Turning a Corner? Thrashers 2, Senators 1
posted Feb 9, 2006 at 10:42PM
Well for the first time since Nov 30 I liked the line combinations that Murray put together. And for the first time in a long while, the Senators again looked like a cohesive team, built around speed, skill and physicality.
In short they played a very good game but could not buy a goal. They were also handicapped by the inept Koharski, who in my opinion is the worst referee in the NHL. This is not just about what he called on the Senators, but what he didn't call on the Thrashers. It wasn't quite like the clutch and grab days against the Leafs, but it did make a difference on a lot of rushes where Senator forwards were dragged down, with or without the puck. And of course then there was that hit from behind on Varada, an obvious five minute major which just got two minutes.
I don't believe in "humiliating" players publicly through the press, but NHL refs are a different matter altogether. The NHL and the referee's association are ultrasensitive about public criticism but Pat Quinn has shown that it can be well worth the 50,000 dollar fine. Melynk has deep pockets, and why else did he buy an NHL hockey team if not to mix it up a bit for his boys..
For the record the lines tonight were as follows:
The first two lines are a nice combination of skill and speed. The Smolinski line is much stronger third line than what we have been using. The Kelly line which really isn't a viable third line, now becomes one of the best fourth lines around. And in the way these things go, instead of getting their six or seven minutes as a third line, they got nine minutes of ice as a fourth. No inane player switching, just rolling four lines. No forward got more than 20 minutes of ice, and I think it resulted in all of them having some good jump in their step throughout the game.
All of this is only possible if you leave McGrattan out as a healthy scratch. We no longer have the luxury of letting him take up a roster spot. Not with Hamel and Martins both lighting it up in the AHL, and ready to sell their souls to crack the big team.
As the game wound down Murray shortened his bench, putting the big line together and rotating it with Fisher, Schaeffer and Smolinski. This is good bench management, and the trios did put a lot of pressure on, throwing everything but the perverbial sink at the Atlanta net.
I am not worried about the goals and the power play (or the lack thereof). At the beginning of the year we were charmed and nearly everything we threw at the net went in. Today the Senator's played every bit as well as they did before Nov 30, but the puck just wouldn't roll in for us. These kind of things always come around however
I hope Murray gives these lines a chance to work out the bugs and keeps them intact for the game against Philadelphia.