Bad Karma - Flyers 6, Senators 3
posted Mar 25, 2006 at 11:18PM
At some point prior to tonight's tilt with the Flyer's I can imagine the hockey gods were relaxing around the coffee table. They were noticing that maybe things were going a little too well down Ottawa's way. People were getting a little too smug ... a little too comfortable. And they decided to do something about it.
"Last night we giveth to thee. Tonight we taketh away ... with interest".
It certainly would explain the surreally bad start we had to this game.
The Flyers came out absolutely psyched, while we as a team look flustered. Our defencemen, particularly, started the game tentatively, and Emery simply did not have his mojo with him tonight.
Within eight minutes the score was 4-0, and Emery went from being on top of the world to having to endure a mercy pulling.
Morrison, complete with Darth Vader mask, stepped in to hold the fort, which he did admirably for the rest of the game. McGrattan used Brashear's head for a speed-bag to get the momentum back on an even keel. From that point on the game became much more even and you always had the sense that the Senators could dig themselves out of this hole, if the hockey gods would just go take a bathroom break.
It was not to be.
Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredson ... although not on the same line, all individually stepped up to lead the charge. Spezza was an inspired stickhandler tonight making the Flyers looking like pylons at times. He just missed on an attempted billiards shot off a Flyer's skate while hurtling at full speed. There are maybe only three players in the league would even have attempted that shot.
One minute later he missed a wide open net.
It was that kind of night.
Pothier made up for earlier sins by potting one on the powerplay. In what could almost be seen as a celestial make up call from last night's video review, a potentially crucial goal in the last minute of the second period was called back. Kelly had lasered one, a la Eaves, into the net after a nice steal and feed by Vermette. But the goal was disallowed because McGrattan got two minutes for being McGrattan. Was it a late hit? Maybe. Would a penalty have been called if the hit was by Schaefer? If McGrattan hadn't mixed it up earlier. To me that call did not pass the sniff test.
In the end we got three goals after the bad start. The Flyers got two more to achieve the final score.
Our forwards did not play "badly" but it was obvious at times that our talent was spread too thin out there, and we were simply outmanned at times, especially when the Forsberg line was out there.
Murray did put the Big Line back together, and when on the ice they always had the edge in play, but there was no real follow-up. I do not know why Murray did not shorten his bench. Did he think the game was out of reach? Up to now he may start a game with watered down lines but if we fell behind usually he would adjust. Like against Tampa, or against Boston ... he could have concentrated his firepower into three lines. Whenever Ottawa does that, we become almost impossible to handle. And the Flyers were ripe for picking. They were not that strong tonight ... we just made them look good.
After our first goal, he should have moved Smolinski and Schaefer up to play with Arnason, and moved Eaves down to play with Vermette and Kelly. Roll those three lines and don't let up. This way the momentum gained by the Big Line would be handed over to lines that could maintain it.
I think any multi-shift pressure would soon have seen the Flyers starting to crumble.
I could add that a fourth line of Neil between Varada and McGrattan, would have had "interesting" possiblities as well. But in the end, these are not the type of players you lean on, when you need a couple of even strength goals in a hurry.
But tonight it didn't happen until very late in the game. I have no idea why. Like I said the Flyers were not omnipotent tonight. We could have caught them.
Remember the name Filip Novak, our call up defenceman. He looked a little rough out there, particularly in minding his defensive duties. At the same time he showed he's got all the makings of a great puck-handling and rushing defenceman. Excellent wheels and the shiftiness of a skilled forward. Very, very self-confident handling the puck. I think he has a bright future ahead. Indeed let me make a real wild speculative call here, and say that he will eventually be filling in Redden's boots. (I like Wade Redden, but if the market is willing to pay him seven million, then the market can have him.)
Smolinski continues to impress. He has definitely found some kind of elixir because he is skating like a 25 year old again. Something definitely has gone "click" inside Vermette's head. He is blossoming into a star before our eyes. It is so good to hear the media finally give Vermette's talent some recognition, which in this tiny corner of the Senator's universe, is considered way over due. He scored his 20th goal, a "utility player" who leads the league in short handed goals, ahead of names like Alfredson and Hossa. The whole notion of calling Vermette a "role player" was ludricous from day one.
Kelly's improved play is also a great omen going forward. The two young Turks were at times dazzling out there tonight. Giving them one more real forward, and this line is going to be a great weapon in the Senator's arsenal. If you go look back to my suggested line combinations, I see that forward being Eaves. A "fourth" line like no one has ever seen.
As a final note - The radio delay on Team 1200 was horrible tonight, so we turned off the "mute" button and switched back on to the CBC broadcast. After 10 minutes of listening to reality being trampled, we settled for Dean Brown again. Radio delay or not, a vastly superior announcer.