Friday, December 23, 2011

Sens Break For Christmas As A Team To Watch

Carolina 2 Ottawa 1 (OT)

Not bad for a back-to-back going into the Christmas holidays.

The Senators lost another low scoring game in Raleigh, a town which they always seem to sleepwalk through a couple times a year but getting that point keeps them in the top eight (pending the outcome of the Winnipeg game) going into the Christmas break.

Outside of the Panthers, the Wild and the NHL Guardians Project, the Ottawa Senators have to be considered one of the league's biggest success stories as we near the halfway mark. Right now they sit above teams like the Montreal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres, the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom were expected to be much better than they actually are.

This team has the feel of those 97 and 98 squads who had a few really good offensive talents backed by a gritty character group of support players, but instead of older guys like Tom Chorske, Bruce Gardiner and Shaun Van Allen, these Senators have young kids in many of those support roles and they just keep getting better as the games pile up.

Clearly, this is not an elite contending team yet but if you go back to those late 90's editions you'll remember how they kept surprising everybody by winning games and a playoff series no one thought they could. It's the same scenario repeating itself over a decade later.

Back then, the Senators made some key but risky trades to accelerate the youth movement, such as swapping one young, highly-touted prospect for another in the Bryan Berard - Wade Redden trade and then picking up veterans such as Steve Duchesne to help the young guys learn how to pick the best wines at restaurants.

GM Bryan Murray recently made another risky prospect-for-prospect move by shipping off David Rundblad for centre Kyle Turris and three games in Murray looks like a smart man, despite many (including myself) reaching for the Wild Turkey and guzzling a quart straight off just to try and get their heads around it. Murray also picked up some good vets like Craig Anderson and Sergei Gonchar, both of whom are starting to pay off in a possible playoff chase (remember when fans booed Gonchar and Filip Kuba at the first home game? I still don't get it.)

If the Ottawa Senators are a contending club two or three years from now, we'll all look back on this season like we once looked back at that 1997 team where a raw group of talented kids started to lay the foundation for better things to come.

Daniel Alfredsson was at the start of that road way back then in a terrible JOFA helmet and now he's looped back around to see it happening once again, only this time he has a glorious Lanny McDonald above his soup coolers.

If his memory serves him well, he might want to stick around at least another season to see where it all leads.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Craig Anderson (36 saves)
2. Filip Kuba (22 minutes, 1 goal, 3 blocked shots)
3. Erik Karlsson (for being Erik Karlsson)

Here's how the season scorecard looks going into the Christmas break:

Black Aces 3 Stars Season Scorecard

(3 points for 1st star, 1 for 3rd star etc.)

1. Spezza – 28
2. Karlsson – 25
3. Anderson – 25
4. Michalek – 22
5. Alfredsson – 20
6. Foligno – 12
7. Neil – 11
8. Smith – 10
9. Cowen – 10
10. Greening – 7
11. Da Costa – 4
12. Gonchar – 4
13. Butler – 2
14. Kuba - 2
15. Phillips – 1
16. Winchester – 1
17. Condra - 1


Erik Karlsson has now had 7 multi-point games this season, which is pretty remarkable for a defenseman by Christmas. 16 Senators have had multi-point games so far. Here's a list of them and how many:

Spezza - 11
Alfredsson - 7
Karlsson - 7
Michalek - 6
Foligno - 4
Condra - 3
Gonchar - 3
Neil - 3
Smith - 3
Butler - 1
Cowen - 1
Da Costa - 1
Greening - 1
Kuba - 1
Phillips - 1
Regin - 1

....Strange fact: Nick Foligno played 35 games going into tonight and never surpassed 2 minutes in penalties in any game except twice - he got 17 minutes against Vancouver and 15 minutes against Florida this month. In the four games between the matches with Vancouver and Florida he had 0 penalty minutes. The guy knows how to pick his spots......Somehow I doubt we'll see Kyle Turris replacing David Rundblad in this sort of important situation.....

.....I've always liked that thing they do in the Carolina rink where someone goes to town on that crank noisemaker to get the crowd going. Tonight it was Santa Claus just givin 'er a rip. Maybe in Ottawa they could steal that classic moment from Fubar where Tron puts an axe into a tree stump to signal that the party has started, as seen below. You could have Sparty do it at centre ice right after the anthems. Or even better, the drunkest fan they can find....

.....I've always wondered if it was coincidence that my 2 year old son decides to take a massive dump in his diaper which requires an immediate changing as soon as the puck drops for the start of the game. He did it again tonight, about the tenth time this season. I'm beginning to suspect my wife has something to do with this. Her cackling laughter gives it away.......Tough story last night about a man having a heart attack right at the main entrance to Scotiabank Place. Luckily he was attended to quickly by two bystanders with CPR training.....

So I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Black Aces will take a little break for a few days while I get drunk and eat and sleep like an animal. Let's end it with maybe my favourite clip from Christmas Vacation, a movie everyone should take the time to watch over the holidays, even if you've already seen it 32 times.

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