Burgeoning Strength - Ottawa 3, Buffalo 1
posted Mar 24, 2006 at 11:26PM
Well I have to tell you I really liked this game. The level of play from the Senators exceeded my expectations. Despite missing key players, and some line combinations that had me cringing, the Senators put in a good, fast-tempo effort against a good Sabers squad, and came out with a very nice road victory.
For the record the line combinations were as follows
Heatley - Spezza - Eaves
Alfredson - Arnason - Varada
Schaefer - Smolinski - Neil
Vermette - Kelly - McGrattan
Up to this point in the season, any time we had McGrattan in the line-up, and Varada playing up on the second line, it spelled doom for the Senator's chances. Our worst level of play during the season has always come with these elements in place. But not tonight, and this bodes very, very well going forward.
One, we can confirm that getting Arnason is a great addition to the depth of this team. He had another solid game today. He set up Alfredson for the first goal of the game, and created many other opportunities with his puck handling and passing. You could tell that he was hungry to get a goal himself. His offensive capacity alone would do much to mitigate the loss of offense from Vermette and Kelly, who have been saddled with McGratton.
Smolinski's play also continues to impress. For someone who is usually described as "steady", Smolinski has definitely added some offensive flair to his game. I don't think I have ever seen him skating passing and shooting so well. His good play is a big reason why the absence of Fisher has not been more sorely felt.
Then there is both Vermette and Kelly themselves. It used to be a death sentence for either of them to be on the same line as McGrattan. But both have elevated their game to the point where they are no longer so easily negated.
The chemistry that you usually see only on the PK was on display tonight at even strength. The boys were flying out there, and the line contributed with what turned out to be the winning goal.
When Havlat and Fisher returns, McGrattan will be replaced by Eaves, and this line is going to shock a lot of people with their goal scoring capacity. Eaves certainly gave a taste of that, with an absolute laser beam to the top corner to get the insurance goal.
Emery has all but confirmed that his "mini-slump" was nothing more than a case of accumulated rust. Indeed it seems the more work he gets, the better he plays.
And what is it with SportsNet colour guy, Glen Galley? He sounded absolutely bitter and twisted when the video showed that Buffalo had not scored a goal. I am not surprised. He always "sounds" more excited when the other team is pressing the attack. He is always apologizing for the referees for bad calls that go against Ottawa. He spends an inordinate amount of his commentary time talking about the other teams. "Tampa has to do this to get back in the game ... they have to watch this to make sure Ottawa doesn't do that ... And you can tell that he wanted to yak his cookies when Vermette got yet another goal tonight.
In the end it is a local broadcast - you would think they could find a color commentator that at least likes the team. But big time kudos to Dean Brown for ignoring him when necessary.
But, all in all, this was a very good, very entertaining game. Tomorrow we go into Philly, which will be a sterner test for sure. If we match up well there, then it bodes well for when we get all our horses back.