Monday, December 8, 2008

2008-09 Regular Season, Game #25

SENATORS GAME RESULT: Florida 4, Ottawa 3 (OT).
Ottawa scorers: Kelly, Heatley, Spezza.
Florida scorers: Boynton, Repik, Bouwmeester, Weiss.
3 Stars: Bouwmeester (Fla), Alfredsson (Ott), Weiss (Fla).
Honourable mention: Volchenkov (Ott).
Power play: Florida 1-5, Ottawa 0-3.
Shots on goal: Florida 40, Ottawa 38.
Attendance: 17,497 (19,153 capacity).

PRESIDENT'S 2 CENTS: After three penalties that the Panthers got away with, combined with the save of the year from Craig Anderson on a Mike Fisher one-timer, it turned out to be failing a Hockey 101 lesson that did in the Sens, who should have won with multiple OT chances: the lesson of eating the puck when overtime or the end of a period is looming. Filip Kuba, intending to find Dany Heatley with a fancy blind drop pass, failed that lesson. Alex Auld, of course, unfortunately let in a very stoppable Stephen Weiss slapper after arguably outduelling Anderson on the other end …

…It was a game where the Panthers played catch-up immediately after every goal. On the tying third goal, Stephen Weiss was pushed in by Anton Volchenkov. Not only are the Panthers mimicking the Sens by scoring almost right after them, they copped the Sens' get-pushed-into-the-cage-by-the-defenceman trick on the home team's first. The Sens' first, of course, saw Chris Kelly charge hard to poke in the biscuit, but only after Jesse Winchester was pushed into Anderson by Nick Boynton (one of three former 67s on the ice), rendering the keeper helpless. "It's a good hockey goal," announced the zebra …

… Besides the loss, lots of positives for the home squad, which, after four straight wins, finally loses the first contest in the new black unis. (Official Presidential Opinion: the new third jerseys are okay, but the "SENS" script definitely drags them down. Longtime TV beat reporter Patricia Boal makes a good point that the "O" design that was all over the Internet would look too much like a zero, but the old-school touch is always safe) Notably so: the 2 Cents honourable mention. Besides his two third-period penalties – including a suspendable hit from behind on Brett McLean – Anton Volchenkov had a heck of a game. In the first, he makes a stop in front, clears it, then Gregory Campbell tries a cross crease pass in front - Two big defensive plays on same shift for the A-train. A later shift had him throw a solid check in the back end, then hop on the rush and follow up his own scoring chance with a great short-side whack. Ditto with another good whack off a second-period Jason Spezza slapper. How about a third-period 3-on-2? Vermette, Fisher, and A-Train. Not mention a point-blank slapper in the same frame. A busy game overall, and A-Train still found time to jump the rush, maybe starting his audition for the season-long Puck-Moving D-Man Sweepstakes …

… The much-ballyhooed Jarkko Ruutu-Cody Bass-Chris Neil bruiser line needs more skill on it, particularly at centre. On one first-period shift, the physical component of the line shone through, as Bass and Neil both finished two checks each. However, it's the only component of the line most of the time, as the checks were late and the puck was cleared by the Panthers twice. When Mike Fisher began to see some time on that line in the latter half of the game, you could tell the dynamic of it began to change, as some chances happened …

… Newsflash: the Panther D can move. A Chris Phillips failed check allowed Ville Peltonen to break through on a 2-on-1 coast-to-coast and have a good shot at the glove side on the 1-1 tying goal. The offensively-minded Bryan McCabe nearly scored on a bad rebound on the rebound on the short side later as well. The Panthers may be mired in mediocrity for the rest of this year, but as long as they have Jay-Bo leading the charge, watch out for their free-wheeling, puck-moving back end …

… Poor old Antoine Vermette – Campbell pushed him just enough to stop a wraparound in the second period, moments after Pepe was in the slot on an early second-period chance. Sooner or later the most snakebitten Sen will light the lamp …

LINE OF THE NIGHT: "He looks like Tim Thomas when Tim Thomas looks like Tim Thomas," said Dean Brown, as he and colour man Garry Galley commented on the lack of "comfortability" (a new made-up Galley word) displayed by Anderson in the Florida net, off a Mike Fisher poke that seemingly knocked him back. Thomas, of course, is the confident but anti-fundamentals Bruins goalie …

FUNNY STUFF: Somewhat ironic that beer giant Molson Canadian is sponsoring the "Keys to the Game," which used to be sponsored by – you guessed it – GM. You know the current economic climate is tough when the money-bleeding car company gives up dibs on that segment to a product that shouldn't be near car keys. Oh well, we all know that Molson does campaign against impaired driving. Know what? Why don't the Molson folks start sponsoring the "Last minute of play" promotion, instead of GM's Pontiac and Chevrolet? Would be an ideal trade. GM gets the keys, and Molson could liken the last minute to last call at the bar … Maybe it was the camera angle, but bruiser D-man Jason Smith looked exactly like U.S. sports talk radio king Jim Rome from the side. He, of course, is taking part in the team's hideous (but successful) moustache-growing contest, but going full-goatee. What would really be funny would be to hear Smith impersonating Rome and sounding off on some of the entries, including that of Antoine Vermette, who Jason Spezza says looks like Pepe Le Pew. Best part though? Sidney Crosby still wouldn't qualify for the sweepstakes … A Sportsnet camera caught former Sens coach and current Panthers GM Jacques Martin in a rather awkward, extended piece of footage of him on the phone in the Bank's arena-level corridor. Was meant to be a harmless cameo, but it just ended up looking like any "deal" he was making on the phone wasn't really a hockey one … Another really funny promo, depending on how dirty your mind is and what kind of poker is played, is the "Game in a Flash," brought to you by Party Poker … Funny to see Brett McLean literally walking away with the net on the Florida non-goal, as the puck started to cross the line … State Farm has an advertisement on the end which the visiting team attacks twice. Wouldn't it be better if the ad was switched to the other end so the Senators, a terrible third-period team the past two years, could be inspired into some insurance goals?

The captain had a heck of a dipsy-doodle show in the second, as he cycled around the corner more than Lance Armstrong. Not only that, but he nearly converted a Spezza offering, then hammered his man into the boards to keep the rush going. The Sens managed to change up their defencemen on the play, against some clearly tired Panthers. Don't forget the captain's three posts hit in this one as well, the second and third (yes, the same shot!) off a Slick Spezz Dispenser Saucer … Most Predictable Block of the Year: Stephen Weiss, already kneeling down, to turn away what turned out to be a 10-foot Nick Foligno slapper … Those in-game interviews are neat for the fans, but they need to stop. What helps a player lose focus more than a reporter (kudos to Ian Mendes though, he's solid) sticking a microphone in his sweaty face? … Jason Spezza, scoring on that zero angle for the second game in a row, has found his new office … The third period saw a subtle but smart play by the veteran Jason Smith on a mid-third penalty kill: knowing he was unlikely to make a safe clear with two Panthers in the way, he chipped the puck expertly back to himself, took a huge stride, then made the safe dump. Little plays like these win games … Interesting Stat Line of the Night: Kudos to A-Train's eight hits, but Mike Fisher edges him with nine shots (two more didn't reach the keeper), five hits, two blocked shots, and six faceoffs won. He was busy … Last but not least: It's the anniversary of the legendary Beatle John Lennon's death, already 28 years ago. Should the Sens win Stanley this summer, think of the Sens Mile and imagine all the people…


Sunday, August 31, 2008

a non-hockey column: NCAA champs visit Ottawa!

Jayhawks fly through Capital

Defending U.S. college champs rout Gee-Gees in preseason tour finale

By Greg Gallagher

uOttawa Gee-Gees Basketball Broadcaster

OTTAWA – They lost five key players in June's NBA draft, but you wouldn't know it from how the Kansas Jayhawks played.

The NCAA's defending national champions completed their Canadian tour with a 91-60 victory over the uOttawa Gee-Gees in front of a near-sellout crowd at Montpetit Hall, one day after defeating the Carleton Ravens in a nailbiting, 84-83 thriller at Scotiabank Place.

Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor and junior guard Mario Little, with 20 and 21 points respectively, led a Jayhawks effort which saw several points scored on fastbreaks resulting from turnovers.

Quintrell Thomas and Cole Aldrich each chipped in with 12 and 10 respectively, while Dax Dessureault was the lone Gee-Gee in double-figures with 16.

"These guys were great players," said Taylor afterwards. "We had some tough matches (McGill and Carleton) … it was great to (get to) play this early together."

Taylor, who started the game and scored eight of his points on the fastbreak, is looking to make an impression this year.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," he said, in reference to playing a role on KU defending its championship.

Taylor wowed the Capital crowd with not only his speed, but also his deft scoring touch, notably so on a second-half run to the basket in which he gracefully avoided a sure block from third-year Ottawa forward Nemanja Baletic.

Little, for his part, helped punctuate a solid end to the first half, scoring back-to-back buckets, including a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper over two Ottawa players. A complete player, he also dropped a game-high eight assists and added seven rebounds.

Little and Taylor, along with Aldrich in the middle and lanky guard Travis Releford—who shone against Carleton—figure to be the main options on what looks to be another promising young Jayhawks team.

On the Ottawa side, fifth-year centre Dessureault continued to play in mid-season form, passing well out of the block and forcing the issue offensively on the 6'11" Aldrich.

Dessureault had 11 points on 4-6 shooting at halftime, keeping the Gees close at 18-15 before Kansas embarked on a 11-3 and never looked back, leading 46-31 at the half.

The Gees' first-half aggressiveness helped them on the offensive end several times when the normally explosive Josh Gibson-Bascombe's weekend shooting struggles continued.

David Labentowicz (4-5) and Dessureault (8-9) were money from the free-throw line after earning repeated trips following confident and quick team passing around the horn. The Gee-Gees were 21-28 from the stripe, while the Jayhawks were 13-19.

However, on most occasions the Jayhawks simply answered on the offensive end every time, and closing in on halftime and for most of the second half, they served notice that defence will play a major role in a hopeful second straight national championship.

Ottawa missed four straight field goal attempts during a second-half 18-4 run by the Jayhawks, which effectively ended the game.

According to Gee-Gees head coach David DeAveiro, the team, which shot 18-57 (31.6 percent) simply couldn't bury its open looks.

"We didn't shoot the ball well," said DeAveiro. "We didn't play our best (defence). It gave us a chance to play our kids.

"I think we can point to the emergence of Warren Ward, and the importance of Dax (Dessureault)," added DeAveiro. "Dax was our best player this weekend."

THIS 'N THAT: A sizeable contingent of Jayhawks supporters made the trek from the Kansas City area, filling up a good half of the 800 in attendance at Montpetit Hall. With about 30 seconds left, they began singing their traditional anthem, "Rock Jock Jayhawk," when the outcome was not in doubt … Cole Aldrich was the only Jayhawk in action vs. Ottawa that also saw minutes in last April's title game vs. Memphis, as junior guard Sherron Collins did not play … Gee-Gees second-year guard Vlad Pislaru has adopted #23, giving up #10 to rookie Warren Ward …

ROOKIE WATCH: Point guard Max Clarkson impressed in his 16 minutes, showcasing poise and particularly sharp, peripheral court vision, which allowed him to make several sharp passes on offence. He's fast, too, and could challenge for the backup quarterback role this season. The #25 coincidence aside, he bears a striking resemblance to former standout Alex McLeod … Faysia "Fuzzy" Ibrahim was the recipient of a few of those Clarkson passes. His lateral quickness is promising … Warren Ward continues to make a case for the starting two-guard spot. A late airball aside, he's putting up solid minutes and continues to impress DeAveiro. In the South Alabama game, he was particularly adept at drawing contact.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Sophomore Jayhawks guard Chase Buford is the son of R.J. Buford, general manager of the San Antonio Spurs. The elder Buford built the Spurs into four-time NBA champions (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), while Chase won a title with the Jayhawks last year. Think winning runs in the family?

OTTAWA-KANSAS CONNECTIONS: Jay Roberts, who played basketball, football, and track at KU from 1961-64, also played seven years with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders. He was presented with a #55 jersey before the game from coach Bill Self, and with a #76 Gee-Gees football jersey from uOttawa president Allan Rock … Basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith, born and raised in Almonte, Ont., which is about 50 kilometres from Ottawa, was also the first head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2007 Stanley Cup final: Senators were closer than you'd think

Series only truly turned in third period of Game 4

It’s been over a year since the Ottawa Senators’ dreams of their first championship in over 80 years unravelled in shocking fashion, when they lost 6-2 to the Anaheim Ducks in the decisive Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup final.

Back home, they wasted no time putting away the Senators, who finally cracked under pressure and simply self-destructed in all facets of the game. The goal by Chris Phillips on his own team, the whiffed penalty shot by Antoine Vermette, and weak goals let in by goaltender Ray Emery were notable low-lights.

The 2007 Ducks were a big, mean squad that physically punished the Senators at nearly every possible opportunity, and scored timely goals.

They also barely made it to the Stanley Cup final, and were lucky to get away with what they did physically – but more on the bruising later.

Many would say Ottawa really lost the series early on after going into a 2-0 hole, and that Game 5 was simply the icing on the cake.

Not so. They were in it until the third period of Game 4, which led to the total write-off that was Game 5.

By the skin of their teeth

After Game 4 was in the books, the Ducks had won a record 12 one-goal games in their playoff run, equalling their own record from 2003, and Montreal’s 1993 run.

This meant that getting through all four rounds was done by the skin of their teeth. Nine of the 12 required victories to claim the West were by one goal, along with three in the Cup final (3-2 in Game 1, 1-0 in Game 2, 3-2 in Game 4).

Five of the Ducks’ nine one-goal games to beat the Western teams were in overtime, including three in Round 2 vs. Vancouver, and two in the Conference final vs. Detroit.

The Ducks caught a huge break when Red Wings defenceman Andreas Lilja whiffed on a breakout pass, allowing Teemu Selanne to score in overtime of Game 5. With only 47 seconds left in the third period, Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer had scored the Ducks’ only goal of the game with the man advantage, tying the contest.

Hardly a walk.

Granted, the Senators also won two overtime games in the Eastern Conference final vs. Buffalo, but also made quick work of the East in a 12-3 romp.

Ray Emery...for Conn Smythe?

Well, that could be a stretch now, but it was not outrageous at the time.

During the aforementioned 12-3 romp, Senators goaltender Ray Emery had three shutouts en route to the final, while his opponent in the final, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, had none.

It should be pointed out that Emery had the shutdown tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov playing in front of him, with the latter leading the league with 273 blocked shots in the regular season.

In the same breath, Emery made the stops when he needed to. In the second round, he outshone future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur, who let in several soft goals.

Notably, the brash Emery shone in the third round against the Sabres. An athletic, aggressive netminder who was at his peak, one of Emery’s best and most crucial saves came in overtime of Game 2 of the series, when he denied Thomas Vanek a wraparound attempt with a quick stretch of his right pad.

The would-be series-tying goal found Emery’s pad, opening the door for Joe Corvo to score in the second overtime, putting the Sabres in a 2-0 series hole. Emery would go on to shut out the Sabres 1-0 in a razor-thin Game 3, before the Senators dropped Game 4 despite nearly digging themselves out of a 3-0 hole (they lost 4-3).

Fast-forward to Game 2 of the Cup showdown with the Ducks, which might have been Emery’s best. As Giguere shone at the other end, thwarting the Senators’ glorious chances to take the lead on a 5-on-3 power play, Emery made big saves of his own on Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Rob Niedermayer.

Emery would let in the only goal of the game with just over four minutes left, a screened shot from Samuel Pahlsson on the wing that would hold up as the winner.

In front of him, his team held up well, considering the beating they took in Game 1 while managing to take two leads. Drawing on the positives, the Senators returned to hockey-mad Ottawa.

Bowman to Murray: Ducks flying in the face of the rulebook

Game 3 set the stage for what would be a clearly energized Senators team, considering how close they came in the first two under hostile circumstances.

Before Game 2, Senators coach Bryan Murray had to bite his tongue about the officiating in the series thus far. The most penalized team during the regular season for their aggressive, physical style, the Ducks seemed determined to win at all physical cost, which was evident in their ascent to the final.

“They got their physical play from good dump-ins and not us holding anybody up. Their first man in got the hits,” he told the Ottawa Sun. “That was the main part. The other part is when people are standing around in front of the net trying to defend and they’re hammering away at our defencemen, as well as our goaltender. Those are two areas that concern me.”

Murray said he spoke with former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman, who at the time was a special assistant to general manager Ken Holland, about the Ducks’ tactics. Murray said that Bowman warned him about the illegal obstruction the Ducks employed to send the Wings packing.

“I just talked to some of the Detroit people and they just told me this is the way it went (in the last series),” Murray also told the Sun. “I guess it should have been clear in my mind this is what’s going to happen and we’ll be allowed to do likewise.”

Clearly, a thinly-veiled shot at the zebras.

As the series unfolded, it became clear that the checking line of Samuel Pahlsson and wingers Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen knew their roles and were pushing the boundaries. As Murray alluded to, the Senators’ defence—and often Emery too—got pounded at every opportunity. In Game 4, a frustrated Emery tried to sell the latest run on him by Niedermayer, finally resulting in Ducks penalty.

The most obvious consequence of this for the Senators?

The Pahlsson-Moen-Niedermayer unit had last change in Anaheim, so the trio were able to effectively keep the powerful Ottawa line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson in check, obstructively speaking or not.

Bruising defencemen Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin, as Murray alluded to, were only too happy to obstruct Ottawa forwards from gaining the zone. Pronger, of course, only got suspended one game for elbowing Dean McAmmond in the head to try and prevent McAmmond’s Game 3 winner, despite being a repeat offender (he sat out Game 6 of the Detroit series for cross-checking Tomas Holmstrom into the glass in Game 5).

Game 3: stealing back momentum

Despite the adversity, the Senators took matters into their own hands in Game 3. The Ducks took three leads in the game, but the Senators erased all of them and won 5-3 in their most determined effort yet, in front of a red-clad, raucous Scotiabank Place crowd of 20,500.

Chris Neil led a revengeful physical effort, notably tattooing Teemu Selanne into the glass for one of his five hits on the night (The Senators outhit the Ducks 32-26), and also potted the tying goal.

The Senators scored three straight goals to close out the game, which saw the Ducks take seven of 12 third-period penalties handed out.

More calls on the Ducks created more chances for the Senators, who jumped on the opportunity to shut down their bigger opponents on a suddenly even playing field. Despite the Dean McAmmond injury in the third, momentum was the Senators’ heading into Game 4, and one stat showed it all.

Shots on goal.

Ottawa’s momentum in Game 3 allowed the team to force the issue with the Ducks, who managed a paltry three shots on net in the final frame. This would continue into Game 4, as the Ducks managed just two shots in the opening period.

Game 4: the tide begins to turn

After nearly escaping the first period unscathed, despite being outshot 13-2, the Ducks allowed Daniel Alfredsson to score in heartbreaking fashion off of a slick feed from Mike Fisher, with 0.3 seconds remaining.

Normally, a team would be deflated after such a goal. After missing a glorious opportunity to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series two nights before, the Ducks effectively allowed the Senators back in the series; up 1-0 after one period, at home, and only down 2-1 in the best-of-seven.

This moment was truly a turning point for either team, and therefore the series overall. Either the Senators hold on and make it a best-of-three, or the Ducks find it within themselves to claw back and put the hammer on any comeback attempt.

The Ducks proved themselves mentally stronger, and refused to let either the Senators or the officiating, which finally improved in Game 3, rattle their psyche or change their bruising battle plan. Rob Niedermayer led a hit parade and a rejuvenated defensive effort in the second period that was stronger than ever.

The Senators’ psyche would hold up, but not much longer. Outshot 13-4 in the second frame, the suddenly vulnerable team allowed two more goals from Andy McDonald, who ended up with five in the series.

McDonald didn’t even score until midway through the period, after Ottawa killed off two straight penalties. He outwaited Emery and defenceman Andrej Meszaros, swirling around both to roof it in an open cage.

Exactly one minute later, he caught Chris Neil not hustling back on the backcheck, and took a Rob Niedermayer pass right in on Emery and tucked one under the pads that Emery should have had. Fearless defender Anton Volchenkov slapped his stick in disgust on the play.

“Say it ain’t so,” blared Weezer through the loudspeakers.

The slide was evident on the other end when the Ducks’ defensive pressure only allowed Dany Heatley (three), and one other Senators player (Alfredsson, with a 48-foot wrister) to hit the net. Heatley would score to tie things up heading into the third off of a cross-ice Spezza feed, but it was the beginning of the end.

The frustration got the better of Alfredsson, as the Conn Smythe Trophy favourite and Ottawa’s beloved hockey hero shot the puck at fellow captain Scott Niedermayer in the dying moments of the second frame.

It was obvious, uncalled for, and unfair. Even fellow Swedish national teammate Samuel Pahlsson was sure to physically make his displeasure clear to Alfredsson, and undoubtedly the incident and the melee that ensued gave the all the Ducks a chip on their shoulders heading to the dressing rooms.

“We took it as an act of desperation to try and get his club going,” commented Ryan Getzlaf afterwards in a jubilant Ducks dressing room.

“It definitely hit a chord with our hockey club,” added Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, talking about his captain’s leadership following the incident. “The thing that surprised me the most about it all was that Scott Niedermayer took it upon himself to tell the team to just turn the page on it.”

A sad moment for the classy Alfredsson, it was the harbinger of the death march for his team; if the Ducks could get inside the leader’s head, they were on the right path.

Nail in the coffin: Dustin Penner, 4:07

Cue the inspirational speeches and clichés; the season was officially on the line for the Senators. At home, with 2-2 on the scoreboard, and facing a rejuvenated Ducks squad that didn’t need anymore inspiration before their captain was rattled, it was time to lay it on the line.

Dustin Penner, who hadn’t scored since Round 2, had other ideas.

In a play with haunting similarity to the third-period winning goal in 2003’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference final, a few Senators were caught with their pants down.

In that game, Wade Redden was caught defending two Devils after defensive partner Karel Rachunek was caught up ice and did not make a quick decision on which Devil to defend. Devils winger Grant Marshall got the puck through Redden’s legs to Jeff Friesen, who had an easy shot. In the blink of an eye, the Senators’ season was done.

Fast forward to 2007. Chris Neil and Chris Kelly got caught up ice forechecking, which led to both Penner and Teemu Selanne rushing freely towards the Ottawa blue line. This time, it was Redden’s split-second decision that was costly; instead of standing up Selanne physically at the line, he turned to chase Penner and both got in cleanly and despite a momentary bungling of the puck, the mistake allowed Selanne to find a charging Penner, who had a wide-open cage.

After turning on his heels, Redden was a full two strides behind Penner. Sadly, the play exemplified the criticism Redden had taken all year for his dropoff in play after a stellar, 50-point 2005-06 campaign that earned him a two-year, $13 million extension.

The series was effectively over after the goal, if the Senators could not respond.

Emery, for his part, made up for the second McDonald goal with an unbelievable glove stop on Beauchemin late in the second, and stoned Corey Perry on a breakaway after Penner’s goal. Ironically, it was Penner that hauled down Joe Corvo in obvious fashion (no penalty was called) on the play and seemed to injure him, allowing Perry to move in alone.

It would not be enough help from Emery, as the Ducks closed the door on the mentally tired Senators after the Penner marker, allowing only three shots. The best chance came in the closing moments off of Andrej Meszaros’ stick.

The tide turns, and finally comes in

The pressure of the Alfredsson-Niedermayer incident, the two McDonald goals, and the Penner goal, plus travelling back to play at the raucous Honda Center down 3-1 would be too much.

After coming so close to getting back in the series, the Senators finally sunk, and sunk fast after the late Game 4 meltdown. No need to analyze the forgettable Game 5 if you’re an Ottawa fan; one replay of the Chris Phillips own-goal on Ray Emery will cement that notion.

Bryan Murray was even forced to double-shift Phillips and Volchenkov, as the Ducks’ relentless pressure was getting to the defensive pairing of Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing.

So the Ducks would celebrate their first Stanley Cup, albeit with somewhat of an asterisk.

Yes, they scored timely goals. Yes, they were mentally and physically tough. Yes, they had solid coaching and goaltending, and were very deep.

The asterisk?

Despite being the most penalized team in the league, there’s the whole matter of still getting away with all the illegal obstruction, crease-crashing, and body contact as well as catching the breaks to win those one-goal games

But as the saying goes, you’ve got to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky.

That’s hockey, after all. Oftentimes, it’s reduced to a game of bounces.

The Ducks took it all, but the Senators were in it until the end, despite circumstances beyond their control.

Not that the Prince of Wales trophy is any huge consolation.



Ottawa 9

Anaheim 7


Anaheim 7

Ottawa 4


Anaheim 106

Ottawa 88


Anaheim 58

Ottawa 42


Friday, April 11, 2008

2007-08 Playoffs: Round 1, Game 2

2007 Eastern Conference quarterfinal
GAME 2 RESULT: Pittsburgh 5, Ottawa 3
(Penguins lead series 2-0).
Game recap:
Ottawa scorers: Donovan, Stillman, Bass.
Pittsburgh scorers: Gonchar, Sykora (2), Malone (2).
3 Stars: Sykora (Pit), Malkin (Pit), Malone (Pit).
Honourable mention: Gerber (Ott).
Power play: Pittsburgh 3-6, Ottawa 1-2.
Shots on goal: Pittsburgh 54, Ottawa 30.
Attendance: 17,132 (17,132 cap.)

PRESIDENT’S 2 CENTS: And the Oscar goes to…Jarkko Ruutu, for making sure to embellish Marty Lapointe’s high stick in order to draw a power play. Ruutu, who figured in the only regular-season Penguins win by scoring the shootout winner in November, played a big part again, ensuring a man advantage would help snuff out a Sens chance to steal Game 2—which it did. In their most complete effort since the 8-2 drubbing of the Leafs, it was a character loss and a display of consistency which in this case went hand-in-hand with determination to allow the comeback to happen. Fifty-four shots aside, the Sens finished their checks, scurried to loose pucks, and drove the net. Great example? Didn’t end up with a goal, but a Chris Phillips check on Crosby led to a rush up ice, which saw Mike Commodore (who’s stepped it up in the playoffs) and Dean McAmmond charge hard to the end boards, hit and force the issue. Another play saw Jason Spezza (!) scurry back to cover for Phillips on the blueline when the Big Rig was caught a little too far up ice. McAmmond was also fantastic with Antoine Vermette, who also had a strong night, notably so in denying Petr Sykora a one-time attempt on a first-period penalty kill. Attention to detail was solid overall… Solid is the best word to describe Chris Neil’s effort on the night. Very obviously early on, he was intensely trying to neutralize the Gary Roberts factor by getting in the Sen-killer’s face. Neiler also drove the net hard, had a wraparound scoring chance, and fed Shean Donovan to start the comeback …

… Martin Gerber was fantastic in the Senator net for the second straight night, and even better this time around, turning away 48 of 53 shots. Ironic, though, how his best save of the night—off the Brooks Orpik breakaway out of the penalty box—was followed right up by Petr Sykora’s second of the game to make it 3-0. Kind of exemplifies the Senators’ season – good, but only momentarily so, as bad always seems to creep in … Creeping in was Evgeni Malkin for one of his many shots (see ‘Interesting Stat Line’ below) for a backhand chance in the second, but Darth was there with the glove. With every save, it appears moreso that the Razor will be the one getting cut, not cutting. We’ll give Gerber a mulligan on the winning goal (perhaps his lateral quickness could have been better) …

… The much-maligned and inconsistent Wade Redden was on tonight, after a subpar Game 1. In subtle fashion, he was strong in his defensive coverage. An early Ruutu-Evgeni Malkin two-on-one wide-open chance was broken up calmly by Wade. On another occasion, he thwarted gunner Jordan Staal on the short side from causing further damage to a team already down 1-0. Another play saw him hold off a Penguin attacker, and still manage to pass the puck safely over to Lapointe, who could clear the zone from behind the net. Officially credited with two hits and a blocked shot, he was better tonight …

FUNNY STUFF: Shotblocking machine Anton Volchenkov came out to play again, registering a game-high four blocked pucks (shared with Antoine Vermette and Ryan Whitney), a mere 48 hours after taking one in the melon. Speaking of which, the Team 1200 morning show’s Buzz had it about right, saying poor A-Train looked like Chucky from Child’s Play fame on the cover of the Ottawa Citizen’s sports spread. Good thing he sported a full cage to hide the 14-stich gash. On the subject, the Line of the Night goes to Dean Brown, and for the first time it’s a pregame line. “I’m not entirely sure he has a nervous system,” said Dean about Anton’s ability to keep getting in the way of pucks. “He might be a cyborg, an alien,” he went on … Don Cherry Suit Rating: The black-on-black theme with the double-breasted jacket and gold buttons was slick, but minus one point for the tie which was Penguin yellow. Six out of 10 … Not sure what was worse: a shot of Mario Lemieux’s awful moustache (which he can’t pull off at all), or former teammate Jaromir Jagr’s as-awful vertical strip of hair both below AND above his lips, seen on a highlight from the Ranger game … Speaking of facial hair, the injured Mike Fisher’s playoff beard looked better than most of his teammates’ ones ... Marian Hossa twice found himself on Martin Gerber’s back doorstep: both times, Darth reached behind, and on one of the plays, tripped up the former Senator to save a goal … Could have sworn that redhead taking in the game in the front row was actress Jane Seymour. However, not even the medicine woman could prescribe some anti-hex medication for the Sens … Funny how on the tying goal, a certain camera angle captured the celebrating Senators—who all happened to be Canadian—in the foreground, with ads on the boards behind them belonging to CBC and CIBC. How patriotic. Good to see the bank taking an ‘interest’ in advertising south of the border (one pun per 2 Cents) …

… Interesting Stat Line of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, who led the Pens with eight shots, all stopped by Darth Gerber. Malkin also had four attempts blocked and four missed shots. With scary numbers like that, it’s only a matter of time before he lights the lamp again. For good measure, the big Russian had five hits too … Hometown Stat of the Night: Game 2 saw the first playoff goal scored in Mellon Arena by a native Pittsburghian, when Ryan Malone potted the winner … Another solid night for grinders Ruutu, Brooks Orpik, and Malone … Last But Not Least: the Penguin power play officially killed the Sens’ chances of returning with a split at the end. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in disguise, as the penalties signalled the much-needed (other) changing of the guard in the Capital, to a more blue-collar style. It was the harbinger of the comeback, and the style of the goals scored paid homage to it.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

2007-08 Regular Season, Game 81

Senators 8, Leafs 2

SENATORS GAME RESULT: Ottawa 8, Toronto 2.
Game recap:

Ottawa scorers: Heatley (2), Spezza, Bass, Vermette (3), McAmmond.
Toronto scorers: Bell, Moore.

3 Stars: Vermette (Ott), Heatley (Ott), Spezza (Ott).
Honourable mention: Donovan (Ott).
Power play:
Ottawa 2-6, Toronto 1-6.
Shots on goal:
Ottawa 37, Toronto 28.
Attendance: 19,466 (18,819 cap.)

PRESIDENT’S 2 CENTS: They say revenge is a dish best served cold. And it was an ice-cold entrée of eight pucks that found their way behind an abandoned Vesa Toskala, in a game that saw Mark Bell deliver an elbow to Daniel Alfredsson that ever-so-slightly crossed the line. Bell, who’s already served a 25-game suspension for DUI and hit-and-run convictions (from his San Jose days) to start the year in Hogtown, seems to not know how to control himself on the ice. He’ll be serving four months in the crowbar motel for it this summer under a plea deal, and will have plenty of time there to think about the hit … Speaking of which, the revenge factor was somewhat of a disappointment, as Bell also took Wade Redden’s legs out from under him on an icing chase in the second period and escaped having to atone for both offences. There were two opportunities in the last part of the third period for the Sens to ring on the Bell, but they didn’t do it. When the captain goes down like that, Bell should be punished physically. Granted, Cody Bass, Marty Lapointe, and Shean Donovan answered the call toward the end of the first with pest Darcy Tucker (thrown out against the Heatley line) and the rest of the Leafs …

… The game itself was one the free-falling Sens obviously needed, one that was the first real 60-minute effort in a long time despite a season that has come to hang in the balance and behove desperation. And sportsmanship be damned after the Bell incidents, Bryan Murray stuck Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza on the ice with 8-2 on the scoreboard and the team up one man. Broken down into individual plays, it was a game where every man fought for one another, kept it simple, and kept it honest. A good example was the Sens’ fourth goal, where Wade Redden calmly broke up a 2-on-1, helped things get set up on the PP, but most importantly, passed up an open shot in favour of Christoph Schubert’s cannon. It, of course, found Antoine Vermette … Speaking of Mr. V, it was the first-ever hat trick for the hard-working two-wayer. His third was the most embarrassing, as the Leaf defenders allowed him to get three chips at the biscuit. Jiri “pixellate me” Tlusty, in particular, seemed to give Antoine a free pass … All in all, an inspired effort from a beleaguered bunch, who also were without Mike Fisher for most of this one …

… A solid effort from the fourth line exemplified the blue-collar effort on the night. Best example? Schubie, after Chris Neil’s initial charge to the net, shook off three defenders as he came to the blue line before dumping the puck back to the corner to Dean McAmmond, who nearly unlocked the side door. No goal on the play, but it was typical of the Sens on the night – trusting in one another and confident … Marty Lapointe was a horse in front of the net on the PP and an important agitator in Neil’s absence due to a 10-minute chirpconduct … And how about more unlikely playmakers? Vermette spins around Bryan McCabe to ignite a 4-on-2 on a penalty kill, setting up Chris Phillips. Big Rig then feathered a saucer (that would make UFOs jealous) pass over to Cody Bass, who popped it in. We’ll say this much – Big Rig’s a well-oiled machine …

FUNNY STUFF: Cody Bass, recently returned from injury, joined some exclusive company on the night, tying Gordie Howe’s career-high with his first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight). Kudos to a sharp Dean Brown for pointing that one out … Though the audio was missing from the Sens TV pay-per-view the entire first period, Dean still made sure to fill the airwaves with some priceless gems. “I wonder if Chris Phillips gets a piece of Dany Heatley’s Easton (stick) deal,” he wondered aloud after the Heater lent Big Rig his lumber for a penalty kill. And after Gord Wilson likened Leafs D Pavel Kubina’s stick-smash in frustration to something a pee-wee player would do, here’s the Line of the Night: “I just got a text message from a pee-wee player, who said they don’t slam their sticks like that, they’re too expensive,” retorted Dean. Good job on the mike, fellas … Two funny lip-reading sequences: firstly, McCabe saying “Oh (bad word)-off,” during a goals/hits montage; secondly, Chris Neil in the second period, spouting “(same bad word)-me,” in response to another penalty on him. Ever notice how these “miked-up” players are never chirpy ones? … Dumbest Song Choice of the Night: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” blaring through the Air Canada Centre’s loudspeakers, smack in the middle of a chippy second period … The rotating advertising sign near the Sens’ bench first displayed ‘Canon,’ then ‘Viagra.’ Logical progression? …

… Interesting Stat Line of the Night: only one recorded giveaway for the Spezz Dispenser, who ended up with one goal, two helpers, three shots, two blocked, plus-2 and two penalty minutes … Congrats to our GO RED Facebook group’s Darth Gerber Fan Club VP, who won the Rivalry Train contest and took a friend of her and the Prez’s down to the ACC to take this one in … Last but not least: don’t forget to sign up at for Sens Army Central. The playoffs are coming (yes, keep the faith), and the Sens’ e-community is ready!

2 CENTS archive:


Saturday, February 23, 2008

2007-08 Regular Season, Game 62

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

PRESIDENT’S 2 CENTS: For the first 30 minutes, it appeared as if Ottawa would force the Pennsylvania legislature to rename the Penguins’ hometown “Armpits-burgh” for the way the Senators were stinking out the joint. But the captain completed the comeback with under five ticks to go, for game-winner number five on the season. Of course, Ryan Malone nearly stole the show with a two-post ringer moments before. Still, it was probably significant that Ray Emery stole it right back with huge stops on the white-hot Evgeni Malkin (as he did all afternoon) and on offensively-gifted D-man Sergei Gonchar (a gorgeous glove grab). Evgeni’s 10-game point streak was snapped, Heater got back into the swing of things, and the Sens hang onto top spot …

… Top spot is probably something of a pride factor that played into the win, after the Sens allowed Malkin and co. to run roughshod over them for half the game. Plain and simple, the comeback showed character and will likely carry some momentum into the Battle of Ontario …

... The game basically seemed like a rehearsal for a low-budget Jekyll-and-Hyde thriller until the Sens hit rock-bottom in the second, when the Pens went up 3-0 after another darn neutral-zone turnover allowed Malkin and Jordan Staal to waltz in two-on-nada (their puck control and pressure were uncanny). Worst part? Only Mike Fisher had roared back to try and stop the trailer, Jeff Taffe, who scored after Razor stopped the initial assault … Speaking of assault, when the Sens decide to get down to business, that’s what happened. The Soccer Goal (see below) helped ignite things. As insinuated by Cassie Campbell, the Cash Line woke up. Jason Spezza’s deceptively long strides helped set up the second Heater goal of the afternoon. Of course, those strides are only part of the reason that his Scotiabank Place goal song is “I Like the Way You Move.”

… Razor was sharp again this afternoon. He was weak again on the second goal, scored by Colby “the witch” Armstrong, but it was was the result of (sigh) another Sens neutral zone turnover. The aforementioned saves in overtime cemented his well-deserved second star on the afternoon, which included a whitewash of the Pens in the third to give his team a chance to come back. He stopped all seven of Malkin’s shots, halting the NHL’s scoring leader’s 10-game point streak. He’s athletic, confident, and has that swagger which nearly backstopped the team to a Cup. Say what you want about Paddock’s handling of the goalie situation, but it appears as if he’s giving Razor the chance to run with it …

… Christoph Schubert was one of a few Sens that stood out for the entire game—albeit subtlely—not just in the second half either. A simple hustle play in the second period helped cause pressure, leading to a good Luke Richardson chance. Another play in the third caused him to take a penalty, but instead of being gun shy, Christoph got thrown to the ice while charging hard into the Pens’ zone to keep the intensity of the comeback on. A solid effort from the German, helping to cover for Chris Neil’s toughness in his absence …

FUNNY STUFF: Still no 2 Cents this year covering a Bob Cole-manned CBC game! In lieu, we award the Line of the Night to play-by-play man Mark Lee: “He’s one of the nicest bad guys I’ve ever met,” he said, after a clip showing Pens tough guy Georges Laraque playing some floor hockey with a Pittsburgh-area Boys and Girls’ Club. True. Still, part of you was just waiting for him to start picking a fight with one of those kids … We’ve said it before in 2 Cents, but Mellon Arena’s longtime PA man, John Barbaro, still sounds way too happy when announcing a Pens penalty or opposing team’s goal … With 2:26 remaining in the first, about $226 worth of composite lumber shattered when the puck from Wade Redden’s shot hit Jarkko Ruutu’s stick. One of only 10 players left in the league using old-school wood sticks, no doubt the Spezz Dispenser gets his giggles every time someone else breaks one … The French soccer team has probably found its perfect talent. A stickless Antoine Vermette’s nifty little kick towards the net helped set up Cory Stillman’s goal off a Chris Kelly rebound. And no headbutting either … Three separate CBC camera shots showed Evgeni Malkin’s parents taking in the game. The second showed his mother zoomed in; Evgeni definitely has his mother’s nose. The third one showed Mr. Malkin enjoying some fine American cuisine, in the form of some Mellon Arena nachos …

… Scary Stat of the Night: Ottawa’s power play, which is 1/19 in its last seven games, including this one. Maybe some iron pills, and not iron pumping, is the answer … Interesting Stat Line of the Night: the Pens were a combined minus-9, while the Sens were a plus-9. If the comeback didn’t happen, it probably would have been almost otherwise … The Vermette-Kelly-Stillman line is still hot, despite the Cash Line waking up. It needs a name, though. “Vermestilly” was suggested on the Sens Army message board. It’s catchy … Last but not least: speaking of the Sens Army message board, you can join up and check it out at . Yours truly is a moderator under the name “ggroove” and would truly enjoy having you a-board (sorry, at least one pun per 2 Cents), along with the rest of the members, who have a ton of fun.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2007-08 Regular Season, Game 51

Ottawa 5, N.Y. Islanders 2

PRESIDENT’S 2 CENTS: And so, the Sens swung the Emerygate to shut the Islanders’ attempt at knocking off a possibly distracted team. Well, not even figuratively speaking, really, as Martin Gerber was the one collecting his 23rd win of the year. Still, who knows what can motivate teams to come together these days, parity being what it is in the NHL. Best part? The secondary scoring problem was put to bed, at least for another night, and even two D-men jumped into the mix. Both Andrej Meszaros and Chris Phillips—reminded by Patricia Boal of his 29 games without bulging twine—potted some nice goals to give the Sens a cushion. Speaking of Big Rig, seems like only yesterday that he was a fresh-faced rookie helping the Sens knock off the first-place Devils in 1998. In that intermission interview, the Official Presidential Opinion is that he’s (gasp) thinning on top. Just an update for the Sens TV hairwaves … Speaking of that pun, it was indeed a Sens TV pay-per-view game. Too bad the in-house broadcast had to have an awkward tone at the start, when the coach and GM interviews had to include a Ray Emery question. Both John Paddock and Bryan Murray answered quite diplomatically, with the latter’s usual dose of refreshing frankness. More on the Razor situation later … On the subject, it took the Islanders until quite a bit later to wake up somewhat. They did just that, knocking the Sens onto their heels and making them look like the bottom-third defensive team they’ve become, attacking consistently and forcing two goals. The Isles really were two close tip shots and a post away from making it a different result. One of the goals was the result of an awful Joe Corvo turnover from behind his own net which he put right on Josef Vasicek’s stick. Still, Joltin’ Joe has unwavering 2 Cents approval for his fast-skating, exciting style of play the Sens thrive off of (case in point, his slick crossover move during a first-period power play), even if his only assist on the night was on Sean Bergenheim’s goal (more on this guy later, too) … Speaking of assists, poor Nick Foligno. Just called up again to replace Cody Bass and his injured ankle, the rookie had to slide the biscuit to Jason Spezza instead of potting his own empty-netter at the end. Maybe if he had done the Foligno Leap before instead of after this particular goal, he would have eluded his defender and been able score. He’s on record as saying he won’t do it again, after doing it on his first-ever NHL goal to honour his dad. Maybe he should reconsider for situations like this …

… After a slow start to the year, no one is likely complaining about Mike Fisher’s 22 points in his last 21 games, including tonight’s tilt. That pass he made to Dean McAmmond was laser-guided, out of a crowd, and likely is second-only to the puck he put on Dany Heatley’s stick to beat the Leafs in OT to open the season (YouTube it). The guy is dynamite. Understatement of the year … Speaking of under, the oft-under-appreciated fourth line for the Sens came through tonight with some fantastic shifts, causing havoc and scoring chances, and taking hits to make plays. How about that Brian McGrattan 2-on-1 pass to Christoph Schubert? It was a nice feed which Schubie nearly converted. As for Grats, they should utilize his scoring touch more. Remember, he potted a game-high five (you know he rubbed it in to the Cash Line) during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage on a Muskoka retreat during that silly three-game, 21-day stretch in October … Anton Volchenkov might not have a letter on his jersey, but two sequences tonight prove why A-Train is not a caboose in the leadership department: firstly, he had a rare miscue in the second period which allowed Bill Guerin to roll around the net. A-Train recovered to knock Bill out of the play, but not before he fed the slot. Right there to block the ensuing few chances were no less than three Sens: Randy Robitaille, the Captain, and Big Rig. The other follow-my-lead happened in the third, when A-Train blocked two shots on one shift. Luke Richardson, likely inspired, then blocked two of his own. The first one saved a surefire Bergenheim-to-Vasicek goal, and the second block involved a very brave Luke using his face and teeth. He left for repairs but he’ll be ok …

FUNNY STUFF: Right after one of the Sens’ goals, the Darth Vader Star Wars theme played through the loudspeakers. It was almost as if Isles G Rick “67.5 million reasons to smile” DiPietro should use Darth Gerber as his inspiration to stop the puck … During the intermission feature which profiled Sens’ head equipment guru Scott Allegrino, it was interesting that the closeup shot of him packing two jerseys into a trunk were those of Patrick Eaves and Cody Bass, both of whom did not play tonight … Line of the Night: in this case, it was courtesy of all three guys. Grant Ledyard, perhaps rusty since the last PPV game, mispronounced Sean Bergenheim’s name, saying what sounded like “Boogerheim.” Dean Brown couldn’t resist playing along and said to Gord Wilson, “That’s what you sound like when you try to pronounce (referee) Don Van Massenhoven’s name.” After some heavy laughing and giggling by all three, Grant shot back. “You guys are all off my Christmas list,” said the big former Sens defenceman … One amusing and extended close-up of Isles coach Ted Nolan panned left to right. Behind Ted were four empty seats, a security guard, and another empty seat. Maybe those ugly yellow jackets they wear are scaring people away. Whatever it is, less than 10,000 bothered to come, and Nassau Coliseum is averaging 13,549 butts in its seats this year …

… Lots of former Sens and Islanders that played each other tonight, and factored into the goals: former Senator (and former every team, look him up) Mike Sillinger unfortunately left Fisher wide open for the fourth Ottawa goal, while Wade Redden was in the sin bin when the guy he was traded for, Bryan Berard, scored. Of course, none other than last year’s valuable rental, Mike “Mr. Duff” Comrie assisted on Berard’s goal, a nifty blue line pinch. The other former Sen, who needs no introduction, is likely enjoying the $17 million paid to him to not play … Interesting Stat Line of the Night: perhaps a by-product of two-thirds of his line out (Alfie left the game in the third), the Spezz Dispenser actually led the team with six shots. He had one blocked as well … Last but not least: it’s clear Ray Emery still has motivation problems. After earning the #1 job following a solid second half of last season and nearly backstopping his team to a Stanley Cup in determined fashion, Razor’s season has been full of off-ice mishaps, the latest being four minutes late for practice in Long Island on Monday. If he really wants to, he can wrestle the starting job away again from Darth Gerber with effort in practice and by showing up on time. It’s that simple; he’s more athletic, has confidence, is edgy, and has more upside. He need only look to what might be the greatest athlete all-time in team sports for inspiration. It wasn’t always common knowledge that Michael Jordan was always the hardest-working practice player, and demanded the same from his teammates. Six title rings later, it’s pretty obvious what you have to do to stay on top.