Thomas
DeChastelain
Memorial Archives

The Sabres Come into Town
posted Mar 17, 2006 at 06:55PM

This upcoming game with Buffalo is easily the biggest home game of the season. As I write, I am assuming that Fisher will not be available. That means the difficult task of beating the red-hot Sabres will be more challenging.

Can we beat them? Of course. But certain things will have to happen.

First our defence and our goaltender have to stop giving up the puck to the bad guys. Nearly every goal we have allowed over the past few games has been because our rear-guards have been serving up desserts. Unless the forwards have already collapsed around the net, they are usually in no position to help out.

If there was ever a time for a defense corp to step up and physically dominate, then this game with the Sabres is it.

Then there are the forwards. The pattern for the Senators this season has been crystal clear. If we can put three offensively talented lines together in sequence, they will generate four goals or more and we will win the game. It may very well be that the Big Line scores all the goals but you need those three lines to be able to dictate the pace and maintain momentum. If we don't have those three lines, we lose, Big Line or not.

Do we have the horses? Sure we do. It is just a matter of getting the line combinations right. Now over the last two games we have seen line combinations which caused us to fall behind, followed by line combinations that allowed us to catch up. Obviously we should start the game with the latter.

Those would be as follows:

Alfredson-Spezza-Heatley
Vermette-Arnason-Smolinski
Schaefer-Kelly-Eaves

For the fourth line I would call up Martins and Hamel to play with Chris Neil, or Martins alone to play with Neil and Schubert.

Is that what is going to happen? I doubt it. The above are combinations you come up with when your philosophy is to concentrate your offensive talent in order to overwhelm the opposition, and actually watch what happens in actual games.

Murray's pattern since Nov 30 has been to dilute offensive talent in order to achieve "balanced" scoring. Now this kind of leveling would be great if the hockey team was part of a social program, but it is not.

As I write, there has been no news of anyone being called up. That means Varada and McGrattan will be most likely be activated. They will need a centre and no doubt Vermette will get the short end of the stick again. Fisher needs to be replaced and coach favorite Kelly will be inserted to play with Schaefer and Neil.

In the worst case scenario Eaves will be placed with Spezza and Heatley again. Alfredson will take up baby-sitting duties with Arnason and Smolinski

So if you are a Sabre's strategist you would be just smiling about these decisions. One, Vermette is basically negated by being played with two guys who shouldn't be there. Schaefer is negated by being played with two fourth liners who have combined for a total of five even strength goals over the past thirty games. The Big Line has not only been broken up, but Heatley loses his one-timer by being forced play on the opposite wing -- so he can make room for a "promising" rookie.

If you allowed the Sabres to organize the available Ottawa roster, and set our lines up in any way they wanted, to benefit them, they would very likely come up with something very similar to the above.

Of course he will eventually change the combinations again, but coming from behind with struggling teams like Tampa and Boston is one thing, it will take real heroics to do the same against a jacked up Sabres team.

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