Leclaire patiently waiting his return, and a quick preview of the week ahead, but first. . .
“It has been a process,” Senators head coach Cory Clouston said. “I know (some people) were ready to bury the season after the two games, but it was just two games and we used that to build on. We used that to become a better team.”
“It allowed us to kind of regroup and work on a lot of things and look at what we were doing well and what we weren’t doing well, instead of just panicking. We needed to correct our mistakes. We still have to improve, obviously, keep improving and playing better.”
Saturday’s game was one of the most complete for the Senators so far this season. They had a strong opening 10 minutes, keeping pressure on the Canadiens with forechecking. They opened the scoring late in the first period. If not for the outstanding goaltending of Montreal’s Carey Price, the Senators would have led by much more than 2-1 after two periods. They also played a solid third period, not backing up with the lead, as had been the case in previous victories over the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Still, there’s no such thing as perfection, as captain Daniel Alfredsson said before Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think you can look and say we’ve turned a corner,” he said, also echoing Clouston’s comments about establishing long-term plans for improvement. “There’s always something that’s not clicking in a game, whether it’s five on five or penalty killing or the power play.”
The biggest aspect of their game that Ottawa has improved upon? Perseverance.
Gonchar’s dividends, hosting the Isles tonight with injury timelines, steady confidence in Elliott, Alfredsson’s injury, musings on his post-career fate, but first. . .
Sergei Gonchar finally got it right. From the right point on the power play, that is. The Senators defenceman moved back to his preferred spot on the man advantage Tuesday against the Leafs in Toronto and it paid dividends as Gonchar had a goal — his first with Ottawa — and assist on the power play in a 3-2 win. [...] Gonchar, who is looking more and more comfortable with his Senators teammates, also set up Erik Karlsson’s third of the season on a blast from the point with the man advantage.
“I was comfortable on the other side, I just didn’t think we were able to create as much. It’s not only about me being comfortable. It’s about us as a unit creating things and scoring goals.”
Coach Cory Clouston said the switch was made because Karlsson has improved.
“A lot of that has to do with Erik. His game is a lot better as of late,” said Clouston. “That allows (those two) to switch. If you’re going to run the power play, Erik’s strong play allows him to make better reads. He was struggling earlier on in the season and we weren’t able to use him in more of that role. When you’re in that position on that (left) side, you have a little bit more responsibility. But I thought both of those guys played very well.”
You can bet that you won’t soon see Gonchar on the left; the success, even after one game, speaks for itself. For the first real time since coming to Ottawa, I had to question Clouston’s thinking.
It didn’t take long for Chris Neil’s cheap shots towards Boston’s Seidenberg in the dying minutes of Ottawa’s 4-0 loss to Boston on Saturday to make news.
Less so because of the incident or the players dressed that night, and instead because of a few comments from Neil’s former teammate, Brian McGrattan (from TSN),
“I heard about it,” McGrattan told Boston.com. “That’s typical Chris Neil. I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there. He’d do that and I’d have to fight all his battles for him the next time we’d play a team after he’d do something stupid like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”
“That’s the way he does it,” McGrattan told Boston.com. “He’ll do something where he knows he’ll get kicked out of the game and won’t have to come back and fight anybody. I’ve been around him long enough to know he does that. Then I’m the one who usually has to fight his battles the next time. It’s typical.”
Quickly, as happens in the hockey universe, voices came out both for and against his comments (sometimes both from the same place). Set aside for a moment the question of whether or not agitators have a place in the game, which I’ll get to at the end, and ask yourself whether or not McGrattan’s role helped Neil; to look at the numbers, was McGrattan even right?
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.
Trying to score on lately scoreless Leafs, Lehner sent down as Leclaire returns, and Alfie spooks the team updated, but first. . .
“You want to say, ‘Go and play with confidence,’ but that’s not something you just go pick up at the grocery store,” Phillips said Monday.
“You try to block that stuff out and play with confidence, but it’s a funny game. Those things get in your head sometimes, and it’s tough to block them out. When you make a mistake out there, you try to (forget) it. You watch video the next day and learn from it. But, when you’re out there, if you let it affect you, that’s exactly what it does. It’s going to affect you when you go to make your next play, and it gets to be a snowball effect. If you can nip it in the bud right away, you’re a lot better off.”
“Sometimes he puts too much of the burden on his shoulders, and he just has to worry about himself a little bit more,” Clouston said.
“He cares as much or more than anybody on this team, and he wants to help the team win, but sometimes, when you get in that situation, less is more. Simplify your game. Don’t try to do too much. Just make the simple, easy play. And then, once the confidence and the game get going, then you can maybe add to that. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, though. You tell him to simplify it, (but) the tendency is to still try to make plays that aren’t there.”
The talk has been (and will still be) of injuries when it comes to the Senators, but after that, no struggle has been as pronounced as that of Phillips, who simultaneously lost the highest priced and complementary departure in Volchenkov, while gaining the highest priced arrival and most polar opposite player in Gonchar.
Injury updates, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Sun, Murray pulls Foligno aside after Saturday’s demoralizing 0-4 loss to the Bruins,
“[Foligno] has to get some points,” Murray said. “As I said to him, I’ve think I’ve tried to go to bat for him with the coaches. To make sure he gets the opportunity, ice-time wise and with linemates. I just want him to take advantage of that. That’s all.”
“I think you start to press. The other night, a couple of pucks bounced off his stick that normally wouldn’t, and I think it’s (him) trying to do a little more for the team. He’s a real competitive kid and he’s going to be good. It’s just a matter of we need him to step up a little more.”
Foligno’s not the only Senators forward having problems finding mesh. Peter Regin, Chris Neil and Winchester are also goal-less, while top centre Jason Spezza only has one in six games. On the back end, power-play quarterback Sergei Gonchar has yet to notch his first as a Senator.
“They do have to start contributing offensively,” said coach Cory Clouston. “They’ve got to start shooting the puck and getting into paint, and contributing in that area.”
Every team deals with them, other teams have more of them, but the Senators still can’t seem to get away from the effects of injuries.
As far as anyone can tell, no NHL player has come back from the type of hip surgery the 28-year-old underwent in April. Diagnosed with avascular necrosis, essentially the top of the ball in his right hip deteriorated to its core, Emery underwent an elaborate operation that featured bone grafted from his lower leg being inserted in the ball of his hip. In the past, his condition would have necessitated a full hip replacement but this very specialized procedure avoided that.
“Usually when you have this type of thing done, they just want you to walk again,” Emery told ESPN.com Thursday during a break in his rehab in downtown Toronto. [...] “The doctor was understanding of what I wanted,” Emery said. “I told him that I could care less if I can’t walk in five years, but I want just want to play hockey for five years.” [...] “It gave me a chance to chill out and take stock of things,” Emery said.
Could it be that Emery has come a long way since eating a cockroach on a dare, nearly missing team flights, let alone team meetings? Could it be that he’s found a glimmer of that which every team seeks, and which Ottawa always seems to completely pass over?
Notes on the Senators feeling the tight standings, Ruutu’s admission to another 1,000 club, and Daniel’s work in theatres this weekend, but first. . .
The win was the Senators’ first in seven tries after giving up the first goal of the game. Despite an early deficit and a stellar netminder at the other end, there was no panic.
“We know we were down 1-0, but we felt we had control of the game, we felt we played well,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “That’s what we talked about between the first and second periods: Don’t change a thing, just keep going strong and hard on the forecheck and good things will happen.”
Alfredsson said the back-to-back victories would help the Senators gain confidence.
“I think we all knew that we can play very good when we’re skating, and that sometimes we’ve been a little bit too passive, but today we were aggressive from the beginning,” he said.
Striking at even strength, and even with Jarkko Ruutu in the box as a newly-minted 1,000 penalty minute man, some confidence brews for the Senators. But it still isn’t a consistent team that’s pulled out these past pair of five goal wins.
The increased challenge of League parity, and notes on Spezza’s and other Senators’ injuries updated, but first. . .
THE STORY: The Senators are looking to string together two wins for the first time this season, and achieving the feat would be a great momentum-builder with Ottawa-killer Tim Thomas and his Boston Bruins in town Saturday night. They’ll have to pull it off without centre Jason Spezza, who is expected to be out of the lineup again with a nagging groin injury.
THE WILDCARD: Brian Elliott. The Panthers will struggle all season to put points on the board, but there’s no questioning the talent in net. If you give Tomas Vokoun the lead, it probably isn’t going anywhere. That’s why Brian Elliott needs to be sharp early and avoid giving up any softies. The Senators are undefeated when they score first this season and winless when they don’t.
Given that every set of eyes acknowledged that the Leafs’ winner Tuesday should not have stood, even Wilson’s, the Panthers won’t have any trouble matching Ottawa’s frustration-fueled motivation.
Notes on the Senators’ injuries, but first. . .
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org