Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chris Phillips Has A Classic Game As Sens Stop The Bleeding ... Plus Pop Shoppe Game Notes

Ottawa 4 Nashville 3

Playing in his 1000th game as an Ottawa Senator in front of his hometown fans and his huge extended family, Chris Phillips had the kind of night we only thought Daniel Alfredsson was capable of.

The Big Rig scored his first two goals of the season and more importantly had a big hand in stopping the Senators brutal seven game losing streak that has brought them right back down into the pack of teams fighting for that last playoff spot.

In accordance with his career, the media and fan hype in the week running up to this game was surprisingly low-key and overshadowed by bigger things on the boil. It wasn't until Phillips played in game 999 that the media really started swinging on it and even then, it wasn't nearly the same kind of glow that Alfreddson generated when he was nearing his 1000 game milestone.

And that's perfectly understandable. But it didn't stop Phillips from delivering an Alfie-type clutch performance that quickly evolved this game from a nice moment to one of those nights that will be remembered by the fans for a long time. When the team turns 30 years old, there will be videos of this night played on the scoreboard when they introduce Phillips alongside Alfie at centre ice. The two goals against Nashville have already entered the "permanent reel".

In a way, it was refreshing to see another player get a piece of the spotlight, especially a player who only a year ago was getting booed by some people for not waiving his no-trade clause because he wanted to be part of the rebuild of the only NHL team he's ever know. It's just one good night, but it's a little bit of vindication as well after a few tough years for everybody.

As anyone who has watched the Senators for the past decade or so already knows, Phillips has a knack for showing up big when it really matters. How many times have we seen him get into that distinctive chug-chug skating stride as he comes barrelling in over the blueline during overtime games looking for that one shot he knows the goalie isn’t expecting to come from his stick. He doesn’t do it very often during the regular season but he has an underrated hockey sense that allows him to jump up at just the right moment and nobody seems to know where the hell he came from until it’s too late.

Yet Phillips will always be remembered for being a steady defensive defenseman, a role that doesn't come with much glamour or praise from the fans. They sometimes don't see the 99 things he does right every night but always notice the one giveaway. But that's life for guys like Phillips.

He's played in the shadows of Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara and now Erik Karlsson.

But all you have to know about Chris Phillips is he's always the guy standing at the open door after a win and congratulating every single player as they come off the ice before he's the last one to step off it and follow his team down the runway.

That says something about the role he plays off the ice and thankfully he should be doing that very same thing for at least a few more seasons.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Chris Phillips
2. Jason Spezza
3. Milan Michalek

Honourable Mentions: Bobby Butler, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Chris Neil and Nick Foligno.

Let's take a look at how the season-long BA 3 Stars are coming along:

Black Aces 3 Star Season Scorecard

1. Anderson – 46
2. Spezza – 35
3. Karlsson – 34
4. Alfredsson – 34
5. Michalek – 27
6. Neil – 20
7. Foligno – 16
8. Greening – 14
9. Cowen – 13
10. Gonchar – 13
11. Smith – 10
12. Turris – 8
13. Kuba – 5
14. Phillips – 4
15. Da Costa – 4
16. Condra – 3
17. Butler – 2
18. Winchester – 1
19. Carkner – 1


It was a tough morning at the Team 1200 in Ottawa as on-air personalities Jim Jerome, Phil Melanson and Mike Sutherland were layed off as part of "corporate restructuring" at Bell Media (an almost Orwellian term that exists solely to make firing people sound nicer than it actually is). Also caught in the shitstorm was Michael Harris at CFRA, the only host on that station who was worth listening to on any given day. Lee Versage of Sportscall survived the cuts but lost his second co-host in a few years with Melanson being shown the door. Melanson's predecessor, Glenn Kulka was let go in late-2009 after a few entertaining years of getting completely outraged with the callers on a daily basis. Jerome, who is the son of a former House of Commons Speaker (James Jerome) seems to have taken a different route to fame than his father did. Some people didn't like Jim Jerome but I thought he was fairly amusing when he actually showed up. He's probably thankful he doesn't have to wake up around 4:00 Edmonton time to do a 6:00 Ottawa show anymore. For a guy who seems to like the odd pint or two, it's actually pretty impressive Jerome managed to call in from Edmonton most mornings. Jerome's refusal to take Pierre McGuire seriously was probably the best thing he did for that show, as well as his classic "Turkey Skin Luggage" tune that I've hummed in my fog-addled brain on more than one occasion against my will.....

..... Jason Spezza punched the glass so hard after he scored in the first period that he could have broken his hand, broken the glass, or punched a perfectly round hole through the glass and knocked out the unlucky fan on the other side. Nobody needed a goal more than that guy (except Bobby Butler). You could tell Spezza was angry and giving everything he had in the loss to the St. Louis Blues but was fighting his confidence all night long. Once he got that first one tonight, he was absolutely flying for the rest of the game. Can’t find much fault with Spezza’s performance this year….. Spezza opted for the lowered knee, downward fist pump for his second goal. The guy has a lot of moves….. Goaltenders continue to be unreasonably coddled by the league as Nick Foligno’s slight brush against Pekka Rinne’s glove somehow cost the winger two minutes for goalie interference late in the first period, even though Foligno wasn’t impeding Rinne from making a save or anything else for that matter. The “collision” might have ruffled Rinne’s sweater a little…..

.....Strange scene with the big rookie Jared Cowen tying up Alex Auld’s loose equipment during a stoppage in play. I guess there’s no task too menial they won’t make a rookie do nowadays. Pick up the pucks after practice. Buy dinners. Tie up a veteran’s loose jockstrap on live television….. Every time I turned the channel to watch the Leafs/Flyers game on TSN, Scott Hartnell was up to something no good. That guy is incredible this year. At one point he banged in a garbage goal and before he could celebrate, he and Dion Phaneuf dropped the gloves and went at it right outside James Reimer's crease. This guy is turning into a modern Eddie Shack…..

..... Chris Neil had a hell of a shift in the third when he had the whole Nashville team chasing him around the neutral and defensive zones while he hacked and whacked at the puck like a crazed lumberjack. The Preds ended up taking a penalty call because all they could do was hack and whack right back..... I don't really know what it is but lately I've rediscovered Family Feud and caught it right before the game tonight. One of the answers on the board to the question "Name something a man takes ten minutes to do" was - for real - "Pinch A Loaf". Apparently that is the most family friendly term they could come up with. It would have been even better if nobody had guessed it because at the end of every round, they reveal the unguessed answers one by one and the whole crowd repeats it out loud, but in this slow, dragging tone of voice. What I would have given to hear a whole studio audience moan the words "Pinch A Loaf".... Mike Fisher was pretty quiet in his return to Ottawa tonight despite playing over 17 minutes in the game. He didn't have a shot on net but typically finished +1 with 3 blocked shots and a handful of hits. Same old Mike....

.....It never gets old watching this Chris Phillips 2003 overtime goal against the Devils in the Eastern Conference final, if only to watch Zdeno Chara nearly kill five teammates with his now legendary celebration jump.


Anonymous said...

Really happy for Phillips. I echo your thoughts in that it was a memorable performance.

The Habs have a history that is the envy of the league because they usually do things right. The payoff for fans is that they have all these meaningful moments that they can celebrate. It all adds to the fan experience.

It's good for the owner as well, because there is more opportunity to make some money off all the celebrations.

The Sens are in a position to have a few players that could end up defining an era. I'm glad the Phillips deal was worked out last year. I think these types of moments are good for the franchise, long-term.

That said, I'm not saying you keep a guy if he can't help you win. But, I think that the team should try especially hard to retain legacy players if they can play an effective role.

Phillips clearly still has lots of gas in the tank.

Great game by Spezza and Michalek as well.

I though that the Sportscall boys (Versage and Melanson) had good chemistry. Hopefully they get reunited at some point.

Anonymous said...

Could care less about Phillips as I wish he was turfed in the rebuild. He's just another government worker on skates, not esepcially good at anything but a nice guy is enough these days in this city.

Melanson leaving is great. He was too pro-American and went on about himself too much. Jerome is a loss as he was probably the only person on that station that had fun. Now gas Warne and York and replace them with sportscasters with a wide take and knowledge instead of Senators-bots and the Team may actually crest 70,000 listeners for the first time in years