Buffalo 4 Ottawa 3


- A sign of life. The most frustrating part of Thursday night's loss to the Leafs was the absolute lack of passion displayed by the majority of the Senators. With the exception of one player, the entire team displayed a terrible effort. What I wanted to see tonight, even more than a W, was, for 60 minutes, a determined team take the ice. We didn't get that. The first 20 minutes looked scarily similar to the 6-0 blowout defeat. There was zero urgency to their game, even when on the PK, which is unacceptable. Thankfully, a switch was flicked in the first intermission. I don't know how. If it was a veteran player (Chris Phillips is the likely candidate) standing up and setting the troops straight or a verbal lashing from the coach, but the result was a different team in the second period. They played with much more enthusiasm, which is all we can ask for. If they play this way every night, they'll come out with the two points 75% of the time. Let's hope it doesn't die a painful death in the four days between games. I also like that they didn't quit when Buffalo scored the goal to restore their two goal lead. Instead, the Big Line got right back at it. Often in the past, an Ottawa Senators team would pack it in then. Nice to see that wasn't the case, even in defeat.

- The Big Line. Include me in the converted group. Going into the season, I said they need to keep Alfie and Spezza/Heatley seperate so as to distribute the scoring over two lines. I thought, based on the chemistry displayed by Schaefer-Fisher-Alfredsson in the pre-season as well as how Patrick Eaves fared with Spezza & Heatley last year, it was the best road to go down. I was wrong. Alfie has been a mostly non-factor these three games while Spezza and Heatley struggled badly Thursday night. Yet when Murray put the three of them together in the third, magic emerged. This is no coincedence. So now I believe it's time, for the short term anyway, to keep these three together. It's clear there is an energy that develops when these three are on the ice that cannot be duplicated with any other line combos. I know the fear is, if that line gets shut down, where will the offence come from? It's a legitimate concern, but right now, it's not like we're getting a lot anyway, so what do we have to lose? If nothing else, throw them together for half a dozen games to get Alfredsson and Heatley rolling, because as it stands, they both look lost out there. Neither is playing with the swagger and confidence that allowed them to be so dominant last season. Then, once they're up and running, think about spreading the scoring around. When you're struggling as much as this team is, you can't reject the few things that are working.


- The breaks.
For whatever reason, the Sens just didn't have them go their way tonight. I know that sounds like a cop out ("we didn't get lucky"), however, Ottawa truly didn't have an ounce of puck luck in this game. Shots were going wide, errant passes were beyond prevelant, pucks were hitting defenders who didn't even appear to be making an effort to block a shot. To say Ottawa is a team out of sync right now would be an understatement. They're not helping their cause with brainfarts in their own end though. Chris Phillips' decision to hit the Buffalo player instead of playing the puck, which led to the first goal, still confuses me. For a nine year pro to make that kind of rookie mistake is baffling.

- Tom Preissing.
Did he miss one game or 50? He's a defenceman billed as a speedy puck mover, yet he looked incredibly slow and awkward with the puck tonight. Preissing was responsible for a handful of poor plays with the rubber, including one terrible giveaway that led to a big scoring chance. Worse, Preissing's back check was non-existant. People can say what they want about Daniel Alfredsson's heart or legitimacy as a captain (and right now, a lot is being said) but at least when he turns it over he's the hardest skater back, determined to correct his error. Same went for Marian Hossa when he played here. Is there an invisible piece of quicksand on the ScotiaBank Place ice that explains why Preissing was literally in one place for 10 seconds while the Sabres player carried the puck down the ice? Very poor performance.

- Dany Heatley's finish. I touched on it above, but jeez, is Dany Heatley ever fighting the puck. Last year, when he had it on his stick, he could do no wrong. This season, he can't buy a goal, and with the $4.5 mil the team is paying him, you'd think that may be an option. He's gonna have to find that scoring touch soon because there isn't a whole lot else to his game beyond his tremendous ability to light the lamp, and so when he's not doing that with any regularity, there's little use for him.

- Special Teams/Undisciplined play. Not good. Ottawa's powerplay, which was so potent last season, has been depressingly bad so far. And don't you Monday morning quarterbacks, who are claiming the Sens plight is linked to no Chara or Martin Havlat, try and put it on those two, because, combined, they only put up 12 PP points last year. Ottawa went 0 for 8 with the man advantage, and a lot of the powerplay time was spent either in the neutral zone or in their own end trying to get their shit together. In a one goal game, a 0% PP is a killer. Meanwhile, they handed a sizzling Sabres team seven powerplay opportunities. The fact Buffalo only burned them for one goal in that situation is both a blessing and a tribute to the good work put in by the penalty killers.

- Anton Volchenkov. I don't have to say anything. Just read what I've written for the previous two games, because it's same gripes. Please trade this guy already. At least with Preissing back his ice time was down to less 15 minutes a game. The idea of him playing 20 again makes my head explode. It seems as if he's trying, so it's difficult to be too hard on the big Russian, however, his choices on the ice as well as his speed, or lackthereof, are awful right now. If Joe Corvo were to come back tomorrow, Volchenkov would be the odd man out, I'd hope. It's shocking how far he's slipped on this team's depth chart. One of the reasons they were able to unload Greg de Vries and his $2 million+ contract in the Hossa for Heatley deal was because they were certain Volchenkov could step in and be the top four d-man for nearly half the price. Now he's probably not even in their top six if all are healthy.


Despite some turnover in talent, the Sabres the same kind of game that allowed them to rack up over 100 points last year and will likely have them tally as much this season. Their forwards were committed to a two-way game, they were great in transition, their defence was more than willing to jump into the play, and goaltending was clutch when it needed to be. They basically have a championship formula down cold.

They did slip a little bit in the second, giving up the puck more than I'm sure Lindy Ruff would have liked, thus allowing Ottawa to get back into the game, but fortunately, Martin Biron bailed them out. With his plain white protest goalie mask, he did himself big favors for getting dealt to the first time who decides their current goaltending situation isn't cutting it (the early favorites are Detroit and Philadelphia).


It's not gonna get any easier folks, as Calgary is next on deck, though not for a while. The game is Thursday, and in between now and then, the Sens will have plenty of time go over game tape and think about why they're in their current perdicament. I suspect it will be a long week.