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SENShobo

Simmering Kovalev Boils Over On Coyotes

Notes on the Senators’ injuries, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC, SE), the enigma lead the way for the troubled Senators,

The Senators aren’t quite on the road to recovery, but they are inching closer to respectability after their second win in three games, a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes in front 16,686 at Scotiabank Place. No one had a bigger impact than the much-maligned Kovalev, who scored his first two goals of the season and added an assist.
[...]
“It definitely feels better to get yourself going and start contributing to the team,” said Kovalev, who is now only six points from 1,000 in his career. “We haven’t been playing well lately so it would be nice to start winning as well.”
[...]
“He played well. We mentioned earlier he was getting better,” said Clouston. “He’s getting more confident in his knee as the days are going by. We needed him and he played very well.”
[...]
Kovalev and Karlsson set a Senators record for the fastest two goals, scoring nine seconds apart in the first period.Kovalev beat Labarbera with a shot through the legs at 5:36 after Karlsson opened the scoring on a power play at 5:27.

A momentary glimmer seldom lasts, and cannot wipe away all the stains.

Impressive it was to see Kovalev help to break the 15-year old record for the two fastest goals, but you have to wonder where that chemistry with Regin was in all the previous games they’ve played: Regin assisted on both goals, but when the two were paired on the fourth line nothing came of it. Definitely something to note, being reminded of the chemistry the two had around (or despite) Fisher last season, as much as Kovalev’s patient pass to Alfredsson for the game’s final tally was incredibly deft, going through two Phoenix defence men and past Bryzgalov for an easy tip.

The game was powerful enough to have Kovalev ahead of any post-lockout season in a couple categories. Those two goals puts him at 58:31 Even Strength Time per Goal, compared to a range of 1:03:49 to 1:35:49 EST/G over the previous five seasons, though his 58:31 EST/P is still well behind the range of 28:51 to 34:27 in those years. His assist, giving him two on the power play, puts him at 11:18 Power Play Time Per Assist (previous range of 11:21 to 24:54 last season) and 11:18 PPT/P (previous range of 7:15 to 17:47). Remember this three point night that could have been even higher if a couple of good chances hadn’t been unsuccessful the next time Kovalev giveaways cause you concern: he had five last night.

That it took only 15 minutes for the team to equal their shot total against Montreal (19) showed a much more aggressive and determined early play from the Senators, now 3-0-0 when scoring first (and 0-5-1 when not), though not followed up well in the second with just five shots. Not only did the Senators score five times, but there were missed opportunities, like a wide open net for Foligno, and some odd man rushes with resulting near misses. Most importantly, the team was finally supporting one another. Rather than floating on the wall, Kovalev’s second goal came from going right close to the net, and when his first bang at the puck was stopped by Bryzgalov’s glove, he went at it again and popped it in. Into the zone the Senators were not carrying the play as one man shows, but aware of their linemates and defence men, using them when it made sense, and without the puck continuing on to the harder work zones.

Statistically, the Senators can now say that they are perfect when scoring first, or when leading after the first or second period. They are tied for 12th on the power play (16.7%) thanks to a pair last night, and are 8th on the penalty kill (87.5%) after stopping all ten Phoenix opportunities. Still, they remain the second lowest scoring team in the League (2.33 G/G), tied for the third worst goal differential (-7), and allow the 7th most goals (3.11 GA/G).

One game won’t turn the tide, but in seeing how easily things could build together into the team you’d expect and hope for, and without Kuba, Leclaire, or Spezza, you are left wondering what a few more games might reveal.

From the Ottawa Citizen, Lehner patient and soaking it all in despite just one professional start this season,

In a perfect hockey world, Robin Lehner would be six or seven games into his apprenticeship with Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

However, because Pascal Leclaire of the Ottawa Senators has a groin injury and because Mike Brodeur, Binghamton’s other goalie, remains out of action because of a concussion, Lehner must sit on the bench and serve as Brian Elliott’s backup for the Senators’ National Hockey League games.

As a result, the 19-year-old Lehner has played just one AHL game and 34 minutes in emergency relief of Elliott.
[...]
“I’m here because (Leclaire) is hurt,” Lehner, the Senators’ second-round draft pick in 2009, said Tuesday. “I’m not here to play games right now. Of course I want to play, but I understand it’s a process. I’m just trying to do my best in practice everyday, to show that I can play.

“But it’s nothing I think about. Why would I be angry? I get development here everyday, working with the goalie coach. I get a lot of NHL shots every practice. I get more and more used to the shots every practice.

It’s the best of a bad situation: Lehner has not needed to step into the limelight too quickly, nor has he needed to get shelled in his NHL first steps, but staring onto the ice each night must surely give him a thirst that will drive him in Binghamton en route to a strong push for a spot in Ottawa next season. The good news is that all injuries seem to be healing as one would hope. All of Spezza, Leclaire, and Kuba are skating, with returns expected as early as Thursday against the Panthers (Spezza), the following Thursday against the Islanders (Leclaire), and the Tuesday after that against Atlanta (Kuba), going on reports floating around the media.

From Joy Lindsay in Binghamton, on the other goalie injury,

Goalie Mike Brodeur, who has not played since suffering a concussion in the season opener and had not been on the ice since the team photo was taken, skated today for the first time since his injury, hitting the ice before the team practiced.

“Baby steps,” coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “He is (making progress), actually. He got on the bike yesterday and had no ill-effects. He skated earlier today for about half an hour on his own and did very well with that. Any time that you have a head injury, it’s just little baby steps to get them back. But with Barry (Brust) playing the way he’s playing, there’s absolutely no rush. Would it be nice to have Mike sitting on the bench right now? Absolutely. But there’s no rush right now.”

Not quite the Senator whose health is on most Ottawa fans’ minds right now, but when Leclaire is healthy, a tandem of Lehner and Brodeur in the AHL is a sound foundation for a return to the playoffs, not seen in Broome County since the lockout stocked team. Improved confidence and success might go a long way towards proper seasoning of the team’s prospects, in ways that half a decade of disappointment just can’t measure up to.

Filed in: NHL News, NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink
 

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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net