Blowing Out The Leafs Is Good For The Soul
posted Dec 17, 2005 at 10:36PM
So the Sens blow out the Leafs 8-2, a very satisfying win on many levels. First putting the boots to the ever whining, clutch and grab, spear-meister cry-baby Leafs is always good for the soul.
It is obvious that Belfour is the not the goalie he once was, and without a goalie that can stand on his head, the Leafs are nothing, barely even play-off contenders.
Sundin was a non-factor. I expect him to be taking off his visor soon. (Like a lot of extremely talented finely tuned players, it takes only the littlest things to get knocked off one's game -- for Sundin it is wearing a visor. Maybe he doesn't see the "texture" of the ice, it is one of those intangible things.)
The real turning point, in what was a relatively even game, came when Bochenski was injured and knocked out of the game with the score tied at one apiece. A blessing in disguise as Vermette and Kelly were rotated up into the third line. Suddenly, the Sens of old were back ... constant pressure, constant puck possession. The first line, no longer having the whole game on their shoulders, came alive and started the tic-tac-toe playmaking that made them the best line in hockey.
Kelly and Vermette, who have been perhaps the outstanding penalty killing pair of the league, actually got two shifts on the power play. They responded with a goal and assist each.
Yes Belfour had a bad game, but that is not the point. Even when Carolina gave Ottawa its first defeat on the back of a bravura performance from Gerber, it was obvious that the Senators controlled the play.
There is no doubt in my mind now. Ottawa's "slump," their inability to dominate games started the minute they put Vermette on the fourth line. It ended the minute they put him back on regular five on five rotation.
Schaeffer, Kelly and Vermette are a much faster and potent combination. Fisher, Neil and Smolinksi is a line that works.
Varada is trade bait. Unless he is playing with a Hossa, his value is limited. The Senators got him to add toughness. With McGrattan, that is no longer needed.
Bochenski has got a great shot. He will score "clumps" of goals against weak teams with weak goaltenders. But he is not ready for the NHL and he is not ready for playoff hockey. Hamel or Eaves, proven NHL performers, would be better additions.