Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spezza, Heatley and Gerber Fail To Step Up

It was a brutal beating at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Ottawa Senators can’t be declared officially dead yet.

There were some positives to grab a hold of… but not many.

After a disgraceful start, Martin Gerber actually played really well in the second and third periods. The problem is that Gerber got his team behind early when he watched a weak backhander by Gary Roberts beat him to the glove side. That was the end of the game right there because the Senators couldn’t capitalize on two 5 on 3’s later in the contest.

Gerber simply has to stop that puck just for the sake of everyone’s sanity and not just because it was a weak shot (and the first shot on net!), but because it was Gary Roberts. The mountain of mental baggage that comes with Roberts versus the Senators is just too much too fathom at this point, yet we are seeing it all over again. Gerber struggled all through the rest of the period and nearly let in a Tommy Salo-esque goal when a puck hit his shoulder and flipped behind his back, narrowly missing the net.

But he stepped up huge with a glove save on the same play that Anton Volchenkov got his forehead caved in by a slapshot and from then on he was stellar. He then went on to let in two more marginal goals at the end of the third period and that was all she wrote.

At the end of the day, Gerber still let in 4 goals while Marc-Andre Fleury let in 0. People will be tripping all over themselves to say that Gerber is not to blame but he didn’t help the team win either.

The playoffs are about results and Gerber didn’t get the job done.

But neither did Jason Spezza or Dany Heatley and this might be an even bigger problem than shaky goaltending. They weren’t particularly bad but they were clearly frustrated at not being able to generate much of anything on offense and that’s not really a surprise. For all of their skill, Spezza and Heatley don’t seem capable of bringing their games to another level the way Daniel Alfredsson can in pressure situations. That’s not to say they won’t, but they don’t seem to be able to ignite that passion that allows teams to get over the hump.

On a more positive note, a few role players such as Martin Lapointe and Shean Donovan had decent games and the Senators showed some physical grit and toughness throughout. Mike Commodore was particularly hard on some Pittsburgh players but he made a crucial mistake that led to a 2 on 1 and a Petr Sykora goal.

As expected, Evgeni Malkin was dominant but Sidney Crosby had a strangely quiet game and gave Penguins fans a panic filled moment when he barreled into the end boards feet first, almost exactly the same way he badly injured his ankle earlier in the season.

The dude was okay.

So what should give the Senators hope for the next game and the rest of the series?

Well, when all is said, it could have been much worse. For large parts of the game, the Senators were competitive and actually seemed to win the second period despite being severely shorthanded injury wise and on the road.

Somehow, somehow…if Spezza and Heatley can find a way to score and they steal a game in Pittsburgh on Friday, things change a little and there could be some reason for optimism.

But until anything changes, the Penguins played like the better team and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case going forward.


Anshu said...

I couldn't disagree more about Gerber. On the first Roberts goal, his lateral movement was clearly impaired by the presence of two Senators sprawled on the ice in the blue paint to his left, one practically in the net himself.

That game was never out of reach, so the lack of offence can't be blamed on Gerber putting the team in a hole too deep to climb out from.

Anonymous said...

Since when does 2 goals put the team in a hole too deep to climb out of? that's sad...and so undeserving of the stanley cup.