Monday, January 2, 2012

Sens Pull Another Late Comeback .... Plus Why Ottawa Shouldn't Trade Kuba and Gonchar .... And Endless Game Notes

Ottawa 3 New Jersey 2 (OT)

Is anyone really surprised anymore?

Yet another scrappy third period comeback.

A clutch Daniel Alfredsson overtime goal, this one nearly identical to the one he scored against the Calgary Flames just after Christmas for his 400th career goal.

The entertainment value of the Ottawa Senators hasn't been this high since the mid-2000's but for much different reasons than anyone would give those old teams credit for.

The old Senators teams won on a vast array of overwhelming skill while these ham-and-eggers win games on what often feels like character alone. I've lost track of how many third period comebacks we've all sat through and watching this game go into overtime, I'm sure many Senators fans just knew this team was going to find a way to get the extra point. The fact that it was another Erik Karlsson to Alfredsson play just adds to the awe factor that is quickly creeping into this storybook season.

Further below you can read my take on why the Senators should be in no rush to trade their veteran d-men and tonight's win just further cements my theory. Something is happening with this team and where it will end, nobody seems to know right now.

They can play the game any way you like it. With speed, with skill, with fists or with a huge dose of plain old luck. And it all seems to come at just the right time.

For the first two periods against the New Jersey Devils, it clearly looked like the Senators were the inferior team. The Devils just looked bigger and faster while they played a textbook road game, backed by the ubiquitous Martin Brodeur who looks pretty much the same now as he did in 1995 behind that tiny gear.

Then the third period switch was flicked somewhere in that Senators dressing room and Ottawa created an unstoppable flow of momentum that now seems so strangely familiar.

How do you explain it?

Maybe it's time to drop the pretense and just admit that this is a good hockey team, much better than we all thought.

But then again, nobody wants to lose the underdog label. Sens fans might want to curb the effusive praise and just see where this "underdog" role carries the team.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Erik Condra
2. Daniel Alfredsson
3. Craig Anderson

Honourable Mentions: Jason Spezza, Chris Neil, Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson.


Sens Might Want To Hold On To Their Older Defensemen Past The Deadline

No one can be sure in the first week of January, but this Ottawa Senators team doesn’t look like a club who’ll be desperate to shed two of their top defenseman, even if one of them is a UFA next season (Filip Kuba). It’s rare for a team in 8th place in January to fall out of playoff contention completely, so if Ottawa is still within striking distance of the postseason at the trade deadline (very likely), I can’t see either Kuba or Sergei Gonchar getting dealt like many believe.

Sure, that seemed a likely scenario at the start of the season when it was expected that Ottawa would be a lottery pick team, but circumstances have changed and the Senators would be doing a disservice to themselves and the fans if they moved important players for draft picks. Both Kuba and Gonchar, targets of cave dwelling boo birds to start the season, have rebounded quite nicely from disastrous years and both would play big minutes in any playoff series the Senators find themselves in. If a team dangled a first-rounder, then maybe you reconsider, but what are the chances of that happening? Nil to zero?

It doesn’t mean that Bryan Murray has to actually add more salary at the deadline to help in a playoff push, but he would likely be loathe to subtract. You have to take into account Murray’s position here. Ever since he took over as GM following the Senators run to the Cup final under John Muckler, he hasn’t won a playoff series. Don’t think for a second he isn’t dying to get in there and see what this overachieving team can do to restore some of his reputation. I highly doubt he’d sacrifice any of his own draft picks to do so, but Murray wants to win now just as much as he wants to win in the future. See the Kyle Turris trade. Turris helps the team right now and in the future. David Rundblad was more of a future prospect, even if he is somewhat more highly touted than Turris at this point.

As for losing Kuba (and possibly Gonchar in a year from now) come July 1st, that’s just reality in today’s NHL. While it’s great to get a pick to show for a pending UFA, it’s not the end of the world anymore if you don’t, especially for a mid-level player who can be replaced by prospects already in the system. What you lose in a UFA you gain in cap space and the opportunity to do something different with that money. You’d never want to see a star like Jason Spezza walk away for nothing, but a playoff spot is far more valuable than what you can get on the market for players like Kuba and Gonchar. Enough said.


Robin Lehner getting in trouble again for going absolutely nutzoid during an AHL game may signal that the competitive young man gets frustrated from time to time playing in a league that he clearly feels he’s too good for. Or it might suggest that it’s actually the NHL that he’s not ready for. Take your pick. He’s not having the best year he could have, but I’m betting Lehner will be a better NHL’er than he ever will be an AHL’er because he has the type of personality that thrives on competition. If, in his mind, he feels he’s not competing against the best, maybe he doesn’t bring his best. Or maybe that’s all a load of s**t. Again, take your pick….I'm guessing Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons is going to get some heat from Ottawa fans after he tweeted this at around 5:00 today, "I used to think the dumbest hockey fans in Canada were in Ottawa but not anymore. PS - I voted for a Sedin for MVP in each of the last 2 yrs". This was in response to some heat he was getting from Vancouver fans. It's pretty impressive when you can inflame two fanbases in one tweet. Yet, any good sportswriter worth his salt should piss a whole swathe of people off once in a while, just to make sure he/she still has it. Clearly Simmons does.....

......How does Erik Condra, a right-handed shot, not fire a laser when Daniel Alfredsson sets him up with a perfect pass on the left side of the ice during a 2-on-1 with Martin Brodeur in motion across the crease? Could he have been intimidated by the legendary Brodeur? If he was, you can't really blame him, can you? I wonder if Alfie told him to smarten up when they were back on the bench. Whatever it was, Condra got over it pretty quickly as he started firing shots from all angles, including the beauty that resulted in his game-tying shortie in the third.....

....That was one of the meanest, hard-nosed scraps of the year when Chris Neil and former Atlanta Thrasher Eric Boulton went at it late in the second period. Neil was landing heavy bombs early on but Boulton evened it out with a strong finish. All of it was nasty..... Speaking of tough guys, does anyone else find it strange that Matt Carkner was pegged to be a healthy scratch until Sergei Gonchar pulled the chute after warm-ups? Especially after one of Carkner's best games of the season? For cherub Brian Lee of all players? Either Paul MacLean was trying to keep big #39 humble or he was still hungover from New Year's Eve when he made that decision......Someday, an NHL player will separate his shoulder after jumping into the glass to celebrate a goal. And that someone will probably be Peter Regin.....

.....Finally got a chance to see the new scoreboard in person after taking in the Calgary game last week. That thing is a beast. It almost seems too big actually, though I'm hardly complaining. From where I was sitting in the lower bowl, it blocked out most of the other half of the arena. I kind of like the bare bones look of it with just the huge screens. Makes the rink look like a massive living room with 20,000 people spilling soda all over your couch and carpet.When they finally add the fancy casing to it, the rink will look more like Pizza Planet from the Toy Story movies.....I have yet to be in the rink to hear a louder roar than when Daniel Alfredsson uncorked his 400th career goal in overtime against the Flames that night. Pure bedlam in the stands. I think the girl next to me peed her pants for real. So did my brother on the other side of me, but he does that whenever he hears loud noises. Erik Karlsson looked like a kid running down the stairs Christmas morning and the guy on the goal horn was putting some major stank on it for close to 30 seconds. And Alfie evidently still had the adrenalin going when he was announced as first star of the game. He launched the traditional giveaway stick into the stands like it was a javelin. The folks rushing for the parking lot missed the sight of two middle-aged men fighting tooth and nail over that very same stick to the point where I thought punches were going to be thrown. Alas, cooler heads prevailed and we all walked out into the freezing rain having just seen a hell of a show......Unfortunately for Spartacat, he was shooting blanks at the Calgary game when his t-shirt gun went on the fritz. Those shirts were popping about three feet into the air and dropping to his feet rather sadly. So he got the natural guns out and started heaving them into the upper decks on his own. That's what you look for in a mascot - the ability to improvise.....

.....I have a friend who went out and bought a ticket to the last home game of the season, April 5 against the Bruins because he thinks it might be Alfie's last game. After watching the way Alfie's been skating the past month, I think I'll tell him he's going to need another ticket for April 2013....Wonder what it was that Martin Brodeur said that Milan Michalek found so funny after a scramble at the Devils net in the third period......With the way Henrik Lundqvist played in the clutch during the Winter Classic today (and through the whole season), it makes you think the Rangers aren't really that far away from winning a Stanley Cup. They don't seem to have much firepower outside of their two big forwards stars but they could win it all with goaltending and coaching. If Marc Staal can stay healthy, the Rangers will give the Bruins all they can handle in the East.......Both the Flyers and the Rangers did a great job with their retro sweaters for the game (as seen below). The bright orange looked incredible in HD (although white shoulders would have been better than black) as did the "vintage white" of the Rangers with the simple blue and red stripes. I was skeptical before but now I'm completely sold on vintage white as a good choice for a permanent road colour for the Senators, maybe as a mirror to their current black retro's.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Jeremy.

It seems like one of your New Year's resolutions was to start taking jabs at Brian Lee again.

I think that he's played well, and that he would grow into a bigger role if they gave him that opportunity.

That's why I would trade Kuba. I'd keep Gonchar because he makes our powerplay significantly better. But, I'd trade Kuba.

Kuba's been great. But, it's about "buy low, sell high".
He's a UFA, so even if we wanted him back, we could re-sign him.

But, I'd cash in the chips now, while they might have some value. As for needing him down the stretch, that's for the coaching staff to assess, but I'd bet that Lee could fill that role.

I also don't agree with you that this team is a bunch of ham-and-eggers. For sure, the team of the mid-2000's was a travelling all-star team, but this team is also pretty skilled.

Spezza, Alfie, Michalek, Karlsson, and Gonchar are all legit top talents.

I've been completely surprised by the team's ability to score goals. I thought that would kill them this year. But, the D has been generating a ton of offense, and players like Greening, Condra, Foligno, Smith, Neil, etc. have been filling their roles.

I think that this group is very resilient, and I credit the coaching staff for that. The attitude seems very positive.

The Simmons tweet is kind of ironic in that he's a Toronto sports writer. Dumb hockey fans? No cups since '67 and they still fill the building, and drink every glass of Kool-Aid that's put in front of them.

Hopefully, Alfredsson keeps playing. He's too good to retire. If was playing with Spezza, he'd hit 35 goals easy. He's playing mostly on the second line, and still has good numbers.

Best thing about the Winter Classic was seeing Lindros in Philly orange again. He didn't look right in Ranger, Leaf, and Dallas Stars colours.

I was kind of hoping that he'd throw a well-deserved errant elbow in Bobby Clarke's direction, but oh well.

3#Kevin said...

Loved seeing the comeback last night, but was quite surprised while listening to the post game show on team 1200 on the way home from the rink. It seems the fans & the hosts believed the Sens to have played a fantastic game. Not to take away anything from a home win with an absolute beauty of a game winner from Alfie, but were these people watching the same game I witnessed? Give aways in our own zone, no puck support, passes nowhere near the tape. The second period from our boys was about the most mistake filled, disorganized attempt I've seen in a while. Again, I love that we got the win. But should the goaltending falter, or when we play teams that are on their game and superior, that type of effort will result in disaster. As Cinderella as this season may be shaping up - should we make the playoffs - it is going to take a hot goaltender to make any headway at all. Otherwise, it'll be a quick 4 game exit.
PM & co have some work to do to get these guys to play in the first 40 minutes so they will have a shot at doing something in the last 20. Hope they can get that figured out soon.

Congrats to Alfie on goals 400 & 401. Those are the types of goals I'm going to remember and fondly look back upon in 40 years from now.

dzuunmod said...

Hi Jeremy - I've argued pretty good on here with you in the past, but I want to thank you for keeping the blog, and especially for these occasional game notes you do. Great stuff.

Other thing - personally I sorta feel like Simmons' tweet is the mark of a lazy hack, not a great sportswriter. It's easy to troll fanbases like he did.

Jeremy Milks said...

Hey dzuunmod...Thanks. As for Simmons, I actually don't think he's a great sportswriter... in fact he makes me shake my head more often than not, but I can appreciate a good "troll" now and then. People can take this game way too seriously, including myself, and you need guys like Earl McRae or Simmons to pop the balloon once in a while. It's all good for a laugh.