Ottawa 3 Tampa Bay 2

Shows what I know.

I figured, based on how easily they folded in game four, that the Tampa Bay Lightning had no life left in them and would roll over in game give. That was not the case.

They proved to still have some fight in them and made the series clincher difficult for the Sens. There can be little disputing that the Sens were the better team but Tampa held their own and generated enough chances right up to the end that the hearts of Sens Nation were beating at a rapid pace. I imagine more than a few of you needed some liquid courage to get through those last five minutes.

I'm going to quickly go over tonight's game because I plan to wrap up the entire series from the Sens perspective Monday.


Jason Spezza & Dany Heatley. Very good transition game from these two. It seemed as if every time they were on the ice a rush occured and a scoring chance of some kind was generated. They were causing havoc in the Lightning zone for the entire game.

Antoine Vermette. Lined up with Heatley and Spezza, Vermette had another sensational game but made his biggest impact on the penalty kill. It says a lot about what the confidence Bryan Murray has in Vermette that the young man was on the ice for the 6-on-4 at the end of the game. Vermette lost his stick early in the shift but still blocked a shot.

Wade Redden. It's been a magical series for Redden and this may have been his best game. Another excellent tape-to-tape pass from him resulted in a goal and he was tremendous with Andrej Meszaros in his own end. With no Chris Phillips, Redden took on more minutes and answered the challenged very well. The moment in which he came out to an ovation after being named the game's number one star and pointed to the skies was incredibly moving and sums up his series very well.

Martin Havlat. Without question the best Sen all series, he was explosive every time he touched the puck. Led all Sens in shots on goal and made every one of them count.

Faceoffs. Ottawa was very good on the draws. Bryan Smolinski in particular, winning 12 of the 14 he took


Anton Volchenkov.
The A-Train continues to disappoint. Very discouraging play.


The defending Cup champs had been let down by inconsistent goaltending all season long. I suppose there's some irony in the reality that by the time they got great goaltending in this series, they were in such a hole it was too late.

The only reason this win wasn't by three or four goals was Sean Burke. That isn't meant to be a slight against the Bolts, because they came to play and left it all on the ice, but put John Grahame between the pipes and the score isn't even close. Burke can't be faulted on any of the goals and made enough spectaculat saves in the third period to keep them in the game.

One of the things I noted about game four was how easily they folded their tent when the Sens got up a goal, essentially making the game over at the second intermission. When Havlat scored to make it 3-1 I figured this would happen once again, but Burke refused to fall into the same old trapping and within a two minute span made a handful of huge saves that looked to energize the bench and make them realize it wasn't over. Sure enough, Brad Richards, who's been their best skater this series, scored not soon after to cut the gap in half once again.

What let the Bolts down on the night wasn't shabby netminding but instead an impotent powerplay, which has been a reoccuring theme for them all season. They had the 21st ranked PP in the NHL despite sporting some gunners and that trend carried over into the postseason and they had the worst powerplay of any team this playoffs. They went 0 for 4 on the night and their troubles with the man advantage could be best summed up by the last minute of the game when they had a 6-on-4 (Burke was pulled) and could not get a good scoring chance out of it, even with their season hanging in the balance.

In the postgame press conference, which sadly was without any profanity, John Tortorella basically admitted that he didn't have the horses to work with, pointing the finger in a not so subtle way at GM Jay Feester, though he did say he and Jay made the decision to go with Grahame and Burke at the start of the season.

After a wonderful season in '03-'04 that saw them take home Stanley, being ousted in the first round in five games has to be a colossal disappointment to the franchise and its fans, and can't be spun as anything but a step backward after years of visible steps in the right direction. Where they go from here will be interesting. Signing Brad Richards has to be a top priority, but moreso than securing their goaltending? They also need help on the blueline. Pavel Kubina, who was awesome in the first game but vanished shortly thereafter, is a UFA and will probably get some good offers. They might be wise to let him go and invest that money in a few lower profile guys who can still do the job.

The team also has to address the fact that a few guys were passengers in this series. Where was Fredrik Modin and his 30 goals? I know Vaclav Prospal was playing hurt, but his disappearing act reminded Sens fans of his time here. Ruslan Fedotenko showed a lot of fight, but also took too many bad penalties and didn't produce offensively.

The team needed its secondary scorers to ease the load of the Big Three, and they weren't up to the job. So I have to think Feester and Co. will look at bringing in some new faces who can.

Put a fork in 'em

Apologies for not updating after last night's game, but Blogger was giving me technical problems all night.

And really, what needed to be said?

Last night was a shining example of the frailty that is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The truth is, for the first 30 or so minutes, they outplayed Ottawa. Not by a wide margin, but they were the better team. They had more jump in their step, their passes were connecting, and they were far superior in their own zone with the puck (a major problem for the Sens in the first half as they couldn't seem to clear the puck even if their lives depended on it).

Unfortunately for the Lightning, Ray Emery was once again on his A-game, making that whole "Emery is their weakest link" argument from John Tortorella look pretty stupid. If this is the team's weak link, then Ottawa might as well start planning their Cup parade because Emery has not disappointed yet. If I was to list players who I'm concerned about as we go forward, Emery wouldn't be anywhere near the top.

Tampa had the game in command with a 2-1 lead, and yet a chinzy goal by Chris Phillips deflated them. Suddenly, that confidence they had been playing with for 30 minutes began to wain. By the time Ottawa scored two more that period, the air was out of the tires. HNIC showed a shot of the bench just before the second intermission and they collectively looked like their dogs had died. Despite being the better team for the majority of the game, they were down two goals and knew there was no coming back.

A lot has been made of Tortorella's rant after the game and I really don't know what to make of it. I used to think Tortorella's spiels were gamesmanship, an attempt to get inside the head of whoever the subject was, but I'm beginning to believe the guy is just an asshole with an inflated sense of self.

Yeah, honesty is nice, and as fans it's fun to not get the same stock post-game comments, but I feel as though Tortorella went too far.

John Grahame is not a starting goalie in the NHL. This much has been known for some time by just about anyone with half a brain. Yet the Lightning convinced themselves he was up to the job.

If Tortorella wants to blame anyone, blame Tampa Bay GM Jay Feester because he's the tool who didn't bring in a more qualified goalie. Their Plan B, Sean Burke, looked old and past his prime two years ago. I wouldn't think it would take a rocket scientist to realize that a 38-year-old goalie who hadn't played a game in over a year was not a good solution, yet that's the road they took.

Grahame is in over his head, and try as he might, he just doesn't have what it takes to fill the job. Tortorella can rant and rave all he wants, but it won't cause Grahame to suddenly wake up the next morning with more skill. You either have it or you don't and he does not.

What long term implications will what Tortella said have? Grahame is a UFA at the end of the season it's probably a safe assumption he won't be back, nor would he want to be. But what about those who remain?

The handful of interviews I've seen with Tampa players about what was said seem to indicate they back Grahame not Tortorella. Brad Richards made a comment to TSN about the separation between the coaching staff and the players.

Is every Tampa Bay Lightning now going to be thinking "if I screw up, this guy will rip me a new one?"? I know I would, even if it was just a little bit. Having a taskmaster who cracks the whip has proven to be successful (see Scotty Bowman) but John Tortorella is not Scotty Bowman. He's not even Mike Keenan. He's a guy who won a Cup with a loaded team that had everything go right for them that season.

Tortorella must feel as though his job security is not an issue if he feels comfortable potentially alienating his locker room.

What was also exposed last night was how important Tampa's lack of forward depth was. The Bolts had been leaning on their Big Three as well as their three supporters all series long, and they often rised to the occasion. In game four, Ottawa rolled four lines and skated them into the ice. They were dead tired.

The injury to Chris Phillips don't sound as if it's super serious. Bob McKenzie was on OTR a few minutes ago and said he had heard that if the game was very important, Phillips could've and would've kept playing, but since by that point the Sens had a strangehold, they thought it wise to sit him.

If he's not 100%, no point in risking him reinjuring it by playing him in game 5. It's better to play it safe short term than risk long term problems. Phillips has not looked particularly strong all series, which is uncharacterist of the Big Rig as historically he's been their best postseason blueliner. I suspect it has to do with the bad knee, and so might as well play Christoph Schubert in his place and let him get healthy, or at least healthier. If this team is going to make a long run this spring they'll need Philly back in top form.

And yes, that pretty much means I'm approaching tomorrow night's contest as if it's a formality. Nothing should ever be taken for granted in the NHL, but I truly see no reason why the Sens will lose tomorrow night. The way Tampa looked in that third period, it seems as if they too have accepted their fate. I wouldn't be surprised to learn a few of them started booking their vacations late last night, shining up the nine irons and making sure the speedos still fit right.

Can Tampa Bay win? Sure, I guess. They have enough weapons and we've seen what happens when said weapons bring it. I just don't see the Sens playing as poorly as they did in game 2. They learned their lesson.

Ron Francis has a blog?

Apparently so.

How weird yet immensely cool.

More Don Cherry idiocy on display last night

I really should know better than to watch Coach's Corner these days. With the Leafs out of it, the CBC are quite butthurt, and are taking it out on the rest of us. The most sad is, of course, Mr. Tronna himself Don Cherry.

Now, asserting that the CBC and specifically Cherry are Leaf homers is nothing new. It's been known by anyone who's caught even an episode of HNIC at any time over the last 10 years. I'm over complaining about how unfair it is for a broacaster subsidized by our taxes dollars to be so regionalized because no amount of bitching about it will change anything. HNIC is about making money, and their best way to do that is to attach themselves in every way possibles to the Buds.

But now that Toronto is out of it, they don't know what to do. The talking heads routinely find ways to bring up the Leafs somehow to keep Leaf Nation interested, but I'm sure they wish it was Mats Sundin on the ice instead of Daniel Alfredsson or Saku Koivu.

Last night, on CC, Cherry took Chris Neil to task for his turtling. No surprise there. He said Neil "sold his soul for a win". Predictable response. No use in pointing out that Cherry's pal Tie Domi turtled as well back when Jim McKenzie of the Devils tried to fight Domi in the first game of the regular season after the infamous Scott Niedermayer incident that brouht out Tie's crocodile tears.

What did irk me, and again, I realize I brought it on myself by even indulging in Cherry at time when he's so irritable, was his attack on Zdeno Chara. After Cherry praised Vincent Lecavalier and called him the best player in the world (that seems like a stretch but there's no disputing he's quite good and I think we'd all like him on our team), he basically accused Chara of being a goon.

First, he said Chara was at fault for the fight. As I remember it, Chara pulled Lecavalier from the scrum and was simply containing him when Vinny threw a misguided punch. Up to that point, it didn't seem as if Chara had any interested in fighting, nor should he in the wake of that serious hand injury that took far too long to heal.

Cherry rationalized that even though Chara didn't throw the first blow, he initiated it by looking at Lecavalier. Yes, that's right, looking at him. Once he did that, Lecavalier had to defend himself! He was being looked at!

Then Cherry said Chara was being a show off by holding his fist over a prone and, frankly, lucky Lecavalier. What bullshit. Even the Tampa fans I've seen said that they respected Chara for showing great restraint. If he wanted to hurt Lecavalier he could have, easily. He didn't. And what does that get him? A public ripping at the hands of a guy who is, unfortunately, one of the more respected media people in the country.

The further the Sens go into these playoffs, the more it'll bug Cherry I'm sure. He'll find ways to say this player is dirty and that one is soft. He'll call our captain Daniel Anderson, because apparently Canada's supposed number one authority on the game can't even remember the name of one of the best players in the league and the captain of the top team in the nation.

I envy you Calgary and Edmonton fans who don't have to put up with this retard. As goofy as he might be sometimes, I'd take Kelly Hrudey over this borderline racist, downright idiotic hockey icon any day of the week.

Don't worry Don, I'm sure the Leafs will be back in sometime soon. Until then, take a Midol and leave the broadcasting to someone who has something of significance to say.

Chris Neil: zero or hero?

Driving home tonight, I listened to a bit of local sports talk radio on The Team 1200 and to my surprise, the hot topic wasn’t the Sens big win last night to take a 2-1 series lead but instead what Chris Neil did in the game.

For those of you who missed it, I’ll try and recap as best I can.

First, Neil went after Ruslan Fedotenko when the Lightning forward was digging at a puck in the pads of Ray Emery after the play had been whistled dead. Neil threw some punches and, frankly, was lucky he didn’t get a major. As he was being escorted off the ice (there was less than two minutes remaining in the period so they temporarily sent him to the dressing room), Neil mouthed “me and you” to Sean Burke who had replaced John Grahame in net. Some interpreted this as him saying he wanted to fight Burke (on the TV broadcast it was mentioned that Burke and Neil might have history since both were a part of the big brawl between the Sens and Flyers last year that set a new NHL penalty minute record, but Burke stayed out of it and only appeared in the game when Robert Esche was tossed for fighting with Patrick Lalime, so that theory doesn’t seem accurate to me), but I took as it Neil saying that if the Bolts were going to run his goalie, he would do the same. It was open to interpretation.

Highlights were shown of Neil and Burke jawing back and fourth in between plays when both were at the bench. There seemed to be something going on between them.

After all this, Neil resumed playing a physical game, finishing his checks (clean ones) and playing the role that gets him in the line-up. I suppose this, coupled with Neil’s attack on Fedotenko, his “challenge” of Burke, and the lopsided score, enraged the Lightning. Their toughguy, Chris Dingman was lined up with Neil at the faceoff and before Neil could drop his gloves Dingman began pounding him. Neil turtled and didn’t fight back. Dingman was given a misconduct and put Ottawa on the powerplay for seven minutes.

There seems to be a dispute, even amongst Sens fans, about whether or not this was the right thing for Neil to do, and frankly, I can’t understand it for a second.

Chris Neil absolutely did the correct thing, and instead of being called a coward by fans on local radio (given how many fights he’s been in I find it hard to believe anyone can think that of him), Neil should be commended for excellent gamesmanship.

Let’s remember where this game was at the time of the Dingman incident. Ottawa was up three goals, 5-2, but Tampa, early in that third period, was pressing. Because of the score they were forced to pinch even more and were getting quite a bit of scoring chances. The Senators had stopped skating and the tight coverage in their own zone that was a big part of why they were able to build such a lead had disappeared. Even up three goals the Sens looked to be in some trouble, and having seen two teams come back from three goal holes the night before, I was worried Tampa would come back. Such a thing could and likely would be a series turning point.

Chris Dingman’s penalty ended all that. He squashed his team’s momentum. Ottawa went back on the powerplay, scored another goal, and from that point on, the game was over, even with two more goals scored by each team afterwards. That Dany Heatley PP goal was the backbreaker.

Ottawa has historically been labeled a soft team, often in reference their playoff loses to Toronto. I’ve never bought this. The Sens may not be the Flyers of the 70’s but they’re not a delicate club either. They have some team toughness and more than a few guys who can and will hold their own physically. If we were to rank the toughest teams in the NHL, I’d say they were a middle of the pack club.

Nonetheless, so many Sens fans have bought into this “the Sens are weak!” bullshit that they’ve let it cloud their otherwise good judgment. That’s the only explanation I have for why they would take Chris Neil to task for what he did.

It seems as if they’re more interested in Ottawa proving they’re tough than they are seeing Ottawa win. Let me ask you this, and this goes for fans of any team: would you rather your team be a perennial loser but have the reputation of being a hard, tough group or be a winner and have some people question their toughness?

For me, it’s a no brainer. Call them pussies all day long if you want, as long as they win, I don’t give a shit.

Sometimes Canadian hockey fans are so wrapped up in toughness they forget there are other things involved in the game. You know, like scoring goals? A big hit frequently gets a bigger reaction than a goal. And if a player on the home team pummels someone in a brawl? Forget it. The ovation is massive. Last time I checked winning fights doesn’t mean shit on the scoreboard or in the standings.

What Chris Neil did was shift the energy of the game back in Ottawa’s favor. It was obvious after Dingman was thrown out that many Lightning players were more interested in running around trying to get even with Neil than they were with scoring a goal and making the final score less insulting to them. Neil didn’t mind this one bit, and when a few of them took a run at him and got the worst of it, he yelled a cheer right in front of their bench.

He took them off their game, and I don’t expect it to end with that contest. I imagine a few of them will try and take some runs at him again tomorrow night, and if he can lure them into a penalty in the process, Neil will probably be all for it, because Ottawa can and will bury the Tampa Bay Lightning if given those opportunities.

Is this all poor hockey etiquette? Who can say. But as Tim Taylor said when he picked up the game one puck and threw it in the garbage before the Sens could retrieve it for Ray Emery to commemorate his first playoff win, this is the playoffs. All that stuff is out the window. It’s Ws that matter now.

Ottawa 8 Tampa Bay 4

It was said that Monday night’s game, the third of this series, would be a message game for the Senators. Their character was once again put into question after the loss two nights earlier, some might say justifiably so, and as a result, they had to come back in a big way to silence those critics. I think it’s safe to say they did so. It was far from a perfect game for Ottawa, but in comparison to the effort we saw Sunday night, this was a big step forward.


Ray Emery. You might look at the score, see four goals against, and assume Emery had a subpar game, but that was not the case. Emery was very good and when called upon to be, sensational. It’s hard to fault him on any of the goalies, with the only one I’d say having any chance of being saved the Paul Ranger goal from inside the blueline. Emery was the best Ottawa penalty killer with his big saves.

Wade Redden.Those of you who questioned this man’s commitment to his teammates and the organization ought to feel pretty stupid. Redden had a monster game, scoring a goal while assisting on another. His outlet pass ability was on display on Martin Havlat’s second goal, as he backhanded the puck half way down the ice, tape-to-tape, to an already speeding “Mach 9”. If there’s another defenceman in the NHL who can make that play, I don’t know who it is. This was what was missing in Sunday night's loss. When the other defenceman tried to do Redden's job and pass the puck across the lines or carry it into the neutral zone, disaster occured. Redden may not be the bonecrushing d-man we all love to have on our team come playoff time but what he brings to the table is equally important to success. Redden’s still got to be reeling from the death of his mother but showed what kind of character he has both as a man and a hockey player on Monday night.

The return of Big Mean Zdeno Chara. Chara had been criticized by many, including Bryan Murray, for his lack of intensity and nastiness in the first two games. Perhaps he was afraid of taking a bad penalty, but for whatever reason, Chara played quite timid in this series, and for him to be effective, that just won’t work. We saw more of the Zdeno Chara we’ve come to know and love last night, as he was initiating contact with regularity and engaging in after whistle scrums often. He did show a bit of restraint and humanity on Vincent Lecavalier, who’s lucky he didn’t catch Chara on a bad day or he’d probably be missing some teeth and would be getting asked to recite the alphabet by a doctor checking his mental state. I’m sure a lot of you were like me when you saw Chara begin to throw punches: I was scared. We saw the worst case scenario when he dropped ‘em with Eric Cairns, and the last thing this team can afford to withstand is the loss of Chara because of a dumb decision to fight. But the replays showed Lecavalier threw the first punch, at a time when it looked like all Chara wanted to do was hold him back, and so it’s hard to blame Z for losing his cool.

The fight in Daniel Alfredsson. Another Sens who’s been racked over the coals for his mediocre peformance thus far has been the captain, and again, it hasn’t been without reason. Alfie simply hadn’t been the player the Senators need him to be. He promised a different game would emerge, and he did not disappoint. That extra gear was back in his skating and he was winning battles along the boards that he showed no interest in even engaging in for the first two games. Alfredsson was also big on the PK, especially when Chris Kelly left the game.

Martin Havlat and his big goals. How did we ever live without this guy? His ability to score in key moments is so huge.

Chris Neil, superpest. I imagine there is a dart board with Chris Neil’s face on it in the Lightning locker room. Neil took on a new role last night, channeling the ghosts of Claude Lemieux and Ken Linesman. He drove the Tampa goalies nuts and was responsible for luring Chris Dingman into a dumb penalty that basically squashed the momentum the Bolts were building.

The brewing bad blood. Did this series ever get vicious quickly. It’s strange because of all the Eastern Conference matchups this would be the one you’d think would least develop that way, and yet game four will have a whole lotta hate going on. A near blowout does that I suppose.


The officiating. The referees did an excellent job of establishing the standard for which this series will be called in the first two games. I didn’t necessarily agree with all the calls, but at least they were consistent and went both ways. That was out the window here. I don’t know if the refs were swayed by the surprisingly live crowd, but there seemed to be different rules for the Ottawa Senators than the ones that applied to the defending Cup champs. Don’t get me wrong. Most of what Ottawa got whistled for were legitimate (a few were questionable). However, Tampa was getting away with near homicide on the ice most of the game. Patrick Eaves was mauled by the Lightning bench and Ray Emery was run with regularity. It’s no wonder the game degenerated into violence. The Sens figured, I assume, that if the refs weren’t going to do anything about it, they would. Whatever blood was spilt was on the hands of Kerry Fraser and Eric Furlatt. When a team takes 11 penalties you’d usually be right in calling them horribly undisciplined but I can’t fault the team.

Taking their foot off the gas pedal. Ottawa once again fell into a bad habit that’s been present all year: they didn’t finish the job on their own. Once the Sens got up 7-2 they stopped skating, put the forecheck away, and became lazy in their defensive coverage. As a result, Tampa was able to get back into the game sorta kinda. I can understand not taking the same risks you were when the game was scoreless, because the situation has changed, but a team cannot afford to assume it’s in the bag and start slacking. We saw Monday night what happens. Two teams came back from what seemed like insurmountable deficits to force OT.

Snake bitten Dany Heatley. He did finally get a goal, but by that point the game was out of hand. Heatley had at least half a dozen prime scoring chances and flubbed every one. I guess it was just one of those nights, because any other game would probably see him bury each and every one of those.


A point was made by someone who I’d love to credit for their insight if I could remember their identity: Sunday night’s win by the Lightning saw them play a near perfect game, while Ottawa played a very pedestrian, and yet the Bolts only won by a goal. It’s doubtful Tampa could maintain this high level of play all series since it was hardly consistently ushered out in the regular season, and the odds of Ottawa playing that badly for the rest of the series were slim to none.

So the Chicken Littles probably needed a reality check, and I think that’s what this was. Tampa fell back to Earth while Ottawa played only 75% of how well they can and still handed them their asses.

Vincent Lecavalier was back in his shell, Martin St. Louis, try as he did, was neutralized very well, and Brad Richards wasn’t much of a factor. These three’s dominant play in game two was one of the main reasons the series came to Tampa tied. Some of their secondary players had decent games (Ruslan Fedotenko impressed me a lot), but in order for them to win, those guys need to be great, and they weren’t.

A interesting situation has developed with their goaltending. It wouldn’t be fair to blame John Grahame for the loss because most of those goals couldn’t be classified as stoppable, but he also didn’t win the game for them. However, I foresee Grahame becoming the scapegoat via John Tortorella simply based on their previous confrontations. If they do put Sean Burke in for game four, it’s doubtful Grahame comes back into the series at any point.

Before the series, Tortorella said that the pressure was on the Sens, not the Lightning, because they have all the lofty expectations. I don’t buy that for a minute. You want to tell me the fans of the Lightning, coming off a Cup win and having broken the franchise’s attendance records this year, don’t expect this team to prosper, average regular season or not? I believe the boos that rained down on the team as they were being scored upon answered that for me. The Lightning coach can spin this series however he wants and attempt all kind of head games, but something tells me if the Bolts lose the series in this fashion it won't go over well.

"He scores!!!! Or did he?"

What a wacky night of hockey.

Top line shake-up

Today's practice saw a new number one line thrown together: Antoine Vermette-Jason Spezza-Dany Heatley.

I'd like to say I'm amazed at the stupidity of that, but I'm beginning to realize that's just how this team does things: the hard way.

Antoine Vermette's a good player and can be effective if used right. Hell, I'm all for him getting an increased role as he's been very good on the PK and whenever given time 5-on-5 has made things happen.

But he's not Daniel Alfredsson, who should absolutely be back with Heatley and Spezza for a full game. Not thrown together in the third period when the team needs goals, but all the time. They have a proven track record of dominance, and Heatley and Spezza have their best games with the captain on the right wing. So why the hell aren't they going back to it?

At this rate, I wouldn't be entirely shocked to see Alfredsson on the fourth line tomorrow night and have it rationalized by Murray as an attempt to "spread out scoring". Riiiiiiight.

The one upside of Vermette being on the top line is that, if nothing else, it should quiet the critics who maintain his diminished role is the result of the team's apparent hatred of French Canadians. Yes, that's why Denis Hamel isn't with the team. Because he has a French name.

Some roster notes

Wade Redden will be returning to the team after spending Sunday with his family in Saskatchewan mourning the death of his mother Pat. Redden back in the line-up means Christoph Schubert, who I didn't think was a factor one way or the other, sits again.

I hope Redden's prompt returns does two things:

1) Silences those who are still convinced this is all a big coverup by the organization to hide some embarassing drug addiction problem for Redden. If you still believe this, you're a retard.

2) Silences those who got on their high horses and yelled "REDDEN MUST RETURN!" as soon as the news that he would miss game 2 was announced. He's back. You won. But if the guy's game isn't up to where you demand it to be, it's probably because his head isn't fully in the game. Yes, he's paid millions of dollars and ideally he should be able to focus on nothing but hockey, but Wade Redden is still a human being. I know we sometimes forget that our athletes are such. So if Redden's play isn't up to his normal standard, he should be forgiven by those of you who were so stern in your demand that he come back. His committment to this organization and his teammates should never have been questioned in the first place, but I sure hope it won't be now.

Redden's return should stabilize a defence that was very mediocre Sunday night. His absence saw guys like Zdeno Chara, Anton Volchenkov, and Andrej Meszaros get increased minutes and all three dropped the ball. Redden's outlet pass skills and ability to carry the puck aren't possessed by any other Sens d-man to a comparable degree, so not having him in there left a gaping hole in their gameplan that the others could not fill. They just don't possess those talents.

Chris Kelly's status is up in the air with an "upper body injury" suffered on the (what I thought was a dirty) hit from Cory Sarich. If Kelly can't play, expect Tyler Arnason to get his first look in this year's playoffs. It probably also means Bryan Murray shuffles the lines, though it shouldn't take an injury for him to see that it's necessary.

In a non-Sens related bit, apparently Kevin Weekes is getting the start in game 2 of tonight's Devils-Rangers game, not rookie sensation Henrik Lundqvist. They must really be panicking in that room if they're already changing goalies. I would've thought Lundqvist did enough this year for them to stick with him through one bad game, but shows what I know.

Did I miss something?

Listening to The Team 1200 this morning (the local sports talk radio station for those of you out of town), you'd think the Sens were just swept by the Leafs, losing every game 6-0.

People, calm down.

The series is tied 1-1. It would be nice if Ottawa was heading to Florida up 2-0, sure, but they're not. This doesn't mean they are out of it however.

It does mean the Senators have to improve on a lot of things. They have to work harder as a team, their big guns have to be their best players (we saw last night what happens when Tampa Bay's are), the powerplay has to be more effective. These are all fixable problems.

Remove your head from the oven. It's going to be alright.

Tampa Bay 4 Ottawa 3

If Friday night’s contest was a story of two games, the first in which Tampa controlled the pace and the second that saw Ottawa blow it open, then this too had two distinct flows, however on this occasion it didn’t go in the Senators favor. The first 10 or so minutes were all Sens, as they were on the attack and looked to be on rout to a big win. At around the half way point of that first period, something changed. Tampa began working harder, and that would generally be the story of the game. The Lightning simply wanted it more, were winning the one-on-one battles, and as a result, got the W.


Martin Havlat’s penchant for big goals. I think we’ve established by now that Havlat is a gamebreaker. His goal to tie the game was huge and really switched the momentum back in Ottawa’s favor. Havlat was also responsible for Peter Schaefer’s goal to give the Sens a temporary 3-2 lead because the Bolts forwards all focused on “Mach 9”, leaving Schaefer basically all alone to score.

Daniel Alfredsson’s patience on the first goal. Alfredsson’s poise and composure was on display here. He carried the puck in the Tampa zone with only Daryl Sydor to beat, yet instead of trying some fancy dipsy doodle move to try and shake the veteran defenceman, Alfie waited for the cavalry to arrive, circled the zone, and set up a goal. A lot of the team’s younger forwards could learn something from this play. Instead of trying to force a play, give it time to develop.

The “fourth line”. Once again Ottawa’s most consistent forward group, enough good things cannot be said about this trio’s ability to make something happen. Every time they touched the ice they were a factor, getting involved in scrums and dictating the play.

Patrick Eaves. A lot heart and grit show by the rookie, as he was fighting for his life and winning battles along the boards. He was also the first guy to get at Martin St. Louis when he hit Anton Volchenkov late. Despite being 21 years old, Eaves plays like a veteran and even in defeat elevated his game.


Not enough shots! Grahame was deep in his net all game once again and was giving the Sens a lot of net to look at, yet Ottawa didn’t take advantage of it by firing as much rubber as they should’ve. They finished with 24 shots on goal (only 2 in the third period) however they must’ve passed up that many decent shooting chances. Andrej Meszaros (who I thought had a much better game than his subpar first one) in particular passed up a number of good shooting opportunities, electing to pass instead. This is a guy with a cannon for a shot and now he has been infested by this fear of firing the puck. This was the case most often on the maddeningly frustrating powerplay but it happened all game long in every situation. Ottawa has often been accused of looking for the perfect play and sometimes trying to force passes when they have the man advantage and they did so tonight.

Neutral zone turnovers. Sloppy play was a common theme throughout the game from the Sens point of view, but this really irked me because most of the giveaways were just the result of poor efforts and braindead plays. I don’t think I even need to mention who led the Sens in giveaways because you should know by now.

Zdeno Chara. With Wade Redden back home, the Sens needed Big Z to step his game up and he did not. In fact, I would argue Chara hurt his team more than he helped on this night. Far too often, Chara was caught out of position after a pinch and the results were horrific. Ottawa must’ve given up eight or nine odd man rushes in the game and half of them had to have occurred when Chara fucked up. If not for Chris Phillips bailing him out nearly every time, Chara’s gaffs would’ve been highlighted even more. As well, Chara was stumbling around out there, falling down on Brad Richards’ goal and then again in the third, which forced him take a penalty from his ass. Not every game can be Norris Trophy worthy but Chara cannot play these kind of mediocre games, especially now that Redden isn’t in the line-up, if Ottawa is to win.

Anton Volchenkov. Another guy who was asked to take on a bigger part with the absence of Redden, as a backer of his all season long, I was thoroughly disappointed with the “A-Train”’s game. Like Chara, his fuckups resulted in disaster, as the two goals he was on the ice for were largely Volchenkov’s fault. The giveaway that led to Martin St. Louis’ first goal was just a boneheaded pass and on St. Louis’s second Anton lost his man who happened to be the goal scorer. All year I’ve championed Volchenkov and urged the coaching staff to give him more ice time and a more prominent role, and so to see him get that opportunity and piss it away was discouraging.

Chris Kelly’s finish. Again, I like Kelly. I feel the need to reiterate that because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. He’s a useful player and in certain situations (penalty killing, key defensive faceoffs) he’s important to the team but he is simply not a top six forward. Why Bryan Murray keeps trying to play him as one is beyond me. Kelly just does not have the offensive skillset to hang with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza and whatever good things he brings to the line from a defensive perspective are negated by Kelly’s inability produce offense the way a top line player has to. In the second period he had two golden opportunities to score at the side of the net, and on each he fumbled with the puck and didn’t even get a shot off. In a way, I felt bad for Kelly because he was working hard but on that line he’s in over his head as far as the expectations and what he’s capable of doing. I’ve seen some call the move to play Kelly on that top line a Jacques Martin-like decision, and I’m inclined to agree. I thought Murray was the coach with balls?

Ray Emery’s wandering ways. You can usually tell how confident and comfortable “Razor” is in nets based on how often he comes out of the goal to handle the puck, so I guess it’s a positive that he was so eager to do so, but he has to be smarter about picking his spots. There’s no question he’s an improvement over Senators goalies of the past in terms of his ability to move the puck, as we saw in game one when he got an assist, but that does not mean he should leave the net every time. Be selective.

The time it took to do faceoffs. What was going on here? On almost every draw, there was some delay or somebody was being thrown out. Drop the damn puck already. Very stupid.


As I said above, the game can be explained by pointing to the Tampa’s superior effort and desire. A big part of that was the play of their Big Three, all of whom took their games to levels not seen since they were last in the playoffs and winning a Cup.

All three of their key forwards, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, and Vincent Lecavalier, had monster games. They were skating well and extremely in their puck pursuit. When these players play like this I’m not sure any team can beat the Lightning, as each of them on their own have the ability to take over a game. When all three do so it’s nightmarish for fans on the opposite end. Ottawa’s defenders made life much easier for them than they should have, but give a bunch of credit to these guys for elevating their play.

Also huge was Ottawa native Dan Boyle. Not only did the goal to tie the game 3-3 but he was ridiculously solid in his own end, closing the passing lanes and having an active stick. He played the kind of game the Bolts need him to, and then some.

John Grahame looked shaky on a few plays but overall did not hurt the club, and in a lot of ways, that in itself is an improvement over where this team’s goaltending was a month ago. He made a number of big timely saves and got aided by a Tampa Bay defence group who did an excellent job of not allowing second and third chances.

Redden out for tonight's game

Wade Redden will miss game two of the series tonight. His mother Pat lost her battle to brain cancer and he's flown back to Saskatchewan to be with the family. Christoph Schubert will take his place and has big shoes to fill.

Redden had a terrific game one and was the team's best blueliner, so his loss will hurt, but captain Alfie put it best:

"There are things that are more important than hockey. He's going through a tough time and our thoughts are with him."

Quick thoughts around the league

- The primary storyline going into these playoffs was all of the goalies with little to no postseason experience being depended on. Some have answered the bell while a few remain question marks. Based solely on those first games, Sens fans have to feel better about Ray Emery, Lightning supporters must be slightly less concerned about John Grahame, Chris Mason made Predators loyalists forget about Tomas Vokoun for a little while, Habs enthusiasts should be more comfortable with Cristobol Huet and his alleged glass slipper, and Sabres devotees should be excited about Ryan Miller. Shit, even Robert Esche, who I’m not a fan of and thought to be the wrong choice of the two Flyers ‘tenders, stood his ground and played fantastic. I’m sure, just because they lost, some Flyers fans will stay on his case, and it’s not as if his game was perfect (those juicy rebounds were still far too prevelant).

Meanwhile, Martin Gerber looked terrible in nets, giving up more than a couple bad goals, and you have to wonder at least a little if Cam Ward will get the nod. I hope not, because Gerber has had a great season and deserves the chance to bounce back, but who knows what Peter Laviolette will do. Also, even in spite of the poor defensive play of the team in front of him, Henrik Lunqvist did not look sharp. I must admit, of all the goalies who are wet behind the ears, I figured Lundqvist was the one to be least concerned about. He has a ton of big game experience in various ventures and plays like a big game goalie. It looks as if the Rangers will need him to steal games for them to remain in the series, and after game one, I’m not sure he’s up to the task.

Speaking of goalies, even in defeat, did Dwayne Roloson give Oiler nation some confidence? He was the only reason that game went to OT and from what I saw of the game looked a whole lot more comfortable than he had any other time I’ve seen him since the trade.

And finally, what happened to Marty Turco? Again, team in front of him, not so great, but still, I thought he was going to take him game to another level this postseason, hence my pick of the Stars as the eventual Cup winners. He’s struggled in the past when it mattered most but I figured he was going to turn over a new leaf and all. Sure didn’t look like to me. Meanwhile, in the other end, Jose Theodore quietly had a strong game, and made Pierre Lacroix look like not such an idiot after all.

- I love OT hockey and all that, but I’m always afraid of getting up at the wrong time and missing the goal. It’s happened more often than I’d like to admit in the past, and as a result, I end up watching a whole bunch of awful commercials I’d tune out of otherwise.

- Carolina fans, don’t panic. I know it looks bad. Your team, despite being much more talented on paper and having a far superior regular season, was essentially blown out by the Habs, but it was one game. If they lost by five goals in a game where they played well, I’d say your terror was legitimate. But the ‘Canes played like shit. They allowed Montreal to play their game, which is slow and methodical, instead of forcing the Carolina Hurricanes game, one based on aggression and speed, on them. Carolina has too many veterans to play that poorly in back-to-back games so I’m sure game two will be prettier on that end. That series just might be closer than I thought.

- And so could that Oilers-Wings series. I’m still inclined to agree with A.O. that Edmonton’s chances are good, but if they do lose, it won’t be because they weren’t trying. Despite the perceived gap in talent between the two teams, Edmonton didn’t back down a bit and hung in there.

- The other Alberta series had the snoozer of all the game ones. I know why Daryl Sutter employs those tactics, but fuck do they ever make for boring hockey. Even with the drama of an OT, I was very uninterested in the whole thing. I’d like Calgary to go far, because I like the whole red mile and all the explicit websites that come with it and because I picked them to do so in October, but if that means I have to watch that kind of hockey for the next two months, I might just take being wrong for once and order one of those college girls gone bananas DVDs to replace the drunken Flames fans who became the apple of Canada’s eye in the spring of ’04.

- The city of Winnipeg should get a royalty check from every team that bites their White Out concept. By the end of the playoffs, they'd have enough to buy the Penguins and move 'em there.

- Eric Desjardins was playing like it was 1993 last night. This is a guy who I maybe didn’t dismiss entirely but certainly thought of as past his prime. I figured he was still a useful defenceman but a shadow of his former self, the guy who was able to be the best player on the ice a lot of the time. Playoffs are great for guys rediscovering their games and he sure did, blocking shots, making smart defensive plays, and a number of great passes. He and Jani Pitkanen could end up being the most important players on the Flyers for that series, because they have the foot speed to keep up with the blazing Buffalo skaters.

- Ron McLean and Don Cherry's sadness about the Leafs lack of inclusion in this year's playoffs is so evident. They always find a way to talk about the Buds even though they're not a part of the fun. I know, I know, the CBC's "Tronna" bias is hardly news, but damn, can we move on? There are four Canadian teams in the playoffs who deserve their full attention, but that didn't stop Cherry from ranting about Tie Domi. Apparently he's surprised Leafs fans don't want him back. He can't understand why. Here's a tip Grapes: the guy sucks! He's no longer effective. It's nice he does a lot of charity work in the GTA and he should be commended for it, but if I'm a Leafs fan (*shudder*), I'd be more than okay with Domi doing that fulltime and not taking up a roster spot and cap space that could be used in other areas.

- I know a lot of Philly fans will be upset with Brian Campbell’s hit on R.J. Umburger however it looked clean in every replay I saw. One thing I will say is that none of the replays give you the true impact of that hit. It has to be seen in real time. It was both awesome and worrisome. I understand it’s estimated Umburger will miss the remainder of the playoffs, and that would be a shame, but Flyers Fan, remember this: if that exact hit had been Denis Gauthier on whoever on the Sabres, you’d be championing it as a shift in the series. Philadelphia likes their hockey rough, but sometimes it seems as if that only goes one way.

- I’m sure much will be made about the abundance of penalties, and the old fossils/Tom Benjamins of the world will whine and complain ‘till they’re blue in the face about how it’s not hockey (as if those rugby games on ice we’d been watching for 10 years were), but I had no problem with the officiating. My beef this season has been that the so-called standard can be anything but, and the calls were not consistent, but for the most part, I felt as though they did a good job. If your team was on the losing end, you might feel different and I understand that, and maybe I just feel this way because my team scored two PP goals on route to their game one win, but I liked the officiating.

Ottawa 4 Tampa Bay 1


Ray Emery. A lot has been made about Emery’s lack of experience and his slump down the stretch, and understandably so. However, in there last night, he looked like a season veteran. He made all the saves he had to, and a few he probably shouldn’t have been asked to, and was the main reason the Sens won the game. While Grahame was shining in one end, Emery was holding his own, and seemed to be revealing in the showdown he was having. Positionally, Emery was sound all night, coming out and challenging shooters often. One game doesn’t make a career, but I suspect Sens Nation is more confident than they were 12 hours ago.

The “fourth line”. I remarked, after Tuesday’s win over the Rangers, that I was surprised with how well the Vaclav Varada-Antoine Vermette-Chris Neil line played because I didn’t have high expectations going in. I expected good things here, but once again, they went above and beyond what I projected they would do. Once again, whenever on the ice, the puck always seemed to be in the Tampa end, and they generated more scoring chances than an alleged fourth line is supposed to. Murray gave this trio a big vote of confidence as they were given key shifts in the third period, getting a regular shift throughout the frame and making the most of their opportunities. Antoine Vermette (who’s become the local “play this guy more!” dude) got a ton of time at even strength in comparison to how much he usually plays.

Martin Havlat. After missing not one but two golden scoring opportunities at the side of the net on the same powerplay, Havlat’s finish looked to be in question. I assumed it was still in Cleveland with that witchdoctor who kept denying Havlat clearance to play. But he proved me wrong with his goal to tie the game. There can no disputing however, what a vital role he has on this team. He created something positive almost everytime he touched the ice, and I figure in a couple games he’ll be even more dangerous. Paired up with Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer, Havlat gives the team the big secondary scoring weapon they’ve been yearning for all season.

The penalty killing. Though Tampa’s powerplay, ranked 23rd, is not very potent on paper, when you have Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, and Vinny Prospal, you have enough weapons to be a treacherous team. Ottawa handed them chance after chance to make something happen but then did an excellent job of making life difficult for them once the Bolts got on the PP. Tampa put Richards on the point and it was a mess, as he wasn't equipped to handle the aggressive approach Sens' PKers take. Hence, Mike Fisher's shorthanded goal, and about four other shorthanded odd man rushes.

Wade Redden. The best Sens d-man on the night, he was the best powerplay player, doing a good job distributing the puck while also keeping the puck in the zone.


Chris Kelly on the top line. I like Chris Kelly. I think he’s a valuable role player who, in the right function can be very useful. But the top line, with two of your most dangerous offensive weapons, is no place for a role player, however hardworking he may be. If Bryan Murray is that determined to spread out the scoring and not reunite the Big Line, at least give Spezza and Heatley someone who has a skillset a tad comparable to theirs. Kelly’s a grinder. He exists for the third and fourth line, and why Murray is insistent on jamming a square peg into a circle hole is beyond me. It’s no coincedence that, at even strength, neither Spezza nor Heatley were major factors. They need someone to jump start them, and when you have that someone floundering on another line, it doesn’t make much sense from where I sit to do nothing about it.

Daniel Alfredsson. I’ve said before that if this team is going to have the kind of success we all want, Alfie will need to be their best player, and he was not on the night. It didn’t appear to be because the effort wasn’t there, as questioning Alfredsson’s work ethic is akin to treason here in Ottawa, but he never quite found his game. He did some good things on special teams, especially moving the puck on the powerplay, but like Spezza and Heatley, 5-on-5, Daniel Alfredsson really wasn’t much of a issue, which is something Tampa had to be smiling about.

For the first two periods, the powerplay. If you read this blog, you know the PP has been a thorn in my side all season, as it never really performs when you want it to. Those first 40 minutes, when they pissed away four powerplay chances without generating much in the process except for missing the net a lot, I began to think they would never net a PP goal.

Bad penalties. The standard was established early in the game, and whether or not you liked what was being called, you can’t accuse the referees of being inconsistent (even though that seems to be what John Tortorella is doing). And so for the Sens to routinely take such illtimed and, frankly, thoughtless penalties was frustrating. Dany Heatley took two on his own. Hopefully the coaching staff shows the team some game tape of what was called and says “now that we know what’s being called, knock it off”. That is, assuming the standard remains what it is. What’s that, you don’t think it will? Me neither, but I’m trying to be an optimist.


Even though they came out on the losing end and are now down 1-0, Tampa Bay can’t be too upset with the night as a whole. I’m sure they’re disappointed with the collapse in the third, but they did enough good things in the first two periods that they should have some hope that they can win the series.

Their big question mark was between the pipes, and John Grahame did as much to silence that as is possible in a single game. He was sensational, making a number of big saves and keeping the Sens at bay. On his end, he basically told his teammates that they could afford to play a more open style, that same style of play that they utilized on the way to winning the Cup, without having to worry about Grahame giving up a bad goal. He can’t be faulted on any of the times the Sens lit the lamp. Martin Havlat’s goal was pure idiocy on the part of the Tampa defenders, who let a bonafided sniper out of their sights and then in alone around the net, Jason Spezza picked a corner, and the shorthanded tally from Mike Fisher was a result of poor defensive play by the Bolts.

The question then, I suppose, is whether or not he can keep this up for the entire series, because if he doesn’t, I’m not sure Tampa Bay can remain competitive. I’m not fully convinced that Grahame is up to the task, however, if I’m a Tampa fan, I’m more optimistic than I was a few days ago.

Pavel Kubina was someone I highlighted as a key player for Tampa, and I thought he was probably their best player. He was terrific on the penalty kill, was real good on the point on the PP, and played the physical game they need him to.

What was evident about this team, and what would worry me, is how fragile they are. Despite playing a great game for two periods, one goal from the Sens totally deflated them, changing the momentum and making the result a foregone conclusion. That may very well be the difference between this version of the Lightning and the ones who won the Cup. They don’t seem to have that confidence.

It's almost time

We're less than two hours away from the drop of the puck of the '05-'06 NHL playoffs, and the excitement is starting to hit me. We've gone without playoff hockey for far too long, and yet, the old phrase absence makes the heart grow fonder seems appropriate, as I'm more amped about this year's Stanley Cup playoffs than I've been in a long time, and not just for the reasons surrounding the Senators.

Driving around the city today doing errands, there is a lot of enthusiasm, very high expectations, and a tad bit of nervous energy. The x factor appears to be Ray Emery, and even though most of you responded positively when I asked if you were confident he could do the job, I sense that isn't the case with a lot of Sens fans.

I get that. I would prefer a healthy Dominik Hasek, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen, and the team has to make the best of the situation. Emery's proven himself to be more capable than many of his netminding peers throughout the league in spite of his inconsistency and I think the rest of the team is strong enough that they only need above average goaltending off the bat.

At some point, they'll need a goalie to steal some games, but by the time that time that stage is reached, Emery will have won a few playoff series, and thus, be oozing confidence. And as we've seen this season, when Emery's poise is at a high level, he's an incredibly goalie to beat.

John Muckler made a comparison today on local radio when asked about Emery. He mentioned that the 1990 Oilers team he coached to a Cup had a goalie with only four games of experience under his belt, and not only did he do the job, he won the Conn Smythe.

The odds are that some goalie will win his first Cup this year, and that he'll do so with very little postseason games to his name before the run. Why can't it be Ray Emery?

Enjoy the game(s).

A heads up part 2

Even though CBC hates Sens fans based on their announcer assignments, I was asked to be a part of a playoff roundtable they're having on The first portion is up now. It will be going on through the playoffs, so keep checking back.