Steve Kerley scouts tonight’s opponents:
After knocking on the door for many years, Ottawa finally made it to the Cup final in 2007. It wasn’t meant to be, as they lost 4 games to 1 against Anaheim.
The team quickly spiraled downward after that defeat to the point where they didn’t make the postseason last April.
GM Bryan Murray, was left with the harsh reality of deciding to do a total rebuild or quickly retool the team to save his job. He chose the latter.
The present day Senators are good enough to be in the playoff hunt, but are no longer a threat to win the Cup.
• There are only seven players left from that 2007 team. The Senators have tried to break away from being a one line hockey outfit but unfortunately have come up short. In fact, the owner, Eugene Melnyk, called out some of the team’s stars on Monday saying that they weren’t doing enough to help the team (not to mention that the team is up against the cap). He didn’t mention names but you can bet that Jason Spezza and Alex Kovalev were at the top of his list. It’s bad enough that the team misses Dany Heatley’s departed goal scoring – but nobody was counting on players such as Spezza and Kovalev to play so poorly. It’s well known that Spezza (3/14/17) isn’t a playoff performer, but his regular season point totals have been dismal. Kovalev (4/10/14) has been mailing it in since his first game as a Sen. How bad is it? Kovy (0/3/3) hasn’t even scored a PP goal yet! An enigmatic and frustrating player who may well be on the clock. Of course, just when you are ready to give up on him, he puts on a virtuoso performance. Too little, too late, in my eyes. Another forward who is killing the Sens is newly acquired San Jose Shark Jonathan Cheechoo (3/4/7/0). His decline has been long and steep, as it would appear that his skating liabilities are now jeopardizing his future career path.
• So who’s stepping up for the Sens? Well you can always count on team captain, Daniel Alfredsson (9/18/27). He is always the model of consistency which is bourne out by the fact that since the beginning of the 2006 season he has never gone more than three games without getting a point. Another bright spot has been Milan Michalek (15/5/20/5). There have been a few players from the 2003 entry draft who have been disappointments and Michalek has been one of them. He has an ample skill set and great size but he has been a playoff disappointment in the past few years. He certainly has a chance to make amends seeing that the Sens are looking for scoring. Most of Michalek’s goals this year are counters, as he has 5 PPGs to go along with 2 SHGs and 2 GWGs.
• My player to watch tonight is well known Senator, Mike Fisher (12/11/23/6). Fisher is a physical force who also centres the 2nd line while providing secondary scoring for the first time in his career (29 years old, 9 NHL seasons.) This guy works like crazy, skates miles, and plays a great two way game that features a distinctive edge. He supports the Dmen in their own end and is in the top 20 for hits in the NHL. Fisher displays great character traits and in a perfect world would be able to do a switch with Jason Spezza in terms of raw talent for attitude. Six of his goals have come on the PP with four of his tallies being game winners. Fisher wears sweater #12.
• Undersized, Ryan Shannon, and chip off the old block Nick Foligno, show solid promise but have yet to break through. There are lots of players here who suffer from Martin Gerber Syndrome. Peter Regin (in the doghouse) and Illya Zubov (KHL) are two more examples. Lastly, there is Jesse Winchester who just scored his first goal of the year last week after only netting 3 in 77 games for 2008-09. That makes him 4-88 as a Senator. In fairness, he is a great penalty killer who is strong on face-offs.
• Hab fans don’t like these guys, but Jarkko Ruutu (cheap shot artist), Chris Kelly (great on the PK), Chris Neil (enforcer), and Cody Bass (strong on the puck) fill out the bottom two lines while providing lots of grit, agitation, and aggression.
• Ottawa’s defense is adequate and should get better once some of the kids eventually develop. Chris Phillips (31) and Anton Volchenkov (27, UFA in 2010) are a solid shutdown pairing. Filip Kuba (32) is the main man on the PP but really isn’t a star player. Same goes for Chris Campoli (25, cost Ottawa a 1st round pick). The real future belongs to Erik Karlsson (puck moving star in the making) and Jared Cowen (6’5″/220). Karlsson is presently on the team and it’s trial by fire as the Sens may be rushing him. Cowen was wisely sent back to junior. Regardless, these two studs are the future in terms of Ottawa’s defense. Brian Lee (22/6’3″/205) came out of the 2005 draft and has been slow to develop. It would surely be an added bonus if he ever steps up and plays to his potential. Ottawa also caught a break when Jason Smith retired, saving the team some major coin on the cap. Another name to tuck away is unheralded Dman, Patrick Wiercioch (19/6’4″/195). He needs to fill out and gain experience, but he just might be a diamond in the rough. (Wiercioch and Cowen have both been selected for Team Canada’s junior team.) Matt Carkner will also see some ice tonight filling in for injured players.
• You can’t discuss the Senators without mentioning goaltending. Pascal Leclaire (26/6’2″/200) came over in the Antoine Vermette trade and is a quality candidate to be a #1 goalie. He suffers from a lack of durability and misfortune as witnessed by the fact that he was hit by an errant puck that fractured his cheekbone. Brian Elliot (24/6’3″/190/291st draft pick) is a decent prospect but his play has been sub par lately under the pressure of having to start every game. He has started the past eight games in a row with a 3-5 record and a less than stellar 3.33 GAA. Mike Brodeur (Martin’s distant cousin) is a long shot to get the call against the Habs.
• Coach Corey Clouston likes to run an up-tempo style of play and is very big on motivational techniques. Unfortunately, the Sens have a bad habit of giving up early goals which kind of sets the team back on its heels. Ottawa is just coming off a tough road trip that saw them do their yearly western swing. They played in Phoenix (lost 3-2) and Anaheim (won 4-3 in a SO) on Saturday and Sunday before flying home. It should be noted that they have one of the best home records (10-3-3) in the conference.
• Stat Pack – GF: 13th, GA: 20th, GD: -4, GAA: 3:00, PP: 21st, PK: 10th, FO: 48.7%, CS: $500,000
• Injury Report – Alex Picard (day to day), Neil (knee), Leclaire (broken cheekbone), Shean Donovan (knee)
Montreal won 3-1 against Philadelphia last night which means a four-pointer against Ottawa will put the Habs in 7th place. Elliot isn’t any better than Boucher right now, so I don’t see why Carey Price can’t get us the win.