Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lee Era Ends With Whimper

I'm not sure why this was never brought up, but with Brian Lee put on waivers today after being a healthy scratch for so long, did the young defenseman at any time get asked to go on a conditioning stint to the Binghmamton Senators? And if so, did he refuse to go (as would be his right due to his one-way contract)?

It wasn't too long ago, maybe three weeks, that assistant GM Tim Murray was on Ottawa radio and was asked if Lee could be sent down for a conditioning stint. Murray said it was definitely possible, but no one could force Lee to accept the assignment. The CBA rules seem to say that players can be sent down for a maximum of 14 days with the players consent (and with the player receiving his full salary and it also counting against the cap).

Now, with the complexity of the CBA, perhaps Lee wasn't even eligible for an assignment in the end (he hasn't been injured, just scratched), but Tim Murray at least seemed to believe it was a legitimate move at the time if Bryan Murray so chose.

Nobody has reported on this since then, to my knowledge, but logic would tell me that Lee must have been asked and decided not to go. Is there any CBA experts out there who can shed some light on this?

Regardless, being put on waivers probably means that his career with the Senators is over, at least for this season, because calling him back up would allow another team to claim him and stick the Sens with half the bill. Having a one-way deal in the minors is a bad proposition for players like Lee. It's a black hole.

In a way, it's surprising this move wasn't done a while ago. Every day Lee was on the roster ticked off money from the cap and he wasn't even the seventh defenseman. He was the eighth once Filip Kuba returned from injury and stuck behind David Hale in the pecking order. Likely Murray was just trying to get some kind of asset in return before being forced to bury him in the minors where Lee is bound to play out his two-year deal unless a team gets desperate enough to make a trade rather than wait for him to become available on waivers again.

As of this time, Lee hasn't cleared waivers yet. Maybe he does get picked up. Colorado? Minnesota?

That one-way deal is a big hindrance to both Lee and any suitors out there.


On a sad note, Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Kelley passed away today after a fight with cancer. Anyone who took the time to read his columns regularly over the years already knows he was one of the better ones. Always had something interesting to say, and had a colourful career to say the least.

Along with Red Fisher, Roy MacGregor and Stan Fischler, Kelley was one of the writers I've always looked up to and tried to learn from.

He'll be missed .

Monday, November 29, 2010

Senators Stunned Into Silence By Gerber and Oilers

Watching the Edmonton Oilers slowly suffocate the Ottawa offense Monday night made the game feel like a lowpoint in the Senators season for good reason.

It was the middle game, the valley between two peaks, the supposed "gimme game" between the Saturday night special against the Leafs (which Ottawa won) and the Thursday night return date with Dany Heatley and the Sharks that's been marked on calendars across the NHL since the schedule was released.

Reading the papers and watching the blogs, it was like this game meant nothing and was a certain two points in the bag.

Not to Martin Gerber.

The once spurned ex-Senators goalie barely had to do anything (but what he did have to do, he did well) as he watched the young Oilers play a near perfect road game against an Ottawa team that still seems to have no clue how to score goals.

The coaching staff' for the Senators have been shaking up the lines every which way for nearly two weeks now but when they really needed to make a change - late in the game to get something going - Cory Clouston kept sending out trio's who just weren't working well together all game long.

It's a bit strange that Clouston has completely abandoned the Jason Spezza- Alex Kovalev pairing that worked so well for awhile before being split up, and the third period was the time to try them together again.

People will point to all the penalties the Senators took, and the tying goal given up while short-handed, but the real culprit is a lack of cohesion among the lines Clouston has going right now, even after the great game Kovalev, Milan Michalek and Mike Fisher had together on Saturday night.

And it's an extra shame for the Senators because this was a match they should have won with two tougher games ahead against San Jose and Buffalo.

Now, if you can believe it, the Senators have more regulation losses than the Edmonton Oilers. Those same sad sack Oilers who everyone is writing off as a lottery pick.

Now that's a lowpoint no matter how you look at it.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

Edmonton 4 Ottawa 1

No stars awarded tonight, for the 6th time this season.


....At least it was a good move by the Senators to pick the game against the Oilers to be their first time wearing road whites this season at home, allowing locals to get a look at the nicest non-original-six jersey's in the NHL. Those Oiler throwback's are pretty stellar. Now if only they could switch back to the original white jerseys that Gretzky and company wore and they'd be in business. As it is, the Oilers current road whites are the plainest, dullest, most uninspired sweaters in the league by far. Most other teams practice jerseys are nicer.... I've never been much of a gambler or a guy who plays the lottery, but those 50/50 draws at the rink suck me in every time. I spend most of the game completely believing I've got the winner in my hands and then sit dejectedly for the last half of the 3rd after they announce the numbers. There's a sucker born every minute....

....This Opinion Won't Be Popular Dept.: Fans are going to have their fun booing Dany Heatley and they definitely deserve to vent their frustrations after all this time, but if you really look at things honestly, the guy who did the most damage to the Senators during a similar time span was on the ice tonight for the Oilers, and that would be Martin Gerber. Frankly, John Paddock's little golden goalie was brutal during his time in a Senators uniform and set this franchise back much further than Heatley's trade demand ever did. At least when Heatley was a Senator he helped lead this team to the Stanley Cup final and twice scored 50 goals. Yet it was Gerber who became a minor folk-hero in town during the Ray Emery fiasco because the Swiss goalie apparently was the "nicest guy in the world" and the "hardest working athlete in sports history". And I'm barely exaggerating the remarks that were thrown out in the media about this guy. That golden rep has followed him around ever since. "Luckiest guy in the world" would be more apt. Still, you have to give Gerber credit for fighting his way back to the NHL with the Oilers this year. But let's just say I never have and never will drink the Kool-Aid concerning this guy..... That was a tough summer for former Senators GM John Muckler back in 2006. He lets Zdeno Chara and Dominik Hasek walk and signed Wade Redden and Gerber instead. Even a trip to the Cup final was not enough to save his job after that....

.....Tough to see Jesse Winchester getting a penalty for lightly laying his stick across an Oiler with only one arm in the second period, but that's a call the referees need to keep making. There should be zero tolerance for using your stick on a player who's carrying the puck. I lived through the "dead puck" era where obstruction was king, and I never, ever, ever want to go through that again. Sitting through Stanley Cup final series like the Avalanche-Panthers in 96, Stars-Sabres in 99 and Stars-Devils in 00 was like getting a hockey lobotomy. The game is so much better now, even if the price is a few chintzy penalties here and there that annoy everyone..... There was also an interesting discussion on the Healthy Scratches show on the Team 1200 today, where they discussed how hard it is to get pucks to the net in the modern NHL because everyone is so good at blocking shots and collapsing in front of the net. They re-set Bob Gainey's idea from a few years ago to make going down and blocking shots on the ice an illegal defensive move. Sure, it seems silly at first, but I actually think it makes sense. A lot more pucks are going to get through all those bodies if defenseman are only allowed to do the standing flamingo in front of shots. Combine that rule with even smaller goalie equipment and you may have something that will make a difference. The NHL needs to keep pushing for more offense. The game is better, but there's still a ways to go....Speaking of making the game better, where have all the big hits gone? Was there even one hit thrown in the Oilers-Senators game other than Nick Foligno's in the third that got him a penalty? Players are spooked by the new blindside rule and don't seem to want to commit themselves to any kind of hit anymore, legal or not. It's a sad state of affairs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sens Need To Be Wary Of Oilers

Should be an interesting week for the Senators, and of course we're alluding to the Sharks game on Thursday when the Dany Heatley circus is going to be at its peak.

Already the hype machine has started but the real danger for the Sens is not losing to the Sharks, but looking ahead to far and losing to the Oilers Monday night.

Just like the Toronto game, this is a must-win for the Senators, facing a team that should be an easy two points at home. But that's never really the case is it?

While the fans may be looking ahead to the Sharks, it's likely the Sens coaching staff is drilling home the importance of beating the Oilers because that would mean they can finish no worse than .500 on this current 4 game home-stand with two tougher games ahead in the Sharks and the Sabres.

As for the ongoing saga with the defenseman, Cory Clouston's benchings of both Erik Karlsson and Matt Carkner last week backfired for the most part and it wasn't until the real core was put back together with David Hale sitting that things returned to "normal".

Hale has been excellent this year in his role as a substitute, but that's what he should remain when everyone is healthy - a substitute. The core of this defense is already set and Hale was brought in as insurance. He's provided that and more but he shouldn't be displacing guys like Karlsson or Carkner in the lineup. Hale will get plenty of chances to play this year as an injury fill-in. Both Karlsson and Carkner play very specific roles on this team and I'm still not sure what Clouston achieved by sitting them. If he wanted to sit a player for not playing well, there were other, more deserving candidates than Karlsson and Carkner on defense.

Perhaps it's a lesson learned, for the scratches and for the coaching staff.

This team was playing well before the week when tragedy struck. Clouston made too many changes after some understandable losses and didn't allow his team to play their way out of it, casting away working line combos and making questionable scratches.

With a big win against Toronto, maybe this team has found it's rhythm once again.

We'll see tonight against an Oilers team with speed to burn and nothing more to lose on a season that has already hit the ocean floor.

As for the Senators, they're just treading water right now and need a big finish to their home-stand.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Is Clouston Thinking?

After yet another stunted offensive game by the Senators where they again managed only 19 shots and a few limited scoring chances in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, you have to wonder what coach Cory Clouston is thinking by benching one of his best offensive defenseman for a second straight game.

Of course we're talking about Erik Karlsson who for some reason is the one feeling the wrath of the coach after the entire team went into a tailspin the previous week due to very understandable circumstances.

Not many people questioned the decision due to the fact that the Senators escaped with a win against the Kings despite struggling offensively for much of the game. Clouston didn't want to change things up for Wednesday night's tilt against the Stars but it backfired on him.

The Senators weren't getting scoring chances or shots because they didn't have the puck in the offensive zone. The reason for that is because they couldn't get there with the puck and they couldn't score on their few power-plays, two things that Karlsson is best at. Even his detractors would have to admit that.

Look at it this way -  going into the Dallas game, Karlsson was fifth in team scoring and second among rearguards with 11 points. He's tied with Sergei Gonchar for goals and tied for the team lead in game winning goals. He leads the defense in shots on goal and consistently gets the puck through the neutral zone.

Yet he was eating popcorn Wednesday night while the Senators trudged their way to 19 shots and one fluke goal by Ryan Shannon that was a softie let in by Andrew Raycroft.

It didn't make sense to sit him against L.A. and it made even less sense to sit him against Dallas. There was nothing so wrong with his game that couldn't be solved with a meeting and a stern reminder to stay away from bad penalties. Benching the kid was an overreaction.

In short, Clouston didn't ice the best possible team and the Senators looked haggard in a snoozer of a home loss.

So what's the reasoning here?

The Senators were flying on all cylinders but were put into upheaval by the tragedy that everyone already knows so much about. They had a hard week on the road and most, if not all, of the media and fans were very forgiving, realizing that the three straight losses were not indicative of what this team is usually capable of. In a sense, it was a mulligan week. It was time to move on.

But instead of keeping the course steady, Clouston scrambled the lines that were responsible for five wins in six games before the slump took hold. He split up the successful pairing of Jason Spezza with Alexei Kovalev and with Karlsson now sitting, has inexplicably put Sergei Gonchar back on the left side on the power-play even though that pairing with Karlsson on the left was working so well previously.

Doesn't make sense.

Surely, reason will prevail here and Karlsson will be inserted into the lineup for the game against the Penguins on Friday afternoon. If and when Karlsson doesn't work miracles and single-handedly win the game for the Sens, people will be on his case even more, especially if the very effective David Hale is the one who has to sit. Tough situation for the kid no matter how you look at it.

But you won't win a lot of games in the NHL if you're sitting one of your best weapons, no matter what kind of point you're trying to make by doing it.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars - Dallas 2 Ottawa 1

1. Pascal Leclaire
2. Ryan Shannon
3. Chris Campoli


Watching Nick Foligno suffer through the early part of the season has been nothing but a downer for everyone, but, as always, Foligno is his own worst enemy.

Seeing the decisions he makes on the ice kind of lets you in on his mindset. It's clear that in his head he thinks he's a skilled top six forward but the evidence suggests otherwise. Breaking down the left side in the second period, Foligno had a chance to shoot the puck at Andrew Raycroft but instead decided to do a spinarama and try to feed the puck blindly to the slot. His feet and hands aren't the quickest and of course the gambit failed and a scoring chance was lost. This type of thing happens all the time to Nick. If he would have been thinking straight he would have snapped that shot away even though he was to the outside and taken a chance that someone would be there for the rebound.

In a strange way, Foligno skates and carries the puck a lot like Spezza, hunched over with the puck way out in front of him, but he just doesn't have the speed or the hands to make those creative plays. He should be grinding out a north/south groove in the ice towards the net at all times and the less he handles the puck the better. I don't know because I've never seen it up close, but it almost seems like Foligno's stick is way too long. Maybe it's just the impression I get because of his skating style, but a guy like him should borrow Ryan Shannon's stick for a game and keep that puck close to his feet instead of hanging it out there on a broken yo-yo string like he always does. If he wants to have a long career, he's going to have to completely change the way he plays. He should realize he doesn't have the foot speed to be a scoring winger and start playing a greasy type of game. The sooner the better.......

.....The NHL is getting it right big time by allowing cameras to follow the Oilers around this season for the TSN show Oil Change.  You can learn more about life in the NHL by watching a single show than you can watching years and years of hallway player interviews conducted by journalists content with asking questions no one cares to hear the answers to.  It’s also interesting to watch the show for Sens fans as they can get a glimpse of Ladislav Smid, a player that was part of a trade package headed to Ottawa before being nixed by Dany Heatley. He’s a big, steady player on the ice and a bit of a jokester off of it, having the kind of personality that would fit into any locker room. Even coach Tom Renney can’t help but laugh (most of the time) at “Laddy”.  And from what we hear, Smid was happy the trade was nixed because he likes life in Edmonton. Now that’s a player you want to keep around..…. If you believe these sorts of things, talk is that Dustin Penner is available at the right price (well, duh). Could Bryan Murray still have interest after not getting him in the ill-fated Heatley trade with Edmonton? It would be hard to fit his salary on the Senators unless they moved someone like Milan Michalek for him, who’s signed for two more years than Penner at a near identical salary. Not sure that would be a good trade for Ottawa but it's something to chew on….. Okay, geez, I'm always poking fun at hockey rumour blogs and their ilk, but can I start one of my own, just this once? How about Nick Foligno and Brian Lee for Andrew Cogliano? Ottawa could sure use some more speed in that lineup and you can almost see Foligno in an Oilers jersey if you squint a little.....

.....Prediction: Bryan Murray won’t find a taker for Brian Lee, will put him on waivers and watch him clear and wonder why he kept him on the NHL roster for so damn long for no damn reason…… Will anyone want Doug Weight at the trade deadline?  You just know Weight doesn’t want to end his career playing for the miserable Islanders. He’d be an interesting fit on either the Vancouver Canucks or San Jose Sharks as a part-time veteran role player. One of those guys like Dave Andreychuk with the Lightning, you know, “let’s win for Dougie” type of thing. It seems both the Sharks and the Canucks are so close but they need an emotional element to put them over the top. I’m not saying its Doug Weight who will do it, but they need more to motivate them than being called underachievers year after year. They need something or someone to rally around to push them over the top. Otherwise, it looks like Detroit is again the team to beat in the West, maybe in the whole NHL. Their rallying cry? One more Cup for Nick Lidstrom, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood before they retire.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Need To Sit Karlsson

Interesting bit of news after Sens practice on Tuesday when Cory Clouston seemed to imply that sophomore defenseman Erik Karlsson would be sitting out a second straight game as a healthy scratch against the Dallas Stars.

Obviously, Karlsson is being punished for a string of bad play during the last week and a handful of bad penalties, but is it really necessary to make him sit two games in a row?

If Clouston indeed does go ahead and scratches Karlsson, the Senators will once again struggle to create consistent offense. Without Karlsson against the Kings, the Senators had under 20 shots and could barely break out of their end.

If you say it's for the good of Karlsson's development, I don't really buy it. Sure, one game sends the message, but sitting a guy for multiple games when he's obviously one of your most dangerous defenseman just seems like overkill and unnecessary posturing by the coaching staff.

It would seem to imply that the kid "just doesn't get it", yet from all we've heard about this guy, he's a hard worker who respects his coaches and his teammates. For sure, it's going to light a fire under his ass when he returns but we suspect he'll settle down and continue to be one of this team's best players on the blueline, something he would have done if he was made a healthy scratch or not. In the meantime, we play psychological games.

I just didn't see enough offensive opportunities against the Kings to justify Clouston sitting down one of his top weapons for another important home game.

What's the point? I just don't get it.


In case you missed the Chris Neil- Kevin Westgarth scrap.... behold.

Monday, November 22, 2010

3 Huge Moments Carry Sens Over Kings

I don't know what it is, but you never seem to witness a boring Senators-Kings tilt.

Go back to Brian McGrattan pummeling Sean Avery in a blind rage, or Jani Hurme throwing down with Felix Potvin, or even Bryan Murray screaming obscenities at Jim Fox, Kings broadcaster, in the hallways at the then Corel Centre.

There's always something going on and it's usually not a tupperware party.

Monday night was no exception, as there was a strange buzz in the air before the puck was even dropped, as if people could sense they were going to get their money's worth.

And for the most part, they did.

The Senators pulled off a victory in a game that they just had to have after a brutal week on the road where all their chemistry and enthusiasm seemed to disintegrate. A loss against the Kings at home would have really thrown the fans and media into a whirl, but thanks to three big plays, the Senators clawed their way back to that desired state of "normal" after an emotional week.

And we're only talking about three plays here. For a lot of the game, the Senators looked exactly like a team that just got off the road - disjointed, sloppy and tired. The victory with the new forward line combinations may look good in the stats column but Cory Clouston seemed to out think himself with some of his decisions. None of the lines looked particularly good and they seemed more randomly constructed than anything else.

Chris Kelly with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson? Mike Fisher with Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon? And even the benching of Erik Karlsson seems like overkill - they could have desperately used his offensive skills after throwing just 19 shots on Jonathan Quick.

Yet, the two points were taken and that's all that really matters in the end. But those points were won, like I said, on three big moments.

The first was the Kovalev goal, his 1000th career point. The crowd stood to cheer but then something strange happened. They kept standing and the roar grew louder, and louder, until near pandemonium had hit the rink. The guy seemingly everybody loves to grumble about was being feted like a hometown hero, and chants of "Kovie, Kovie" sprang up from the 300 level. Go back about a month and the possibility of tonight's fan reaction would have seemed absurd. In fact, his popularity at that time was so low that I even mused openly on this blog if some mean spirited fans would actually take to booing the Russian when he hit his milestone.

The Kovalev celebration was sandwiched in between announcements that both Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu were playing in their 600th game on the same night, and the crowd was eating it up and a big win seemed inevitable from that point on.

Until lethargy struck and the Kings began to take it to the Senators for the rest of the first period and about half of the second.

That's when the next big play happened to spark the home side.

Chris Neil, sensing his team was about to fall apart after a Ryan Smyth power-play goal made it 2-1 Kings, got ahold of 6-5, 240 pound Kevin Westgarth, and proceeded to clean him out with left after left until Westgarth finally buckled under the blows, ending a scrap that seemed to go on for minutes. As Neil went to the penalty box, he motioned for the fans to make some noise and the roof nearly blew off the barn at that point.

That was exactly what the Senators needed at that time. Neil picked his spot perfectly and the Senators had a noticeable jump, even after Neil had to leave to go to the dressing room, no doubt nursing a sore hand (or worse). They tied the game by the end of the period and their heads and hearts seemed back into the task at hand.

And of course, the third play that clinched the night was Spezza's jaw dropping goal on Quick, where he undressed a Kings defenseman, cut into the front of the net and put a shot right under the crossbar with an entire rink hanging on his every move. As the puck dropped to the ice behind Quick, Spezza pumped his fist as his teammates mobbed him and at that point, everyone knew how this one would turn out now (although a late goal that was called off on a high stick nearly killed the party).

It was one of those games, where, if you looked at the whole, the Kings probably deserved to walk away with the two points, but the Senators few big moments outshone the Kings big moments, and there you have it. The Senators couldn't afford to lose and they didn't.

We'd be remiss not to mention the great play of Pascal Leclaire who took over between the pipes for a struggling Brian Elliott. Knowing Clouston's seemingly unwavering trust in all things Elliott, it was somewhat surprising to see Leclaire get the call, but it worked out in Clouston's favour and now he has to do the right thing and give Leclaire another good shot going forward here to be the starter.

It seemed Elliott had the job locked up when the Sens were winning all those games in early November but history began to repeat itself, with Elliott continuing to waver between unbeatable and downright lousy for long stretches at a time.

Amazingly, after all the ink that has been spilled about Leclaire being finished in Ottawa after that final straw, the groin injury that supposedly put him to pasture, here he is again in what could be the beginning of yet another chance to win the hearts and minds of the coaching staff and team.

Will he be in nets against Dallas on Wednesday?

Does a bear s**t in the woods?

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jason Spezza
2. Pascal Leclaire
3. Alexei Kovalev

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Elliott Should Start Looking Over His Shoulder

After another tough loss on the road, this time to the St.Louis Blues, it seems like a perfect time for the team to be idle and have a weekend off before starting another tough stretch where they will play four games in six days but at least three of them are at home.

Essentially, the Senators have to hit the reset button here. They got clobbered on the road this week and now find themselves under .500 again and out of a playoff position in the top 8. Yet, if they are the same sort of streaky team they were last season, they have a chance to get back into form with a couple of home wins, starting Monday against the Kings.

The goaltending has crashed and burned, with Brian Elliott playing so poorly of late that it begs the question: Does Pascal Leclaire get a chance to start an important game soon?

I'd bet that Elliott gets some more rope by Cory Clouston, because, let's face it, Elliott is Clouston's guy. 

It's just a hunch, but I'm guessing Clouston learned to trust Elliott in Bingo when the two were there together and he's just more comfortable with him. They both have the same demeanour, whereas Leclaire is loose and doesn't seem to get too uptight after bad performances (although his stick swinging tantrum in practice last week was rare moment of intensity). You got the sense that Leclaire started this season as the top guy because Bryan Murray and the rest of management expected it (or, dare we say, demanded it). That's purely speculation but it's likely close to the truth.

I wrote just last week that Leclaire is bound to get another shot, even though Elliott at the time was held in semi-deity status during his hot streak. And for a while, he was worth the hype. He was a rock. But Elliott has the tendency to go through real rough patches and he seems to be in one now. If Clouston allows it, Leclaire could have a chance to get that number one spot back if he steps up and plays lights out whenever, or if, he gets that opportunity.

It's interesting to wonder what this team would look like if Leclaire hadn't hurt himself early into the season. People were saying he was the Senators best player, but when the groin popped, some were saying his career was toast because he couldn't be trusted to stay healthy.

That's still the case. But when it comes to goalies, always expect the unexpected. Especially in Ottawa.

Something to watch.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sens Look For Redemption In St.Louis

The toughest day the Senators surely will have to face this season is over.

Starting with an emotional ceremony in Ottawa for the Richardson family and then on into Carolina where they were trounced to perfection by the Hurricanes, Wednesday was a long one.

Now the Senators are sitting in Missouri, waiting for their chance to get back on the ice to do what they do best - play hockey. There's no insensitivity in getting back down to business. Often that's the best remedy anyways.

So the scene is set for a game that, at one glance, can mean so much to both teams, but at another angle, may mean very little to a group of shaken up players in that Senators locker room.

But you can bet this Ottawa team wants a win more badly than at anytime so far this season. They've lost 3 of their last 4 and have obviously lost momentum for a variety of reasons.

On the ice, the Fisher-Alfredsson-Michalek line is struggling big time even though Alfie scored his 8th of the year in the Hurricane wipeout. Mike Fisher is hurt and doesn't seem able to hit. Milan Michalek still isn't right somehow. The goaltending has come back to earth a little, with both goalies getting shelled in recent games. The defense has had their shares of troubles. In short, they've been a mess at times, but they've also come on strong, like they did in the second period against the Canes. If the Senators had played the whole game that way, it would have been 2 points in the bank, but they didn't have the legs in the end.

So who will be more desperate? The Blues have lost 5 straight games and have a couple of really good players in T.J. Oshie and David Perron on the injured list. Jaroslav Halak has struggled since opening the season looking like he was going to haunt Habs GM Pierre Gauthier until his dying days.

The safe bet is that the home team will come out on top in a game like this, and that's why I picked St. Louis in today's Citizen Prediction Panel. Yet there's that intangible the Senators have.

The Blues may want to win this game. The Senators may feel like have to, for whatever reason you want to name. But are their heads in the right place? Are their legs back under them? Will Alexei Kovalev get his 1000th career point against a team he has had very little success against over the years (13 points in 21 games, tied for his lowest total against any team, barring the expansion clubs)?

We'll all see for ourselves tonight.


Congratulations to Kevin for winning the Subway Savings pack we gave away in our last post. He's got four tickets to the upcoming Kings game on Monday. Thanks to everyone who sent in their answer to the trivia question. Shawn McEachern was the guy we were looking for.


Could we see a re-match here in tonight's game? Not sure if he is going to be in the lineup, but Cam Janssen is incredibly tough and durable for such a smallish fighter and he gives Matt Carkner all he can handle in this somewhat epic scrap from last season. But Carkner also has to weigh the fact he'd be off the ice for 5 minutes. Choices, choices.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ticket Contest... Plus... Avery Mania

We got another ticket contest folks.

This time we are giving away a Subway Savings Pack (priced as low as $99), which includes 4 tickets and 4 six-inch subs from Subway, a pretty good package if you want to bring the family to the game or a few buddies.

The package we are giving away today is for the Monday, November 22 game at Scotiabank Place against the Los Angeles Kings (there's three more games you can get this deal for - the Thrashers on Dec. 13, the Ducks on Jan. 18, and the Islanders on Feb. 15).

In order to win this package for the Kings tilt, just be the 4th person to email me at jeremymilks@hotmail.com with the correct answer to this question:

Name This Former Ottawa Senators Player: He finished his Senators career with 142 goals and went on to play two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers. Hint: He also briefly played for the Los Angeles Kings in his career.

Send me the name of the player and your full name (so you can pick up the tickets at Scotiabank Place) and the 4-ticket package is yours. I'll email you by end of day Thursday at the latest if you've won the tickets.

Good luck


A few quick thoughts for your Wednesday morning:

1. Count me in the group that puts some of the blame on the Oilers Ladislav Smid for not being prepared for Sean Avery's "sucker punch" on Sunday night. Everyone knows Avery's penchant for doing the unexpected, and Smid should have had his guard up after asking Avery to dance and getting declined. I've heard two different stories - one is that Avery flat out said no to the fight request from Avery, the other that he kept telling Smid "wait, wait, wait". Whichever one is true, Smid was facing Avery at the time and even tried to get away from the punch. Sure, it was greasy, but Smid left himself open to a blow the moment he challenged Avery to a fight. It may not have been the honourable sort of fight that we are used to seeing with the heavyweights who tend to schedule the scraps before a faceoff, but to call it a sucker punch is stretching the truth a little. What Todd Bertuzzi did to Steve Moore was a suckerpunch. This incident was more like bad manners.

2. Sean Avery is hated by many for good reason, but some people in the media get way too riled up and over reactive when it comes to his antics. People should remember guys like Dave "Tiger" Williams, who was every bit as controversial on the ice as Avery, yet people look back on his antics rather fondly. Even though Williams won't admit it, and there's no video footage of it, it's commonly accepted that he was the Vancouver Canuck who skated by the Buffalo Sabres bench in a 1980 playoff game and hit Sabres coach Scotty Bowman over the head with his stick, knocking the legendary coach (with a sensitive metal plate in his head) to the ground behind the players who were involved in a bench area scrum, unaware that Williams was about to go head hunting for some of the biggest game in NHL history. Now imagine for a moment the response if Avery did that? Whoa Nelly!

3. Gotta love this version of events relayed by the Hockey News Ken Campbell about the hapless Islanders announcing the termination of coach Scott Gordon on Monday:
The New York Islanders held a conference call Monday morning to officially announce Scott Gordon’s firing as coach and the promotion of Jack Capuano to replace him and, in true Islander form, it turned into a comedy of errors. At one point it was announced GM Garth Snow had joined the conference call, followed about five seconds later by an announcement he had left the conference call. Later on in the call, all you could hear was play-by-play of a soccer game, then Bad Romance by Lady Gaga.
4. Why isn't Chris Phillips signed yet? Bryan Murray should just get this done right now. Phillips is the kind of guy, on and off the ice, that you want in your organization for life. If they both wanted to, it's not far fetched to think of Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson one day having a hand in running this team. It was tough to see Anton Volchenkov leave, but losing Phillips would hurt even more.

5. There's a lot of guys who battle hard for the Senators, but overall, not many exert more brute effort than Jesse Winchester. This guy always has his head down, ready to grind out whatever space he can and he takes more abuse than almost anyone on this team. Winchester doesn't get any headlines, and precious few points, but he's a great fourth line player for this Senators team right now.

And finally, our thoughts are with the Richardson family on the day when they celebrate the life of their daughter Daron.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vancouver Redux In Philly

It was an eerie feeling watching the Senators lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night because it was a near replica of their game against Vancouver from last week. For two periods the Senators were in the game but imploded in the third period in a span of a single minute to seal their fate.

The 5-1 score was ugly, but the Senators actually had a good effort. What really hurt them was the fact that only one line is capable of being dangerous at the moment, and that's the Jason Spezza-Alex Kovalev-Peter Regin trio.

Word is out that Mike Fisher is playing through an injury, but at some point the Senators are going to have to either sit him down for a game or two or swap him out with Chris Kelly in order to get something going for that line. If Fisher can't hit, as he has already admitted, then maybe he shouldn't be in the lineup. As unpalatable as it would be to insert Brian Lee onto the fourth line as they did already once this year, maybe Fisher sitting out a few games will add up to a big payoff down the road.

As it is, the Mike Fisher-Daniel Alfredsson-Milan Michalek line is sputtering big time with Michalek looking like he's still feeling the effects of the tendinitis in his knee, if his slowness is any indication.

The Senators have only scored five goals in their last three games, and not surprisingly, have lost two of them.

Yet they are now 1-1 on this current road trip, which may be one more win than anyone expected. If they can win at least one of their next two against either the Hurricanes or the Blues, this mini-road trip will have to be considered a success.

In light of the lopsided score, we'll skip the Senators 3 Star Selections for the fifth time this season. If we had to pick one player who stepped up tonight, it would be Jason Spezza who's become a legitimate goal-scoring threat and seems to be skating as good as he ever has in his career.


The "Goat Cam" on hockey broadcasts is the shot right after a goal where the cameraman usually focuses on one player who, for one reason or other, contributed to a goal being scored against his own team, like a player coughing up the puck in front of his own net and the other team scores. So what do the Sportsnet people have against Alexei Kovalev? After the first Flyer goal by Daniel Briere, the goat cam went right to Kovalev even though the goal was quickly scored off a faceoff loss which Kovalev had nothing to do with. Then Darrell Powe of the Flyers scores less than five minutes later, and Kovalev was again the focus of the goat cam, but this time he wasn't even on the ice. He was sitting on the bench watching the Fisher line get scored against! He's not the second most despised hockey player by the media for nothing (of course, the other is Sean Avery - how entertaining was it to watch grown men in suits like Craig Button on the NHL Network froth at the mouth in unchecked rage talking about Avery's "sucker punch" of Ladislav Smid on Sunday night?) .....

.....Brian Elliott has made his case and is undoubtedly the Senators number one goalie right now. But to say that Pascal Leclaire is totally finished is a tad premature. Remember, it was the exact same situation last season, with Elliott taking this team to the playoffs while Leclaire struggled with injuries. Yet it was Leclaire who got a chance and ran with it once the playoffs rolled around. It's only November. Leclaire will get lots of chances to play well and try to steal the job back. Whether he does or not, that's another question.....It's incredible to think that the Detroit Red Wings are so good at either drafting or signing obscure European players that they could afford to basically give one away in Ville Leino to the Philadelphia Flyers last year. And just like the Red Wing Euro's that come through their system, Leino made his current reputation in the playoffs, where it really matters..... Looks like Sergei Bobrovsky is the real deal. Whenever he moves in the net, it sorta looks like he's on fast forward. Scary fast.....

....As predicted, there is a bit of a split in opinion in regards to NHL VP Colin Campbell over the email flap that arose today, but regardless of the tactless emails that legitimately shed doubt on Campbell's objectivity in regards to his son Gregory Campbell (who plays for the Bruins), the NHL is about 5 years too late getting new blood into that position. Campbell was so engulfed in controversy over his various decisions on suspensions before this current brouhaha, that his credibility had already been compromised to the point where people were openly mocking him - not the kind of respect that should be afforded to someone in his important position. For a guy that still thinks and talks like a coach, he would be better off behind a bench somewhere instead of being a target for every critic wanting to take a shot at the league..... The one thing many are not talking about when it comes to the Campbell controversy is that his written remarks have the ring of truth about them. Marc Savard is a kind of national hero since Matt Cooke nearly took his head off, but before that incident, Savard's rep had been through some major ups and downs over the course of his career and not everyone had a high opinion of the slick centre, or his attitude. Think Mike Ribeiro and you'll have a general idea.....

Someone who can no longer be accused of nepotism is Calgary GM Darryl Sutter, who demoted his son Brett to the AHL after the 23 year old brat got loaded and punched a cab driver in the face in Arizona recently..... Chris Campoli is quietly having a bounce back year... And Nick Foligno is not.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Senators Win Under Cloud Of Tragedy

The Ottawa Senators hard fought 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins Saturday night was, unbeknownst to many outside of the organization, played under very difficult circumstances as assistant coach Luke Richardson's daughter passed away from injuries in a suicide attempt.

Obviously, this is an almost unbelievable tragedy for the Richardson family and the Senators organization. When it comes to the death of a child, there are really no words that can be said to sum up the anguish the family must be going through.

It had already been a tough year after team doctor Don Chow severely injured himself in a motorcycle accident right near the beginning of training camp, but thankfully he looks like he will fully recover. Now the team must deal with an even more serious tragedy but with the good people in management on down to the training staff, this is a group capable of pulling together and helping the Richardson family get through the next crucial few weeks.

Somehow, after being informed of the tragedy the morning of the game, the Senators managed to gut out an impressive shutout of the Bruins and goalie Brian Elliott was spectacular at times, allowing the Sens to rebound nicely after a disappointing loss to the Canucks at home on Thursday.

Filip Kuba also returned to the lineup and found himself back on a pairing with Erik Karlsson, a combo which worked well last season.

Speaking of Karlsson, the youngster had another goal last night, giving him 11 points in 17 games, just one behind team defense leader Sergei Gonchar. Obviously, Karlsson has fully recovered from whatever struggles he had at the beginning of the season. Watching Karlsson play is to watch a future superstar. Not to gush too much, but I think we are seeing the heir apparent to Daniel Alfredsson, albeit a defenseman. Karlsson is going to be the best player on this Senators team for the next 15 years.

Next up for the Senators is the Flyers on Monday night. In a strange scheduling quirk, the semi-regular Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday format is being replaced by a Monday-Wednesday-Friday run for the next two weeks (with a Saturday tacked on in the second week). The Senators don't play at home until November 22 against the Kings.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Brian Elliott
2. Erik Karlsson
3. Sergei Gonchar

Honourable Mentions: The entire team for playing so well under the circumstances.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars Season Scorecard

3 Points 1st Star
2 Points 2nd Star
1 Point 3rd Star

Elliott – 16
Alfredsson – 9
Kovalev – 9
Spezza – 9
Michalek – 6
Leclaire – 5
Regin – 5
Karlsson - 5
Ruutu – 4
Gonchar – 4
Fisher – 3
Foligno – 2
Campoli - 1

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sens Streak Comes Crashing Down To Earth

The Senators four game winning streak came to a sudden, brutal end with the Vancouver Canucks exploding in the third period to rack up a 6-2 road win on Remembrance Day in the capital.

In short, the Senators got beaten by Roberto Luongo, who was absolutely outstanding and kept his team in the game during a giveaway filled first period. The home side should have had 2 or 3 goals by the end of the second but went in to the third down 2-1 and quickly fell apart.

This is one the Senators just need to forget about. They played well for two periods in front of a shaky but battling Pascal Leclaire who was making his first appearance in a while and if not for the goalie at the other end, the Sens would have been in command of the lead early on.

Sometimes a goalie beats you and there's not much you can do about it.

Unfortunately for Ottawa, the next goalie they face is Tim Thomas in Boston on Saturday night, a guy who could write a War and Peace sized tome on the topic of Senators domination.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Peter Regin
2. Jason Spezza
3. Alex Kovalev


What's wrong with Mike Fisher? He looks like he's nursing an injury because he was somewhat invisible Thursday night, and with Milan Michalek struggling to overcome that nagging knee problem, that line is not really competing like they should. Fisher is obviously best when he's skating over other players and causing total mayhem on the forecheck, but we haven't seen that from him in a little while now. Fish was minus 3 on the night with 1 shot on goal. Obviously, not a great night for him.....

Just saying: Toronto Brian Burke is so headstrong and stubborn that he probably won’t fire coach Ron Wilson, even if the Leafs don’t win a game from now until Christmas. This is a guy that simply doesn’t like to back down in public– even if it gets in the way of success (see the Tomas Kaberle situation). But the thought of Boston getting another top 3 overall pick thanks to the Phil Kessel trade may make Burke desperate enough to eat some crow over Wilson and do the right thing. The Leafs simply can’t give the Bruins the opportunity to rub it in their faces once again or they risk becoming a laughingstock.….

...Speaking of laughingstocks, everyone’s having a great time laughing at the Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk, especially after that botched shootout attempt against the Sabres on Wednesday night. Kovalchuk is certainly not worth the monstrous contract handed out by Lou Lamoriello, but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that he’s still one of the most dynamic players in the NHL and turned down a similar big contract from the Atlanta Thrashers because he wanted to play for a winner. He's certainly not as bad a player or a guy as some people want to make him out to be. It hasn’t turned out well for Kovy and the Devils in the very early going, but it’s not like he’s going to turn into a 15 goal scorer. In time, he’ll be back near the top of the scoring list and the Devils will once again be a good team, if not this year, then next. But it looks like John MacLean won’t be the guy to guide them. It’s the “assistant coach syndrome”, which also struck assistant-turned head coaches John Paddock, Tony Granato, and others (MacLean did spend a year coaching the Devils AHL affiliate before being named head coach but was an assistant for years with the big team and inherited most of the same players). History keeps inflicting this painful lesson on general managers who are trying to do a good thing by promoting from within. More often than not, it doesn’t really work…

...It’s nice to see Peter Schaefer back in an NHL uniform after a disastrous stint with the Boston Bruins a few seasons ago. While he didn't get to play against his old team on Thursday night, to this day, he’s still the best Ottawa Senator I've ever seen with a puck along the boards playing keep-away. Jesse Winchester is pretty good at that particular skill as well, but Schaefer was just unbelievable. Too bad he wasn’t able to translate that possession time into more offense when he was here. Once in a while though, he would score a beauty like this one…..Every time I watch Roberto Luongo play, I'm always struck by how quickly he turns and whines to the refs every time he gets slightly touched in his net. Maybe that's just his competitive side coming out, but this is also the same guy who threatened to retire if the NHL ever made the nets bigger, even though the idea was only proposed as a worst-case scenario because goalies like Luongo were fighting tooth and nail against reductions in equipment size. Just one look at Luongo's shoulder pads tells you that goalies are still allowed to wear oversized gear that makes a mockery of the game. As I've said many, many times before, you could reduce the catching gloves by half the size and still have adequate protection there. The gloves goalies wear are a complete joke and need to be addressed, even if it makes Luongo take his gear and pout all the way home.....As of press time, no Senators fans were attacked by Rick Rypien. Stay tuned for further information....

Strange but true: On my Tuesday post I wrote this in defense of the shootout:

"To me, they should have went with 5 shooters a side instead of 3 right from the get go. Right now, the shootout is over way too quickly and if one team scores right away, the other side is pretty much doomed. At least with 5 shooters, you use more of your players, lessening the complaint that the shootout goes against the team concept in hockey."

On Wednesday, Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated wrote this in defense of the shootout:

"The problem never has been the shootout. The problem is that NHL 2.0 didn't go far enough with them. Only three shooters per side? Big mistake. Often, you hardly find your rhythm as a fan because the shootout is over so quickly. The league should have instituted a five-per-side format, like a major soccer final. If nothing else, a five-round shootout would have been a partial antidote to the argument that individual competitions are determining the outcome of a team game by involving a mere one sixth of the 18 skaters."
Yes, I'm suing.

I recommend reading the whole article because Farber makes some great points about the shootout and why the NHL should be out there celebrating it, not discussing ways to make it occur less often.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spezza, Kovalev Combo Running The Show

With a dominating 5-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers, the Senators 4th in a row, this team is starting to look a lot like last year's streaky club - either down in the dumps or top of the mountain.

Now it's just a matter of how long this great run can continue.

The old saying is that whatever line Daniel Alfredsson is playing on is the Senators number one trio, but the Jason Spezza, Alex Kovalev and Peter Regin line has quickly become the team's best since it was put together when Spezza returned from a groin injury a handful of games ago.

Against the Thrashers, Kovalev looked at times like he did when he was tearing opponents apart as a Ranger, Penguin and Canadien in the prime of his career. You can just tell he trusts his knee again, knowing that he can outskate guys like he used to going east to west. With skilled players like Kovalev, the hands never leave, but the legs and the confidence can wane and likely that was Kovalev's problem early in the season, when it seemed everyone and their dog wanted this guy out of the picture for good.

Before this line had success, you couldn't be blamed for wondering if putting Spezza and Kovalev together would create a defensive nightmare. Yet, there's Spezza killing penalties regularly, there's Kovalev chasing pucks down and making smart defensive plays with his stick that not many people notice. Peter Regin is just feeling grateful for getting linemates like this and is skating as good as he was last season, strangely acting as the line's only north-south player and getting chances because of it. If he gets himself into position, neither Spezza or Kovalev will have any problems getting him the puck. The goals for Regin will come.

And once again, Brian Elliott quietly had a very good game, somehow not making the official 3 Stars list despite making 35 saves on 37 shots.

He'll have no problem making the Black Aces list, which is presented right here:

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jason Spezza
2. Brian Elliott
3. Alex Kovalev

Honourable Mentions: Erik Karlsson, David Hale, Peter Regin, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips


Frankly, I’m a little surprised that the anti-shootout sentiment is starting to gain traction in league circles. Detroit GM Ken Holland’s idea of four minutes of 4 on 4 overtime, followed by four minutes of 3 on 3, and then the shootout, is being met with some acclaim by a lot of old school hockey people, (yet not fully embraced at the GM's meetings on Tuesday) The shootout remains one of the most popular aspects of the game among fans but a lot of the hockey elite, such as the broadcasters and the beat writers tend to complain about the shootout only slightly less than headshots, which they still remain obsessed with. Now that scoring is again on the wane in the NHL, the shootout sometimes makes all the difference to a fan when it comes getting their money's worth after shelling out hundreds of dollars for the whole family just to watch one single game. To me, they should have went with 5 shooters a side instead of 3 right from the get go. Right now, the shootout is over way too quickly and if one team scores right away, the other side is pretty much doomed. At least with 5 shooters, you use more of your players, lessening the complaint that the shootout goes against the team concept in hockey. Plus, it’s often the only time you get to see pure skill in the NHL. Most goals in regulation time are scored by shots directed from the point or garbage goals from the crease. To me, the shootout is an entertaining way to end a tie-game and the NHL should give its head a shake if it is really intent on trying to make it happen less…..

…. Here’s a thought: Maybe Nick Foligno isn’t meant to be a top six winger after all. Watching the guy play, it’s clear that his biggest strengths are consistent with those of other third and fourth liners around the league. He’s most effective when he’s going to the net and battling for the puck along the boards, not when he tries to stickhandle through defenseman like he often gets caught doing when playing with guys like Spezza. Foligno likes to stickhandle with the puck way out in front of his body, a little like Spezza, but he doesn’t have the same skills or hockey sense that Spezza does, so he often doesn’t protect it well enough and the rush goes to waste. With his size, he shouldn’t be carrying the puck any more than absolutely necessary. He should be grinding it out and getting garbage goals off rebounds, like the goal he helped to create against the Thrashers on Tuesday night. Just a thought…..Seeing the Thrashers without Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov just seems weird after all these years. In fact, I can barely even picture Kozlov as a Red Wing anymore where he had his best years. Almost as if every year played in an Atlanta uniform erases two good years in another sweater, although Kovalchuk may be thinking it's the other way around over in New Jersey….

There’s something wrong in the hockey world when Brian Lee gets to stay with the NHL team and a guy like Zack Smith has to go back down to the minors. Sure, two different positions, but that one-way contract needlessly awarded to Lee has been nothing but a cap-eater. It’s almost as if he was a bought-out player, but instead of playing for another team or in some other league, he’s eating popcorn in one of your arena boxes every night. With David Hale and now Patrick Wiercioch in the system, ready to play (and in Hale's case, ready for full-time duty), it would be best for both the team and Lee if the young defenseman got a fresh start somewhere else. And soon. As for Smith, he hasn’t had the best start to the season, but he’s going to get his chance at a full-time spot next year when a few older free-agents depart the team. Until then, he only has to learn to compete the same on every shift and to get away from some of the penalties where he's just trying to show how tough he is by trying to explode guys. Once he learns to pick his spots, he's going to be a hell of a player.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tough Stretch Ahead For Sens... Plus Contest Winners

With the Senators on a good run of late, and with the win over Montreal on Saturday seemingly exorcising a few demons, the chatter around the team has been somewhat quiet lately, allowing a lot of the early season controversies to die down to a barely noticeable slow burn.

You can strike the goaltending controversy from the list. Brian Elliott has been more than solid in their recent stretch and Pascal Leclaire is healthy, waiting for his opportunity. No one seems to think that will come anytime soon.

Scratch Alex Kovalev from the problem list, as he is back in form after struggling early on.

Jason Spezza is healthy and contributing. Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson are running the power play with authority and Chris Phillips seems like the old Chris Phillips again.

So what's to talk about after all that?

Well, there's three big tests coming up for the Senators within a week of each other. While the improved Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday will be a tough opponent, it's the following three games against the Vancouver Canucks, the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers that will really show just how good these Senators are.

All three teams have to be considered legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup this year and the Senators will have to try and beat the Bruins and Flyers on the road. Not an easy task.

If the Senators can win two of their next four games, that could actually be considered a reasonable success, considering the loaded lineups they'll be facing. With any luck, the Senators may have Filip Kuba back at some point during this stretch, but that would also mean that David Hale likely gets pushed out of the lineup. Hale has been a nice addition to this team but at least management knows they have a guy who can play in the NHL and provide quality minutes if they need his services again.

With the way defenseman go down to injury in this league, he may never even make it to back to Bingo in the first place


The ticket contest run yesterday on Black Aces went really well, and the amount of responses I got was surprising. Thanks to everyone who participated even though I didn't have time to respond to everyone who wrote in their answer.

In case you were wondering, it was Petr Schastlivy who was the only player other than Jason Spezza and Alexei Yashin to wear number 19 during the regular season for the Ottawa Senators.

Congratulations to Matt and Andrew who both won a pair of Coca-Cola Zero Zone tickets to the Atlanta game on Tuesday, generously provided by the Ottawa Senators.

Stay tuned for further contests later this month.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Black Aces Ticket Contest - Senators vs. Thrashers Nov. 9

If you've been listening to sports radio in town, you may have heard Senators President Cyril Leeder saying recently that some of the seats with the lowest price point are going unsold at Scotiabank Place, tickets that cost as low as $15 (tax included).

So in an effort to increase fan awareness of these available seats, the Senators contacted Black Aces recently with some tickets for me to give away to a pair of lucky fans and that's just what we're going to do.

Up for grabs are two pairs of tickets in the Coca-Cola Zero Zone  for this Tuesday's (Nov.9) game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

All you have to do is email me the correct answer to this trivia question:

Who is the only Senators player in modern history to wear sweater number 19 in the regular season other than Jason Spezza and Alexei Yashin?

Enterprising fans will know where to find this info online.

The first two people to email me at jeremymilks@hotmail.com with the correct player will get a pair of tickets to the Thrashers game on Tuesday (7:30 pm puck drop) which you will be able to pick up at the "will-call" office at Scotiabank Place the night of the game. I'll let you know by email no later than Sunday night if you've won and announce the winners on Black Aces shortly after. Make sure to write your full name in your email so there's no confusion at the will-call window.

While we generally don't do promotions here at Black Aces, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. A couple of my readers get free tickets and the Senators get more butts in the seats. I've sat in the Coca-Cola Zero Zone once or twice in the past (sections 314, 315 and 316) and it's a good, inexpensive place to see a game, plus it's in the visitors end so you get to see the Senators coming at you 2 out of 3 periods.

Watch the blog for a couple more ticket giveaways in the coming month.


As for tonight's game against the Habs in Montreal, I picked the Senators to pull out a close one on the Citizen's Prediction Panel, even though I just recently wrote about the Senators having lost 11 of their last 12 Saturday games going back to last season, including all 4 so far this campaign.

They must be due, right? Maybe...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spezza, Elliott Roll Over Isles

Another big win for the Senators despite the New York Islanders looking like a team just waiting to be picked off. After all, if you can't win the easy ones, you're not going to be around to play the hard games in April.

Jason Spezza looked like he was going to have a big game against Toronto on Tuesday but the bounces just weren't going his way. Tonight against the Islanders, almost everything he touched ended up behind Dwayne Roloson in a 4-1 win.

It was a big debate to see who deserved first star between Spezza and Brian Elliott, but with 4 points, I have to go with Spezza because without him, the Senators lose this game 1-0.

But that doesn't take away anything from Elliott who was huge by stopping two quick breakaways in the third period, getting some solace for the Boston game where he also faced two breakaways in succession and stopped the first before giving up the last to Milan Lucic. He was having none of that tonight.

I've cast a lot of doubt about Elliott's real potential to be a number one goalie on this site before, but he is starting to prove me wrong little by little as the season marches on. Don't call me completely convinced just yet (he's been on these hot streaks before), but, as a friend always says to me, Elliott doesn't get enough credit in this town.

Maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong. But for the Senators, Elliott is the guy right now and will get another big start against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in a game the Senators would desperately love to win. With the Habs stumbling just a little as of late, the streaking Sens are in a good position to make good on that wish.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Jason Spezza (I called for him to get 3 points on the Prediction Panel, but then he ruins my good name by getting 4.)
2. Brian Elliott (best game of the year so far)
3. Peter Regin (finally)

Honourable mentions: Chris Campoli, Sergei Gonchar, Alex Kovalev, Jesse Winchester, Chris Kelly and David Hale


Watching Jason Spezza inhaling the smelling salts before the game got me wondering. What does that stuff do anyways? According to Wikipedia it "irritates the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs, and thereby triggers an inhalation reflex that causes the muscles that control breathing to work faster." So, kinda gross. Here's a good article that ran on a Caps blog just last season with a classic line from Brooks Laich who asks the reporter right back  "You ever use smelling salts, every time you type a bad blog?"..... Spotted a girl on TSN wearing a classic white Ron Tugnutt jersey. You don't see too many of those anymore, but Tugger was extremely popular when he played here. A vintage Sens jersey I would like to own? A Dennis Vial classic black. While my dream may never come true, at least we still have videos of Rob Ray and Vial just destroying each other virtually every time they met. Wow.

Speaking of jerseys, the best decision the Isles have made in the last twenty years is to go back to their original 80's uniforms, as you can see here and here. They've come a long way since the Captain Highliner days. Changing the sweaters back was the first step. Now it's time for them to start winning....David Hale gave Spezza a pretty good "suicide pass" in the first period but luckily Spezza didn't get runover because the unlikely duo hooked up again, this time with Hale taking a pass from Spezza for his first goal of the year ...... Does Sergei Gonchar have the biggest visor in the NHL? If not, it must be close.....It was great to see former Mississauga Senator Chris Campoli coming to the defense of former Mississauga Ice Dog Jason Spezza after number 19 was cranked from behind by Matt Martin in the third period. There was no hesitation there whatsoever on Campoli's part....Got to give a stick tap to Zack Smith who went on to scrap with Martin at the end of the game, and took a few good shots because of it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Black Aces Guest Post

Black Aces has a guest post up at Senators Extra today. You can check it out here.

Also, be sure to drop in on the Prediction Panel run by James Gordon at the Citizen every game day. I'm running an 8-4 record which isn't bad, considering I ask my newborn son before making my picks. Usually he just stares at me blankly and then goes back to chewing on something valuable of mine (Hey, if Don Cherry could ask his dog Blue which goalie he should put in for the Bruins on any given night, I figure I can get away with it as well).

Tonight I'm taking the Senators over the Islanders, but so is everyone else on the panel. Who was the big talker who picked Spezza to get 3 points tonight? That would be me. But if it happens, heyyyy...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sens Plunge Leaf Nation Into Disarray

Redemption in Toronto.

This was the site of the most humiliating loss of their short season back on October 9th, but the Senators stepped onto the ice tonight fully prepared to compete, determined to bounce back after a deflating loss to the Bruins on Saturday.

The Leafs began riding a high after that first game against Ottawa but have now joined the New Jersey Devils in the Panic Room, and the sight of Dion Phaneuf being helped off the ice and later being taken by stretcher to the hospital to check what could be a fracture to his "lower body", probably won't help Leafs Nation have a good Wednesday.

Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson led the way in the early going by skating hard and making plays, with Alfie in particular making the worries about being injured look like it was just a clever ruse to throw off the Leafs. Fisher really got the Senators going by scoring a perfect penalty shot goal, freezing Jean Sebastien Giguere so solidly in his crease that he looked like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

But game summaries are mostly boring, so we won't get too deep into this one, but the 3-2 victory tonight sets up the Senators for a home game against the Islanders on Thursday which they should win, or at least have a good chance to. If... if they can beat the Islanders, suddenly you could be looking at a team that has won 5 of their last 7 games, and can no longer be accused of being in a slump.

Actually, forget Thursday. The slump is over folks. The Sens have won 4 of 6 since their four day break between October 18th and 22nd, when everyone was burying them after they got off to a 1-4-1 start. If you remember that week, it was a long one for the guys.

Now they've bounced back and have a chance to make some real progress if Filip Kuba and Milan Michalek can get back into the lineup anytime soon.

Black Aces Senators Three Stars

1. Brian Elliott (stellar tonight, no bad goals)
2. Erik Karlsson (imagine the Sens panicked and sent him to Bingo?)
3. Sergei Gonchar (starting to show his stuff on the power-play)

Honourable Mentions: Daniel Alfredsson (it was basically a coin toss that kept him out of the top 3 stars after playing injured - and playing well), Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Matt Carkner.

Monday, November 1, 2010

McGrattan Rips Neil From Safe Distance In AHL

As Ken Warren of the Citizen reports, ex-Sen and current Boston Bruin (in the minors) Brian McGrattan didn't like Chris Neil attacking Bruin defenseman Dennis Seidenberg near the end of the Sens lopsided loss to them on Saturday.

“That’s typical Chris Neil. I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there. He’d do that and I’d have to fight all his battles for him the next time we’d play a team after he’d do something stupid like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Lots of fun, this kind of stuff. But somewhat laughable to suggest Neil has ever ducked fights in his career, with 1,518 PIM's to his name.

What Neil did to Seidenberg was somewhat out of character, but in the end, Seidenberg wasn't hurt. Neil would have no problem going against the likes of Shawn Thornton or Milan Lucic at any time (as the bloody video below will attest). Neil understands that when you lose, make sure it's ugly and you get a little something to carry away.

As for McGrattan, it's great to hear he's signed with the Bruins and he was a top-notch enforcer while he was in Ottawa, and a very likable guy, but he'll never have half the career that the much smaller Neil has had, and that says something about toughness, both mental and physical.