After being tied for the league lead in bench minors in 2009-10 in with 13, the Senators committed their second too-many-men sin of the season before the midway mark of the opening period. Having already killed off an earlier penalty, Ottawa could not survive this one. Mark Letestu’s goal was the first of three unanswered in a 6:23 span. The Senators could never recover, ultimately dropping a 5-2 decision to the Penguins.
Teenage rookie Robin Lehner made his second NHL appearance after the Penguins went up 5-1 at 10:32 of the second period, but Brian Elliot was not to blame for the predicament the Senators were in at that point. He had only stopped 17-of-22, but the last two to beat him were of the unfortunate variety and came 25 seconds apart.
The first, by Pascal Dupuis, went in off Erik Karlsson’s stick after an initial point shot went off Sergei Gonchar. The play might have been stopped before that had Alex Kovalev taken Crosby out rather than his fly-by. The goal that chased Elliott was a slap shot from the point that deflected off the stick of Jarkko Ruutu in the high slot area.
Lehner wound up stopping all seven shots he faced, likely creating legions to suggest he get the start against the Sabres.
It’s not the end of the season, but at this point, for being last in the League and so many other signs, Ottawa should be thinking about it’s long term game plan, and owning up to the uncomfortable truth of their situation.
Fisher laid bare in strip shootout at practice, Gonchar looks to find way back in Pittsburgh but needs Clouston’s help, and hoping for Michalek to put on a show for his brother, but first. . .
THE STORY: It’s only five games in, but the Ottawa Senators would be wise not to underestimate the hole they’re digging for themselves. Golf courses are often littered with players who dominated in the second halves of the seasons, only to fall short because they couldn’t gain enough ground on teams embroiled in three-point contests every night. If they lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Northeast Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs beat the injury-depleted New York Islanders Monday night, the Senators will trail by seven points despite having played one match fewer. How’s that for a wake-up call?
THE QUOTE: “I don’t think we’re at or near the bottom of the league in terms of our ability. We don’t see ourselves that way. We see ourselves as a better team than that. Stats, you can use them anyway you want, and five games to me is not indicative of what this team can do, or is able to do. It may be this is where we’re at, at this point in time, but that’s not where we feel we’re going. We’re more concerned about our overall game and just sticking with our foundation. That’s our biggest concern.” — Senators coach Cory Clouston, downplaying the Senators’ struggles so far.
One piece at a time, the Senators appear to be catching on, but trouble lies ahead if they can’t get it and hold it together quickly.
Clouston helps top line find chemistry, Foligno could see suspension for blindside hit (updated), Leclaire leaves game early with injury, finds himself quickly shelled by media, and an update on Lehner’s status, Ottawa rink absences, and the nature of Leclaire’s injury, but first. . .
Nothing was simple about the Ottawa Senators’ first victory of the season, a nailbiting 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Mike Fisher scored the winning goal, his second of the game, with 5:57 remaining and Hurricanes winger Jussi Jokinen in the penalty box. The goal ended the Senators’ 0-for-17 power-play drought to start the season.
“Hopefully, we can build on that and keep getting the chances,” said Fisher, unquestionably the Senators’ best player. “It’s going to be a big part of our game going forward and, hopefully, we’ll keep rolling.”
Despite the two points, it was a roller coaster game, even with Leclaire being thrown from the ride before it even set off.
Power play an early focus for Sens, careful goalie decisions needed (updated), Spezza has extra motivation this season, Alfredsson recognized for his place in the community, and a delightfully sobering reality check for those Senators fans currently bemoaning Toronto’s perfect start thus far, but first. . .
From Senators Extra, on tonight’s chance for redemption against Carolina,
THE WILDCARD: Daniel Alfredsson. He was questionable for this one but insisted Wednesday he’s good to go. With his team in desperate need for offence, it’s once again time for the captain to step up. He’s posted very un-Alfie-like numbers so far (one assist, minus-two through three games), which might lead some to question whether father time is finally catching up with the ageless wonder.
THE OPPONENT: The Carolina Hurricanes weren’t expected to be in the playoff mix this season, but don’t tell them that — they opened the season with two straight wins. Sure, they were against the Minnesota Wild (who are expected to bring up the rear in the Western Conference), but points are points. Unfortunately for them, those wins came in Europe, so fatigue could be a factor Thursday night.
No time like the present for the Senators to get going, with a conveniently devilish schedule ahead.
Clouston maintains goalie mystique, the players turn to each other to demand better play, an update on Robin Lehner’s visa issues, and an update on Alfredsson’s status for tomorrow, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa’s power play still stalling,
Yet perhaps the ugliest, most glaring statistics have come on the power play. Check that. Have not come on the power play. Through three games, the Senators have gone 0-for-14 with the man advantage, including an 0-for-5 display in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
Rather, it has been a matter of the Senators generating little sustained pressure. Accordingly, the fear factor — opponents wary of being over-aggressive to avoid seeing a potent power play hop over the boards — has gone down.
Among the many other changes which are necessary, Gonchar must make quicker decisions at the blue-line, passing or shooting before opponents block the lanes to the net. One significant change is that Gonchar is now setting up on the left boards on the power play, as opposed to the right side while he was with the Penguins. [...] That ‘adjustment’ has also been made more difficult because the star players saw limited action together on the power play during training camp.
At what point should the Senators sound the alarm? How many players only meetings until they should begin to feel uncomfortably energetic?
Kovalev sees Ottawa’s problems, and team doctor Don Chow is successfully recovering from his near tragic motorcycle accident, but first. . .
So, while coach Cory Clouston was happy with the Senators overall, calling Monday’s effort it a step in the right direction, he didn’t offer a lot of applause for Leclaire.
“He didn’t have to make a lot saves,” Clouston said. “He made some saves, for sure, but we need him to make that last one. It’s very disappointing.”
“It was just a mistake, just bad timing,” [Leclaire] said. “It is frustrating. I felt good (Monday night). I just missed that one. He fanned on it a little bit. I was expecting something harder, and it caught me a bit flatfooted and I missed it. It happens.”
The Senators also suffered a potential casualty that could end up hurting the team when it can least afford it. Captain Daniel Alfredsson didn’t play in overtime because of a lower-body injury. The severity of it wasn’t known Monday night, but Alfredsson said after the game that he didn’t feel too bad and would just wait to see how he felt today.
Hard to feel good about the Senators’ best game last night, but it’s not exactly an unforeseen problem.
Spezza’s groin could keep him on the shelf, previewing tonight’s opener against Buffalo, Sens blogger predictions for tonight, Kuba’s ongoing recovery, the Senators need shootout success, and Alfredsson gives back to the community, but first. . .
Does the humble Zamboni have mystical powers? Jarkko Ruutu of the Ottawa Senators likes to think so.
Talk of ice machines got Ruutu thinking about his Finnish pal, Antti Niemi, who worked part-time driving a Zamboni at a local rink in Vantaa, not far from Ruutu’s Helsinki home, to help pay the bills when Niemi was a semi-pro goaltender several years ago. A rags to riches kind of story. Last season, Niemi helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1961.
“I hope it will affect me the same way as Antti Niemi.” Ruutu says. “I hope it’s a step toward that.”
There have been rituals of luck far more odd for hockey players, but the video below is a small price to pay for a bit of luck. Had Ottawa gone for ice sculptures, despite Winterlude, it might have been too much.
A Spezza non-injury updated, the new style for Ottawa’s defence, a season of milestones, Fisher at personal and professional best, another opportunity for Cowen’s WHL growth, and dispelling a Lehner rumour, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, on Spezza’s peaking performance,
At 27 and entering his ninth year as a professional, Jason Spezza is at the midpoint of his career. It’s hasn’t been a bad one so far, if you base that assessment on the number of points he’s accumulated.
There are indications, however, that this might be Spezza’s much-awaited breakout season. He appears to be in better shape than ever. During the summer, he changed his training to emphasize work that would strengthen his back, which has long bothered him. He also looks noticeably bigger, especially in the upper body. Better yet, in four pre-season games, he had four goals and four assists.
Coach Cory Clouston has also been impressed. Spezza was a leader on and off the ice during training camp, he says, staying after practice to work on different parts of his game, such as faceoffs. His work ethic has rubbed off on the younger players, exactly what the coaching staff wants.
“When you’re in my position, you can see both sides,” says Clouston of the booing. “I think Jason has handled it exactly the way he needs to handle it. He’s basically used adversity to try to become a better player and a better person.”
Things are definitely taking a turn towards the ascent of Spezza, subtle as they may be.
Campoli and Lee look to make the most of Kuba’s and Hale’s absences, Gonchar adapting to Senators’ style but is style starting to follow him?, Ottawa’s goalies have opportunities but not without consequences, Lehner will get a steady development, looking for a hot year from a calm Spezza, Alfie still doesn’t feel he is bowing out, and a former Senator takes to the papers, but first. . .
The veteran defenceman was a victim of his two-way contract Tuesday, when the Senators — who are loathe to bury Brian Lee’s one-way, $875,000 cap hit in the minors — put Hale on waivers.
“We have six healthy defencemen to start the season and cap space to protect,” Senators GM Bryan Murray said in a statement.
With only $1.27 million left in cap space, Murray is trying to keep his options open before the start of the season. Hale makes $675,000 if he’s in the NHL and has a minor-league clause of $105,000.
This move might have been made to showcase Lee, whom the Senators considered dealing in the summer. Once the season begins and injuries take their toll, there could be teams looking for help on the back end.
A showcase for Lee, this might also be a small reminder of ownership’s aims.
The Senators gain perspective on things at CFB Petawawa, and a former Senator experiences the wild west of the KHL, but first. . .
“There were some very good things we saw from the goaltenders, but there were also a lot of inconsistencies in little areas that they really have to clean up. [...] “We didn’t get that, but we’re still confident we can have at least one guy ready to go to start the season.”
“I’m not saying we’re going to have (a rotation), but when you look around the league, there are a number of teams that don’t have a legitimate go-to guy,” said Clouston.
“There are maybe seven or eight teams over the last five to six years that have had that type of goaltender. [...] But there are a lot of guys just starting to become that goaltender and we think we have a couple of guys who are in that situation. One of those guys can and will step up. If they don’t, then we know we hopefully have another guy who can pick up the slack.”
“During training camp, teams are trying stuff, trying new things, and getting used to a whole bunch of new players,” [said Leclaire.]
“So it’s not the same. But as long as you feel good and you feel ready to go, I think we all know what we have to do when the season starts, and that’s the main thing”
It never ends in Ottawa, does it?
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