The Big One that Got Away, Tampa Bay 4, Ottawa 3
posted Apr 23, 2006 at 10:01PM
A bad give away, a bad line change, a bad rebound; three mistakes which the Tampa Bay Lightning pounced on and converted into goals. For all intents and purposes they were the difference in a game that was there for us to win.
The game certainly started out as expected, with a torrid pace being set by both teams. Smolinski got our first goal and we had a clear if not large edge in play. Smolinski and Eaves were the two players who definitely showed the most improvement from game one. Especially Eaves who looked much more comfortable and at ease handling the puck. Kelly was definitely snake-bitten, having half a dozen scoring and passing opportunities that he just wasn't able to cash in on.
The fourth line again displayed their ability to apply offensive pressure, Unfortunately you don't get points for pressure, and between the three they are going to have to learn to dig deep and bury their chances.
A major turning point was Tampa's first goal which came from turning a poor passing decision from Volchenkov. We never really regained the edge in play from that point on.
After that goal the game became very even, with each team exchanging goals.
The third period started with Murray changing line combinations. He put the Big Line back together, followed by the Fisher Line followed by the Kid line. Talk about mixed feelings. Of course I like these lines, but the third period of a tied play-off game seems an odd place to start throwing players together.
It was not like the game was getting away from us.
On their second shift of the period, the Fisher Line came through with a beauty, with Schaefer potting one on a great feed from Havlat. Havlat was definitely our best player out there tonight. Unfortunately the Kid Line, who looked good for the short time they were out there, did not last long. On their second or third shift, Kelly was involved in two violent collisions and had to leave the game. My impression was that he got his bell rung hard, but should be back for the next game.
The Big Line definitely looked rusty out there, and got caught running around their own end. It was when they tried to come off the ice that Tampa got an odd man rush and scored the equalizer. For the Big Line it was not until the last part of the game that they started being able to move the puck around like their old selves.
To me the major negative was the play of our defence. At the least they seemed to be the major source of anguish while watching this game. Poor puck movement decisions, an inability to handle the puck on the blue-line which squandered many periods of offensive pressure. On defence they seemed way too timid in challenging attacking forwards, backing right up into Emery, allowing Tampa Bay snipers to move in and let fly at will.
Hopefully the game helped destroy the myth that you can just throw the Big Line together any time you want, and they will just pick up where they left off. Players are not interchangeable machine parts. You cannot expect players to play two intense periods with players of a certain style and aptitude, and then expect them to meld instantly with two other players. The fact that we only got two shots in the third period shows that this was an experiment that did not work out.
Obviously for the next game there will have to be a decision made. Will he go back to the original lines? or will he start the Big Line?. I am certainly for the latter. During the first period one could not help but think if that was Alfredson, instead of Kelly, at the receiving end of those passes, that this game could have taken on a whole different texture from the start.
One also has to wonder if Arnason has learned his lesson and is ready to play. Can him playing with Vermette and Neil on the fourth line give that little bit of extra to start putting the puck in net.
But in the end whatever lines he decides to go with at the start of next game, he has to stick with them, and change only if things really start to fall apart.