The whole Filatov situation makes me think that we're entering phase two of the globalization of hockey.

You can think of phase one starting when Mats Sundin became the first European to be drafted first overall in 1989. The following year two Europeans (Nedved and Jagr) went in the top 5.

In 1991, in another strong showing, two Europeans (Forsberg and Kovalev) were drafted in the top fifteen. Then in 1992, five of the top ten players drafted were European, with Hamrlik and Yashin going one and two.

Today, we take for granted that the best players in the world will wait in line for their opportunity to play in the NHL. For a long time, that's the way it was because, for one thing, NHL could turn a hockey player into a millionaire.

Now, along comes the KHL. These guys are not your traditional European hockey league. They don't see themselves as a second tier league. The KHL wants to compete with the NHL.

The most important thing is that they are turning hockey players into millionaires. In many cases, they are offering NHL level salaries.

That's why I think that we can think of this as phase two of the globalization of hockey. All of a sudden, some NHL quality players are viewing the KHL as an option.

So far, it's been mainly Russian players and other NHLers who can't snag a spot on an NHL roster.

But, in five to ten years, I'd bet that this trend accelerates. As the KHL improves health and safety, and just becomes more professional, you have to wonder if legit Canadian NHL talent starts to see it as an option.

Why "pay your dues" for $70K in he AHL when you can bide your time for a couple of million.

Look at soccer in Europe. Players routinely jump from league to league in search of better opportunity.

I think that hockey is in its early days of this reality. Hockey's going global.

For fans, it means you'll have to follow your KHL teams at 1pm, and then you NHL teams at 7pm and 10 pm. Lots more work.

Filatov's just a bit player in the big picture. No need to demonize the guy.

Anyway, I hope he works in Ottawa.