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 entrĂ©e 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: