Finding A Way - Senators 4, Rangers 1
posted Mar 30, 2006 at 10:35PM
There would have been no shortage of legitimate reasons to blame any loss tonight with the division leading Rangers. But the Senators dug deep and found a way to win the game and get a big two points to keeps us firmly in first place in the East, and within striking distance of the President's Trophy.
The first half the of the game could be described as a battle of special teams, which worked to Ottawa's advantage as it mitigated line combinations that I cared little for. However Murray's decision to put Neil back on the powerplay, and Heatley on the point has completely revitalized this aspect of game, and it came through big time today. Our PK was perfect, no small feat against the Rangers. McGrattan and Varada did not get a lot of ice, but they did some serious pounding while they were out there.
By the end of the second period we were ahead by two and Murray shortened the bench to three lines. The Rangers never really threatened after that. Even minus Havlat and Fisher we have fomidable weapons up front, especially when they are concentrated into three lines.
Obviously this was a big clutch performance night for our defence corps: a real confidence booster and testament to our depth there as well. Volchenkov and Pothier stepped up big time, and Mezzaros was just a rock out there.
I am sure Arnason watchers would agree that he is looking stronger and stronger with every outing. In the first two periods, in even strength play, he was arguably our best forward. Emery again had a solid outing and set a record for most victories in a month. If you had told anyone two weeks before the Olympic Break that this was going to happen, I don't think you would have had too many in agreement. The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the stretch drive has indeed been the play of Emery.
I thought Kelly looked good out on wing, reinforcing my belief that that is where he should be playing, although obviously not in Alfredson's place.
Vermette, Smolinski, and Schaefer was another combination used, and they looked good as well.
Again I see none of these lines staying together once we get Fisher and Havlat (now April 10?) back. I just like to keep note of such things.
It was a big two points, giving us some cushion against the suddenly flailing Hurricanes and Sabres. Looking at the rear of the play-off race, it looks like Atlanta is starting to slip, and our opponent in the first round will be the weakest finisher of Tampa Bay, New Jersey or Montreal.
That would be fine with us here. Both the wife and I are of the mind that there are just a few too many ex-Senators and "ghosts" in Atlanta to want to tempt fate with. .