by SENShobo on 09/27/08 at 11:35 AM ET
There was not much delight to be found last night as the Sens lost 5-0 to the Habs other than the assurance that there won’t be much time to dwell on it before the rematch in Ottawa tonight or the flight to Europe the following morning, but there is always some good to be found as Winchester continues to be a steady presence on the top line, and as Alfie might be signing an extension soon over some discussions between his agent and Sens management in Europe.
Questions are the last thing the Sens need, but the only thing they walked away with after last night’s 5-0 drubbing in Montreal (OS, OC, TSN). Sitting two of their best defencemen in Phillips and Smith, and without the services of Alfie or Fisher, two of their better leaders and two-way forwards, you could do worse than to wonder how teetering a team the Sens are currently. The Habs, who played last night’s game missing far more veterans due to injury, appeared to be a united team built on a solid foundation, while the Sens more closely resembled a house of cards.
After hanging on to end the first period scoreless, the Sens foolishly tested last year’s best powerplay in the second. The Habs would connect on three of their six chances for a lethal 50% success rate. In the Rookie Tournament and other pre-season games, the penalty killing units had seemed to be the one area where Ottawa could regain their focus, but last night they were more like a piece of paper, crumpling in towards Auld and allowing Montreal to make some very nice powerplay moves to net their goals, rather than previous games where they forced teams to try for uglier, screened goals.
With Schubert, Lee, Bell, and Richardson looking to make the team, none did themselves many favours. While it is a puck-mover Murray wants, it was likely Richardson, with his economical skills, who proved to be the most reliable yet again. Picard has been hoping to suit up for tonight’s last game against Montreal, and it will give the Sens one last chance to find a team within the players of the organization, and to start building the chemistry needed to succeed that even Heatley, Spezza, and Winchester lacked. For some, the regular season can’t come soon enough, but I wouldn’t expect the Senators to be feeling particularly confident and ready to face it just yet.
If you had to be a rookie looking to earn his spot with the Ottawa Senators, you could do worse than to be Jesse Winchester (OS). Surely, pressure doesn’t come much higher than for he who suits up next to Heatley and Spezza, but Winchester has continued to show a calm, smart, and hardworking attitude the whole time.
“If, at any point, he had struggled, he wouldn’t be there,” said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, who has praised Winchester’s awareness on the ice. “He’s getting more comfortable and Heatley and Spezza are getting more comfortable with him. If it continues, that gives us more options.”
Sure, he didn’t score a goal last night, but he did manage to make use of the puck when he got it, and even came to Heatley’s defense when a scrum broke out. Can you think of a time when you watched Winchester make a grave error that lead to a goal against the Sens? Don’t expect to see many of those, as his maturity has been his strength in these games, and as the pressure rises for the season opening games in Europe, you can bet that you will see Winchester still on that top line, looking calm, cool, and collected, and ready to do what is necessary to earn his keep.
Alfredsson might be the next player to sign a new deal, as his agent J.P. Barry will sit down with Murray and Melnyk during the club’s European trip to talk about an extension (OC). The three option years that would pay him $3.8 million a season are not exactly how management envisions paying the team’s leader on and off the ice, and they might not be comfortable that 70 games played and 70 points on the season are all it takes for Alfie to have control. It seems that Barry has presented contracts in the 4 to 5 year range as a starting point, and I’m sure both Murray and Melnyk will do what it takes to pay respect to Alfie and his work, and get him signed to a very respectable contract, and soon.
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