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.
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.
How should age affect the Senators, and notes on Gonchar’s milestone, Ottawa’s injuries, the team’s outside ranking, and the unflappable Eugene Melnyk, but first. . .
The Ottawa Senators’ 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night was not as bad as it looked.
“We worked hard coming back into the zone,” Clouston said Monday. “We created turnovers, (but) we did nothing with the turnovers. Therefore, we get the puck, do nothing with it, it ends up being turned over again in our zone, and you just spend the whole game on that vicious rollercoaster, and we just couldn’t get off of it.”
To tackle the X’s and O’s, Clouston spent Monday’s practice on what the team didn’t do against the Canadiens: supporting each other, especially their defencemen.
“We worked on breakouts, regroups, everything under pressure, making sure we have a plan once we gain puck possession,” he said. “We did a good job of creating turnovers just about every time we had numbers at our blue line, which we wanted. We gained puck possession ... and we didn’t do anything with the puck. The result was that we ended up in our zone way too much.”
It’s the subtle differences that make it all the much harder to engrain.
Cap troubles bind Ottawa’s hands from digging them out of this hole, and Alfredsson’s success highlights team’s malaise, but first. . .
From the Ottawa Citizen, holes are everywhere in Ottawa’s ship,
“It’s not just one thing. If it was one thing, you could address it. But it seems to be all parts of our game. Obviously, getting the puck to the net and creating offensive opportunities and taking care of our own end and getting outworked at times.” — Chris Kelly, following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Put into the most simplistic terms, the Senators don’t shoot enough, don’t defend enough and endure way too many lapses where they don’t seem to do anything at all.
The top players must show more than the limited flashes of inspired play they’ve shown so far. The Senators have scored 16 goals in eight games. At a mere two goals per game, that’s the worst output of all 30 NHL teams.
There are problems just about everywhere. If there’s a positive, it’s that the supposed weak link of the team, goaltending, has been fine, if not spectacular. Still, goaltenders can’t win without offensive and defensive support.
What is left for the team to do?
Elliott’s numbers should finally play in his favour, Murray attempts to address lacking defensive confidence in Kuba’s absence, Leclaire hits ice again, and Kovalev remembers the value of hard work, but first. . .
Following Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and general manager Bryan Murray’s outburst Wednesday about underachieving players and trade possibilities, Thursday’s workout featured significant changes.
Struggling defenceman Erik Karlsson was bumped from the first power-play unit, which will now feature forwards Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Mike Fisher along with defenceman Sergei Gonchar.
“Just creating more shot opportunities, getting more shots to the net,” Clouston said when asked about the new alignment. “Having a net presence. Teams are pressuring us a lot, so we want to make sure we’re in position to relieve pressure, whether it’s closer passes or options where we put pucks in the corners.”
Thursday’s practice also featured a lengthy drill on proper line changes. The Penguins made the Senators pay for a penalty for too many men on the ice on Monday night, and Ottawa led NHL with 13 such penalties during the 2009-10 season.
A passive team? They bag skate. A bad power play? They switch it up. A failure to change lines? They go back to the basics. It almost makes sense.
Ottawa not displaying mobility that Gonchar was supposed to usher in, Hale comes up with Ottawa desperate for defensive dependability, Smith sent down to get back into form, Clouston losing patience with Ottawa’s lack of focus, and Kovalev looking as listless as ever, but first. . .
When Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray holds a press conference, it usually comes with a couple jokes, a handful of ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ asides and a big helping of coyness.
On Wednesday morning, there was no such joviality. With his team sitting last in the National Hockey League standings and fans panicking left and right, this was all business. So it was an angry, blunt Murray who stepped to the podium after coach Cory Clouston ran his squad through a breath-stealing bag skate at Scotiabank Place.
Few escaped his criticism and all heard this threat: “I’ve talked to a number of people, as I said. I talked to (Minnesota Wild general manager) Chuck Fletcher for a long time yesterday and said, ‘can I help you, you help me’ type of thing, so we’re talking to management of other teams, trying to find if there is a need and a possibility of making a move. That’s not always the solution, but I think it’s something that maybe sends a little message to our players, so we will continue to pursue something.”
If you wanted to boil it down to a sentence, it would go something like this: Get it together if you like living here.
Anything for a win, right? Hopefully not quite so.
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