Bleaaagh! Bruins 3, Senators 2 (SOL)
posted Mar 17, 2006 at 12:42AM
"Coyote Ugly", "Surreal Malaise" "Suffocating Pall" "Mixed Emotions"
Just trying to come up with some word groups that could capture the essence of this game and quite frankly I don't quite have it. Shrinks would label this game as "inverse sandwich therapy" (bad....good....bad). Let us just say it was a weird, and ultimately frustrating game to watch.
On paper you would think that this game had a lot in common with the Tampa game. It had a great come-from-behind effort complete with pretty goals. It had monstrously clutch penalty killing, (Alfredson was a superman) and great goaltending by Emery. But this game had a completely different texture, and it was more than just not having the story-book ending.
First there was this eerie sensation you get when you see hockey being played in front of 15,000 people who are all just breathing evenly. It was like a morgue in there. Then you had the Bruins getting the lead on a goal that just reeked of bad karma. Then you get Mike Fisher getting injured, potentially seriously, and the forboding accelerates. I know I yak about complacency, but I was getting so geared up about the return of Havlat, that the possibility of serious injury to a key player had just not entered my calculus.
Then for the next period and a half the Senators looked like the "slumping" Senators, a team that will not last the first round. Regular readers know I have a serious bone about how Murray puts ad hoc lines together. He's like Spezza when he obstinately keeps trying to force a pass through a box. It never works, but he keeps trying anyways. And I really hate it, because it is always Vermette that seems to get the short end of the stick
Anyone could see in the Tampa game that Vermette with Arnason and Smolinski was pure magic, and that magic disappeared the minute he tried Eaves in that spot What does he do? He puts Eaves in there. In the Tampa game all of our goals were scored by the "Big" Line. What does he do? He breaks them up, and puts Eaves in there. Indeed he goes back to the top six with which we fell behind against Tampa. (Futility: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)
Fisher is down. We nee a replacement center. Who do you go to? Kelly a winger turned centre with six goals and who has never played with these guys?. Or Vermette, a centre turned winger with 15 goals and who has proven chemistry with Schaeffer and spent the last season playing with Neil. Of course he goes with Kelly.
I think at that point I told my wife that if I was Vermette's agent I would advise him to "Keep a brave face, soldier on, and do the best with what they give you. Take this year to go for a Cup ring, but this summer, when you become a free agent, we are to going to get the fuck out of Dodge.
Fine I like Kelly, I do and I don't want to get into an either or situation, but there is just no comparison between Kelly and Vermette. Kelly is not a 26 year old rookie for nothing. He does only have six goals. He is not the second coming. You could replace him with a Martins or a Hamel and not lose a single nights sleep.
Nobody even noticed him when he was back there with Varada and Mcgrattan. He was a complete non-entity until Vermette was placed into purgatory with him. Did you hear of any rumours of GM's asking for Kelly as part of a trade? Why would they? As a winger, Kelly has a shot. As a centre he is at best a journeyman third and fourth liner.
So anyways, as this was going on, the Bruins get their second fluky pin-ball goal, even as Alfredson is coming off the ice with a hurt shoulder (from colliding with an official no less). I guess that point marked the official nadir of my evening.
Murray, to his credit, or through the sheer force of desperation, did regiggle the lines again. This time they made sense. He put the Big Line back together again and started double shifting them. He put Vermette with Arnason and Smolinski and they were good from the get go. He put Eaves in place of Neil, which here is value add when you need offense in a hurry. Kelly and Schaeffer filled out that line and they played fine. There was no fourth line.
With three good lines the game momentum started to flow our way. Spezza got a nice one on a beautiful feed from Heatley. Vermette finessed his 16th goal of the season, on great work behind the net by Arnason, and a perfect pass from Smolinski
So from the pits of despair, I am suddenly feeling pretty good. The natural order of the universe seemed to be in place again. It looked like we are going to pull this one out in true "champions" form yet again.
Oh did I mention the problem of non-calls? Well they came to an apex in the over-time period.. This when as Phillips is about to get a "two minutes for body-checking" penalty, and a Bruin clobbers Smolinski square in the face. Smolinski gets two more minutes for not being happy about it. The end result is that the Senators are going to spend the bulk of the over-time period playing with only three men on the ice.
So first you have Alfredson. Has there been a better penalty killer in this situation in the history of hockey? I cannot even remember the last 5 on 3 goal anyone got on us. And not only that, but he leads the league in short-handed goals... so you never know. Of course even Alfredson can't stay on the ice forever.
Fisher is usually the guy to follow up, but he is hurt. So again who do you go to? Heatley? Schaeffer? Do you go with Vermette, who is the fastest skater on the team, and who is second in the league with short handed goals and has the highest winning face-off percentage on the team? Or do you go with the obviously very "coachable" Kelly who has 0 short handed goals and is sub 50% on face-offs.
Of course, he goes with Kelly.
OK, so we don't pull a rabbit out of the hat, but neither do they score, and with the fans booing the Bruins powerplay effort, we head into the shoot-out with at least a bit of "psychological" momentum.
You know, and I was thinking that Vermette might get a crack at it, and then just as I am watching the Senators equipment trainer screaming to the zebra that Vermette's stick was legal, the camera cuts away to show Alfredson already skating away from the Bruin's net. Huh? What? Did he shoot? Score?..Miss? What the...?
And so this bad acid trip of a game ended by witnessing the three components of the most powerful line in hockey lose in a shoot-out, against the team with the worst record in such affairs.
Well we got the point.
Wait ... what do you mean the Buffalo game is not going to be on TV? Argh!
Well that is it. I am officially calling an end to this day.