Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Senators Forgotten Man Finds His Hands
Bobby Butler came into this season on a high, playing a vital role in the Binghamton Senators Calder Cup win after riding shotgun with Jason Spezza on Ottawa's top line for over 30 games. GM Bryan Murray inked the college boy to a one-way contract with visions of Butler greatly improving on his 10 goals as a rookie and almost everybody had him pencilled in next to Spezza going into camp, even though he had a new coach who wasn't going to be faithful to Cory Clouston's setup.
Then the sophomore jinx came and kicked his ass for a while.
He started camp slow, got injured, sat out a stretch of games and couldn't buy a goal when he was in the lineup. Going into tonight's match in Calgary, Butler was wearing cement shoes on a line with Zenon Konopka and Jesse Winchester. Meanwhile, fellow college kid Colin Greening was holding his spot quite nicely alongside Spezza up in first class.
60 minutes and two goals later (including the winner), Butler might just have remembered what made him successful in the first place - his shot.
That's his best asset, his one true weapon. It's not a hammer like Dany Heatley's, but it's sneaky. When Butler was scoring goals alongside Spezza, he was finding that vacated space around the circles and simply getting shots off quickly before goalies had time to react. Same thing tonight against the Flames. The first goal he does a basic deke and snaps the puck about one beat earlier than a lot of players would, and it looks clean, like Patrick Kane looks when he shoots. It's on and off the stick right away and the wrists barely move.
The second goal was much the same minus the deke. It wasn't ripped, but it was quick and a little early. It seems more like a product of hockey sense than it does plain physical skill, but it's obviously a nice combination of both.
If these two goals take off a lot of the dead weight that's been sitting on his shoulders in the early going, then the Senators may not need to go out and trade for another top six forward before Christmas.
All season the Senators have seemed to be one skilled forward short (actually a center), and that's mostly because Peter Regin shredded his shoulder again, Nikita Filatov didn't seem to be right and Bobby Butler most definitely wasn't right.
If he can snap out of it, and tonight was a hell of a start, the Senators might be able to go cheap on the pro scouting for a little while.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Craig Anderson: Dominated before and after puck handling gaffe that led to tying goal.
2. Bobby Butler: Two goals in under ten minutes of play.
3. Jason Spezza: Had his wheels going and dominated the face-off circle.
Honourable Mentions: Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba, Sergei Gonchar and Jesse Winchester
Lamest moment of the night: When Zenon Konopka and Tom Kostopoulos were engaged in a pretty good scrap early in the second period, the music guy at the Saddledome felt he had to play some loud MMA style metal in the background. Since when do fights get music in NHL rinks? I may be wrong but I'm pretty sure that's never happened in Ottawa so far. It reminded me of being at a Toronto Rock lacrosse game where music was blaring while the play was going on. .....Not sure what Zack Smith did to deserve a boarding penalty late in the first period. I suppose the hit made a loud noise, so maybe if your hits are too loud that's now considered a dangerous play. As Norm Macdonald said in Dirty Work, "ridiculous"..... The parents of those kids sitting directly behind the penalty box may want to stop their tykes from banging on the glass right after a Flame like Chris Butler takes a bad penalty in the 3rd period. Just saying....
....That was one of the more emotional Hall of Fame ceremonies in recent memory. They’re always great each year but Mark Howe’s induction speech was unbelievable. There were so many intense moments – like when he pointed out the late Brad McCrimmon’s wife who came specifically for Mark’s induction. Or when he threw on the #9 Red Wings jersey in honour of his father Gordie Howe, who watched the whole thing with tears in his eyes. It was almost too much to take. When Doug Gilmour closed his speech by saying that the late Pat Burns would someday join him in the Hall, I started waving the white flag at the TV. That’s why hockey is the best sport in the world – it has the greatest guys playing it…..
.....Why does it still bother me that there are actually two Stanley Cups? The real one, which the players hoist at the end of the season and cart around to barbeques all summer, and the “fake” one (created in 1993) which fills in for the “Presentation Cup” at the Hall Of Fame when the real one is on tour. I’ve been to the Hall Of Fame many, many times but there’s always the letdown knowing that the Cup you’re looking at is not the real one (they do have the original bowl on display that was retired in 1970 for being too old and brittle – this was the one that was dropkicked into the Rideau Canal in 1905 by Harvey Pulford after Ottawa beat the Dawson City Nuggets. The Cup went into the canal near Laurier and Elgin and stayed there all night long while the Ottawa players slept off a nasty hangover). The HOF is very open about it and don’t try to pretend the replica is the real Cup, but the purist in me thinks people would be okay with just having an empty stand where the one true Cup is supposed to sit if it’s not there at the moment. That would make seeing it in person even more special. What should they do with the replica then? Maybe donate it to the Leafs so they can string it from the rafters of the ACC like a dangling carrot to their players. Plus, guys can try to hit it with pucks during practice….
......Tough times in Tampa Bay right now. They’ve lost both games since Flyers coach Peter Laviolette decided to make a mockery of Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 defensive system by instructing his defenseman to stand still if they weren’t challenged. And they weren’t. The Lightning won that game but they haven’t looked right since. Boucher called the loss against St. Louis on Saturday “shameful” and basically bag skated his charges the morning of their game against the Jets. The Lightning responded by getting whacked 5-2 in Winnipeg and now you have to wonder if some of the vets on the Lightning were somewhat demoralized by that incident against Philly. You think a proud guy like Martin St. Louis enjoyed standing at the blueline for minutes at a time and getting laughed at by the Flyers bench? It probably embarrassed him and a few of his teammates. Ask any player and they’ll tell you they want to skate and chase the puck, the way hockey should be played. Ask a coach like Boucher or Ken Hitchcock and they’ll tell you they want to win above all else, no matter what it looks like. I’m sure Tampa will snap out of it once they get some of their top defenseman back but maybe Boucher needs to drop the intensity once in a while. He got in front of a microphone before the Jets game and talked about “going to war” etc. The guy is about a 9 on the tension scale all the time. That can get old rather quick with some players….
.....The Flames may not be very good, but their Heritage Uni's are as good as they come. Seeing them play the Oilers in these flaming orange sweaters is every 80's hockey fans dream come true.
.... And finally, congratulations to my brother Ben and his wife Michelle on the birth of their second baby boy today. I'm guessing Ben still found time to watch the game tonight. Ridiculous.....