by SENShobo on 11/03/10 at 11:04 AM ET
Alfredsson injury and Toronto player fan updates, but first. . .
There’s the Sergei Gonchar the Senators knew they were getting when they went free-agent shopping last summer. [...] Gonchar got it going and brought the Senators power play with him Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre, scoring a goal and assisting on another by Erik Karlsson with the visitors enjoying man-advantage situations in the second period. The blasts from the point were the difference in a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs — Ottawa’s fourth victory in its last six outings.
“I wasn’t paying attention to (the goal-less drought) that much,” said Gonchar. “I knew I had to shoot the puck more, and if I did, I’d have those chances.”
The Senators took the lead and never looked back when Mike Fisher scored on a penalty shot late in the first period. Fisher’s low wrister to J.S. Giguere’s glove side ignited the boobirds who didn’t think Mike Komisarek did anything wrong on Fisher’s failed breakaway.
“We’re trying to build on anything we can right now and wins at this point of the season are huge,” said Fisher.
With that momentum, they jumped on the Leafs early in the second and actually looked to get their second goal 6:11 in, when Nick Foligno set up Alex Kovalev with a wide-open net. Kovalev fanned trying to deposit the puck, then was hit into the net by Colton Orr and Christian Hanson. Orr and Kovalev wound up all the way in the cage, but neither the refs nor replay officials saw the puck in there with them.
“The nice thing is, after they didn’t allow that goal, we didn’t fold,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston. “We kept our composure and didn’t get rattled.”
Scoring on the power play? Scoring by defence men? Not being rattled by disallowed goals? Small steps — essential steps — but I’ll take them.
The game had all kinds of interesting moments for the fans. Early on, even as Ottawa seemed to control the puck and flow for much of the first, they didn’t get their first shot until nearly 13 minutes in. Each game as the Senators have tried to build themselves back up since their poor start, they seem to be adding a component to their game.
First it was tenacity on the boards. Then that grew into cycling and control in the attacking zone, and into good perimeter play, then adding some drive to the net for a few dirty goalmouth goals. Last night, the defence seemed more comfortable with itself and its partners in Ottawa’s end, appearing as though the defender with the puck would draw down the forechecker, only to pass D to D to move the puck out through an artificial 4 on 4 level of skating space, rather than seeing the blue liners turn back every time, getting penned behind Elliott, and waiting for a forward to attempt to rush it up.
For all that, however, not a single even-strength goal, unless you think that Fisher would have scored on his breakaway had Komisarek not hauled him down to grant him the penalty shot. Now 2 for 2 on them, Fisher showed good patience coming in on Giguere. Rather than trying to out-dangle or -deke him, Fisher’s speed and drive gave Giguere confidence enough to keep his movements slow enough that the subtle curve Fisher made towards the far side opened up a spot under Giguere’s glove, as Giguere lost the angles and paid a price for it.
Aside from good penalty killing work in killing off effectively 4:04 straight early in the second period, and holding Toronto to one power play goal late in the third despite three man-advantage opportunities, often with Giguere pulled, Ottawa’s power play finally hit the mark, scoring twice on five opportunities. Take a look at the boxscore for replays of Karlsson’s and Gonchar’s power play goals.
Both times, it was Gonchar finally back in his natural position on the right side, and Karlsson pushed over to the left. Sticks in the middle, and not against the boards. While reversed, both point men would be better able to corral pucks along the boards, stopping them from getting out, and having a slightly easier time passing the puck, having the sticks in (as guys like Kovalchuk and Ovechkin do, right shots playing on the left wing) gives a much better chance to make a shot, especially one-timers. Both of them had a goal, and the primary assist on the other’s, showing no difficulty in teeing up their partner.
Hopefully Clouston sees the error of his (or as the power play coach, Carvel’s) ways, and utilizes players better. Who needs to corral the puck on the boards when the shots are finally powerful enough to make it to the net and score, rather than just trickle wide to be shuffled up the boards? Before last night, they were 6 for 39 or 15.4% on the power play. Last night alone, they were 2 for 5 or 40% on the power play with Gonchar and Karlsson finally in point shot formation, bringing Ottawa up to 18.2% and 12th in the League, having languished as low as 29th for some time.
Perhaps the best thing to see was the bad calls. No really. First, Kovalev staring at a wide open net, and unlike a few games back not getting three chances to whack it in as against Vokoun, Orr and Hanson shoved Kovalev, themselves, and undoubtedly the puck into the net as well, but no goal was what stood. Only in one angle could you see the puck wind up in front of Orr’s crossed arms as he plowed Kovalev and himself into the net, where the in-net camera was woefully avoiding truly looking for the puck in the moments before Kovalev’s bottom obscured everything. Despite Orr sweeping it in, his whole body crossing the goal line, and Hanson sweeping more in after that; even as the laws of physics tell us that it was impossible for the puck to be anywhere else, as I remember Justin Peters once having the puck hidden in his glove as it was fully in the net behind his back denying Spezza a goal; despite everything, it did not count. Despite Hale’s clearing attempt late in the third going off the glass, it was called delay of game.
But for once, the Senators did not crumble.
Maybe it’s easier early in the season, when you believe that you still have 70 games to make it up. Maybe it’s easier when you have the lead in a game. But it’s a small step for a team slowly making the right ones.
From Ian Mendes, on Alfredsson’s injury,
Alfredsson told me he hurt his back in practice yesterday. Felt better today, but that was the injury bothering him.
Hopefully it was just a minor tweak from practice on Monday, one that won’t linger, but Alfredsson still played over 20 minutes last night, including nearly four minutes on the penalty kill. Always a leader.
From James Mirtle, Alfredsson even enough of a player to get a Leaf extolling him, however obvious the reasons may be,
Sjostrom is about 10 years younger than Alfredsson and, despite being a high draft pick, has bounced around quite a bit in his career. He said Alfredsson is as down to earth a person as he’s met in the league.
“Very smart but really friendly,” he said. “No superstar-ness there.”
Sjostrom added that he marvels at the career his friend has had.
“Sick player,” he said. “One of the best Swedish ones there is. He a tremendous athlete. I’ve seen him workout over the years, and he’s built like a 25-year-old. He takes care of his body and is always in good shape so I’m sure he can play for a lot more years.”
Sjostrom added that he thinks Alfredsson may just do that – despite the fact some expect he may retire after next season due to the way his contract is structured.
“He likes Ottawa so much, I’m sure he’ll keep going,” Sjostrom said.
Sjoo-ey’s only been in Toronto for 30 games, and saying something like this too, well, I can’t get Battle of Ontario fires burning quite yet for him. Not the way I can for someone like Phaneuf. Yes, he got his leg cut by Regin and will be out at least a few games, but I still see the video as him creating his own misfortune with a bad move to take Regin down.
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