Monday, January 16, 2012
Sens Have A Night To Forget.... Diva Goalies.... The Boss.... Chomsky-esque Game Notes
Winnipeg 2 Ottawa 0
Sometimes teams get sick of winning.
Okay, that's completely untrue, but for fans it sometimes looks that way. Against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, the Senators barely had anything in the tank coming home from a mini-road trip and with a much bigger one probably looming on their minds.
They'll never use it as an excuse, but the Senators may have been looking ahead to Toronto on Tuesday and the scheduled full week away from home. And if they were going to offer up a clunker, Monday night was about the safest time they could do it.
Even after the loss, the Senators sit safely in 5th place in the East and the loss to the conference rival Jets doesn't immediately seem to pose a danger. There is still a 9 point gap there and the Jets were due for a win against Ottawa after dropping the first two of the season to the Senators.
All those games Ottawa won recently gave them a cushion exactly for nights like this in the dog-days of January when the bounces don't go their way, the legs seem like they're full of gravy and hands are dipped in cement.
The only real emotion the Senators showed was when Erik Karlsson was elbowed by Evander Kane and Chris Neil had to jump in a few plays later to address the situation. Neil levelled Kane with a Flesherton handshake and all hell broke loose for a few minutes with Karlsson and all his teammates on the bench appreciating Neil's efforts. It was the absolute right thing to do for Neil - it was the only thing to do. If he doesn't let Kane know that elbowing Ottawa's best player is a punishable offense, then Neil isn't doing his job. Matt Carkner also got into the act by backing up Neil when the Jets fought back and the Senators gladly killed off the extra two-minutes. Those are the kinds of penalties any team will gladly take.
Yet the emotion from that scene didn't give either team momentum one way or the other. It was one of those nights where Bruce Springsteen and the whole E-Street Band could have personally ripped into Born To Run in the dressing room and the Sens would have been just as flat.
But the Leafs might have an angry Sens team on their hands on Tuesday night. Word is Eugene is personally flying in Bruce from Jersey for this one.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
Not much to pick from here but let's give it a shot....
1. Chris Neil (Stuck up for Karlsson, led team in hits with 5)
2. Sergei Gonchar (Led team in shots and blocked shots)
3. Craig Anderson (Solid outing with no goal support)
Goalies Still Have It Good....Too Good
It's a topic you don't hear much about anymore with the concussion issue taking precedence over everything. Yet, goalie equipment is still huge, scoring is trending downwards and nobody seems to know what to do about it, at least no one with any say on the matter. The guy responsible for enforcing the standards on goalie equipment size, Kay Whitmore, recently told the Hockey News that "Nothing is imminent...It’s always been a goal to find a way to get rid of the big catch glove without having sprained thumbs, torn ligaments and wrist injuries." Please. The only thing those mitts protect is the net and everybody knows it.This doesn't inspire much confidence that change is on the way. The same article points out that "the league reduced goalie pads from 12 to 11 inches '05-06" but that goalie save percentages have risen during that time. Again, larger nets are being brought up as a possible solution. Pass the Gravol. Maybe the league should stop treating goalies like divas and just get the equipment shrunk drastically once and for all, just like they did so well with obstruction. We're talking about 60 guys in the NHLPA that will be upset and the rest will be high-fiving each other because more goals equals bigger contracts. The NHL has to make it so players can come over the blue line, take an unscreened shot and score a goal more than once a year. Half the goals in the NHL today are what we used to consider garbage goals, all within five feet of the net and off rebounds. Yes, the goalies are bigger, but the equipment is beyond being a joke. It was a joke in the 90's. Now everyone is just tired of talking about it and have accepted the one-inch change in '06 as the final say in the matter. Too bad. When it finally gets done, people will be wondering why it took them so long, just like obstruction.
Now that we've already broached my least favourite subject - goalies - the Senators would have been smart to look at the Ducks Dan Ellis before he tore up his groin and went on the IR as an option to shore up their back-up slot. The guy is a UFA next season and actually has a pretty good save percentage on a brutal team. Clearly, Alex Auld is not getting the job done and that's not giving the Senators many options if they want to rest Craig Anderson. Now that Ellis is likely off the table, there's no real obvious candidate for Ottawa to trade for. Maybe if the Jets plummet in the standings the Sens could try to get Chris Mason in a bargain. He's also UFA but the Jets may have ideas of re-signing him or extracting a good pick in return for his services....The Winnipeg Jets must have felt right at home going to the rink for today's game-day skate. It sure felt like Winnipeg out there after a fairly mild winter so far in Bytown.....I'm a long-john's kind of guy but I recently had a pal tell me I was crazy and that no one wears long-johns anymore. What? Is this true? I wouldn't be able to survive an Ottawa winter without those red-striped woolen socks and the johns. Or maybe he's the freak. That would explain a few things....It seems like every team in the East plays 90 percent of the game in the neutral zone this year with variations on the classic trap. And Ottawa has just played three of them in a row. The Sens might be happy for a trip to Toronto and out West if only for a chance to be able to skate again. Maybe the NHL should just put the nets at the bluelines and put expensive seats in the old offensive zones. That's a million dollar idea right there......I think Dave "The Voice" Schreiber is the only person left on earth who likes to exclaim "Kowabunga" after big goals, like he did on Alfredsson's shootout winning goal against Montreal on Saturday. The reason is that he's the only guy who still sounds good doing it. Seriously, Schreiber is the best in the business and it's a shame more people don't know about him......
.....Brendan Shanahan made the right call on the Vincent Lecavalier punch to Evgeni Malkin's grill. It was dirty, sure, but basically harmless. The guy most in trouble should be the linesman who supposedly had Lecavalier tied up. One of the linesman's main responsibilities in fights or major scrums is to make sure that no one gets in a free shot while the other guy is immobilized by the other linesman. That didn't happen here and Geno had to take one on the chin. I liked Malkin's response though. He took it, shrugged it off and left the game with 5 points, including a hat-trick. He's got no place fighting anyways, unlike Lecavalier who's been known to throw them once in a while. That's for Arron "The Sandman" Asham to take care of the next game.....Not many inspiring shifts by an Senators line but the fourth unit of Chris Neil, Zenon Konopka and Bobby Butler hit the post twice with about three minutes to go. Interesting that Paul MacLean would put those guys out at that time but he seems to have a good feel for the bench. It almost worked....
....A strange trend I've noticed across the league in the past couple of seasons is guys showing their frustration by raising their sticks in a chopping motion (usually with one hand) and starting to bring it down on the ice or the boards before pulling up and skating off the ice. Of course, that's always been around but I've really noticed it this year as a sort of standard show of emotion by younger players. I think it's a bit like the chewing of mouthguards or the hockey pant strings dangling you see a lot of. Weird, meaningless trends that catch on amongst young players and proliferate. It's nothing to get up in arms about, but it's a bad habit. You know the old maxim: "Never let them see you sweat." In the old days, the only time you'd see a player raise his stick in a chopping motion was when he was really going to bring it down on someones head or ankle. I guess this is better when you think of it in that way.....Ryan Miller is officially killing me in my hockey pool. This is a guy playing like he wants to be in Anaheim. Maybe he'll get his wish very soon.....
.....Hitting the mid-point of the season, every self-respecting blog has to hand out their own set of team awards, so in order to do the minimum expected of me, here's two random ones:
Most improved player: Obviously a lot of candidates for this one but I've got my eye on Nick Foligno. Sure, Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar have bounced back from tough years, but we all knew the level they could play at when at their best. Foligno is starting to show that he can make plays, score goals as well as be a bit of a shift disturber out there, as Sidney Crosby can now attest. In years past, Foligno looked like he was missing a cylinder. He could make the nice plays in his head, as shown by his numerous failed attempts to stickhandle into the offensive zone, but this year he's getting past the blueline with the puck still on his stick and he's starting to show some hands nobody knew were there. I wrote a piece on Foligno early in the year saying he had to accept his fate as a grinder and just go to the net instead of trying to stickhandle like Spezza. Looks like I was wrong. He's like a hybrid now. One minute he'll have three guys trying to punch him in the head for going hard to the net and the next he's deking those same players out of their jockstraps.
Best goal celebration: This is a tough one. It's hard not to like Jason Spezza's understated fist pump or Erik Karlsson's near Ovechkin-like joy when a teammate scores (ie. Alfie's 400th goal when Karlsson was jumping up and down like my sister at the New Kids On The Block concert in 1990). But I have to give the best goal celebration to Daniel Alfredsson who lately has taken to simply putting both hands straight in the air after a near two-second pause and staring down his teammates as if to say "Yup. That's how it's done, boys". This will surely go down as the classic Alfie pose, as he most famously did it in the 2007 Eastern final against the Sabres to send the Senators to the Stanley Cup final for the first time. It also helps that every time he seems to do it is because he just won the Senators the game. As the players pile on around him in celebration, the only thing you can see of Alfie is those two arms still in the air.