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Like Punching a Clock - Senators 4, Tampa Bay 0
posted Mar 6, 2006 at 11:38PM

I don't know why, but even with a 4-0 shut-out that was obtained with no real stress, I kind of want to look at this game from the "glass half-empty" view point. The game was won by Emery, who was full marks for his shut-out. He is getting better with every game, and you can see that this is a guy who thrives on work. He basically kept Tampa Bay out of the game, until our big guns could put it out of reach. Our top five forwards were just "on" tonight and played their best game since Nov 30.

Schaeffer, even without his goal, was a wizard with the puck out there, and Fisher continues to be one of our strongest players. Heatley, as anticipated, is coming off the Olympic tournament in strong form. I think he is playing some of his best hockey of the season. Indeed the whole "big" line look to be getting back into tic-tac-toe mode. Unfortunately this was not a total team victory.

The one hip-check from Volchenkov not withstanding, our defence sometimes looked like they were playing with mono. They seemed very weak with the puck. Our top two lines could compensate, but our back six looked like they were trying to get the puck off two sets of defence.

The third and fourth lines were of no real consequence today. Things started out good, with Schubert and Vermette using great speed to create a two on the goalie situation that Vermette buried, in what turned out to be the game winner.

But that was as good as it got for them.

For the rest of the game it seemed like they were playing defence. Why? Well one reason was that the defence couldn't get the puck to them. There they would be streaking in the neutral zone, and Philips would try some kind of chip shot going to the rafters.

Another reason was that Kelly was just brutal on the face-offs. According to the ESPN game stats Kelly lost 13 out of 17 face-offs. He was the only forward not to register a shot. By the third period they were relegated to shifts of the 20 second variety, so a game that started out with such great momentum for them, just fizzled away.

The third line was no better. Poor Eaves must think he is in some kind of purgatory. The one goal he got recently was during the 45 seconds Smolinski was not on the ice with them. Eaves, who looked to be our Steve Shutt style sniper has been completely negated since being paired with Smolinski. There is no stat for this but I swear everytime Varada had the puck, the next player to have it was an opposing team member. It was eerie. All I can say is that if Varada and Smolinski got traded away to jettison their $four million in combined salary ... well you will hear no complaints from these quarters.

And you know I am sorry to say this, but Chris Neil is not a top six forward and I just wish someone would end this charade.

In the end, we got the two points, and Emery's stock is just jumping, and our top players are really getting into a groove. That means we can routinely beat 80% of the teams out there and not even break a sweat. But we still don't have the line combinations that will allow the Senator's to bring their full talent to bear. You just know that it is going to bite us in the posterior when we are playing that other 20%, and when it most likely will count the most.

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