Cruelty to Animals, Senators 7, Penguins 2
posted Feb 3, 2006 at 12:30AM
Things were getting a little surreal for awhile, being down 2-0 in the second period to a Penguins team without Crosby or Lemieux. The only way things could get worse was if Hasek popped a back muscle or something. But the Penguins are not the worst team in the East for nothing and they gave up two goals on their own power-play. From there the Senators ability to exploit weak teams and weak goaltending took over and we won the game easily. So we got the two points and padded some statistics, but beating up the Penguins doesn't yet prove that we have turned the corner.
Muckler might as well start looking for another back up goaltender.
With five goals being scored on Hasek last night, (and no one is going to say Hasek is a bad goalie,) this away game was a golden opportunity to have Emery get back on track. If we had lost then at least we would know for sure that something was wrong. But if we had won Emery might well be on his way to getting his mojo back. But all Emery knows right now is that management has lost complete confidence in his abilities. Score five goals on Hasek, and the team in front of him played poorly. Score five on Emery and the goalie is a sieve.
During the pre-game show the hosts were commenting on how Murray was having a long hard talk to Varada, on how he would be given opportunities and how Varada was going to have to prove himself. Has Murray done any homework on his players. What did he expect Varada to do? Put on a clinic? Varada is a veteran with a 10 year file. He is not a goal scorer. He has never been a goal scorer. He never will be a goal scorer. He could practice and practice and he could never pull off that breakaway move Vermette pulled off in the Sens Superskills competition. It took him almost two years before he even got his first goal. Varada is a grinder, a guy we got to add "grit", an agitator - someone to get under the other guy's skin and draw penalties.
So anyway Varada is put back on the third line with Kelly and Eaves. This line did nothing in the 20 games they were together before. Today they got a single shot on net while playing together as a line. What is that definition of futility - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Meanwhile Smolinksi and Vermette, both of whom are better, and have more points than the above mentioned three were relegated to fourth line status.
It doesn't really matter. Something has happened to Vermette, and he is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Maybe it was stealing the show at the Sens SuperSkills competition. Maybe it was finally getting a little print in the local newspapers, but something has gone "click" in his head. Vermette has definitely taken his game to a higher level. It is not just the nonchalant manner in which he buried his chances (2 goals on 2 shots), but more importantly it is the way he is carrying the puck.
Usually he has seemed a little "rushed" or over-anxious when puck-handling. The last two games sees him being much more relaxed and self assured. During the New Jersey game Vermette looked like Gretzky behind the net, patiently waiting for the Devils to make a mistake. Vermette goes on to set McGrattan up perfectly but the latter muffed it (McGrattan was immediately replaced with Alfredson and was never seen again during that game). Today he was rushing up-ice and when he saw the situation was no good. Vermette in true Alfredsonian fashion, simply turned around in a grand tour of center ice, waiting for the situation to gel before again pressing the attack. This is a player maturing before our eyes. Is Murray coach enough to see this?
Like I said the book on Varada is written and there will be no fairytale ending. The book on Vermette however is still in progress. Remember this is only his first true season being a fulltime NHL player. If Murray gets his act together we can have another player of Fisher/Schaeffer quality on our team in time for the playoffs. If he doesn't, we will have to settle for a grinder in his sunset years, and a budding star who will start shopping his wares elsewhere.