Kukla's Korner


Little To Ruutu For In Sens 4-1 Loss

Ottawa’s plans in the crease, Ryan Shannon thugged, Pierre McGuire nearly gets KO-ed, and Mike Fisher’s true value, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC, NHL), on Wednesday’s 4-1 pre-season loss to the Leafs,

“Early on, I think we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with the penalties, but we kind of settled things down and by the third, for myself personally, I was seeing the puck a little better,” said Elliott. “Just kind of playing confident and cool in there. Just kind of getting jitters out at the start. I felt I ended the game on a good note, so that’s what you want to do.
Disconcerting, however, were the familiar flaws in Elliott’s game. He was worst on the deflating Nikolai Kulemin goal that opened the scoring for Toronto four minutes into the game. A soft point shot by Jesse Blacker was redirected into Elliott, but the goalie could not get his glove on it before Kulemin poked it home.

“It”s pre-season and you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. Sort things out with the D-men as well,” said Elliott. “But, for the most part, I think we played all right. They obviously had a more offensive lineup than (Tuesday).”

The big lesson from Wednesday? Too many rookies spoils the broth, err, roster.

On paper, the biggest change from Tuesday was in goal, with Elliott replacing Lehner. Aside from the huge turnaround in blue and white, you learned tonight that you cannot replace Kelly, Neil, Locke, Keller, and Spencer with Regin, O’Brien, Lessard, Bass, and Ruutu, while taking out Campoli and Carkner and replacing them with Wiercioch and Karlsson, and expect that results won’t change.

Nor can you hand over ten power play opportunities and expect that you won’t regret it.

The key changes were all on the other bench, with guys like Kessel, Bozak, Kulemin, and Grabovski — each responsible for one of Toronto’s four goals — coming in to increase firepower, while seasoned big bodies in Komisarek, Schenn, and Beauchemin served to keep Ottawa’s forwards in check.

On one hand, both Karlsson and to a lesser extent Wiercioch looked good on the power play, with deft passes and good moves to dodge hits, and Lee looking more calm and poised than previous seasons, a must for him to secure any shot at the third pairing this season. That, and with Foligno’s second pretty goal in two nights, he is making a case to see himself moved ahead of Regin on the depth charts.

But on the other hand, Wiercioch, Karlsson, and Benoit all looked flimsy in their own end, unable to chase down the Leafs’ speedier forwards or keep them away from Elliott, helping to give them enough chances to climb to four goals, while Cowen looked less than effective in the offensive zone, foregoing passing opportunities to shoot pucks into already-dropped shot blockers. The team as a whole got sloppier on breakouts, getting penned in on the hard work Caputi-assisted goal, and not giving themselves as many options to move the puck up the ice without getting their passes picked off.

The team’s 70% penalty kill served to highlight the real break: had Ottawa been as successful as Toronto on the kill, the game would have been one goal for the Leafs on 19 even strength shots, and one goal for the Sens on 10. For all the noise over the four goals Elliott allowed, it is not clear cut what to make of it all. Elliott should have been able to cover up on one, but playing over a fifth of the game down at least one man does nothing to help the cause. By the end of the game, stopping a couple of potentially lethal breakaways, Elliott looked more solid again in the latter half of the game, and still has time to stave off more controversy in the crease.

From Senators Extra, on Ottawa’s plans for goalies this season,

However Ottawa’s goalie dilemma resolves itself, coach Cory Clouston wants someone to emerge as the No. 1 goalie. He can’t see splitting the 82-game schedule down the middle and handing half to Leclaire and the other half to Elliott. That arrangement just never works.

“I’d prefer a starter, for sure – I’ve said that from Day 1,” Clouston said Wednesday. “I want someone to come up and say ‘This job is mine and I want as many games as possible.’”

Let’s just say that this has been only one game under each of Lehner and Elliott, a game apiece against weak competition and a weak supporting cast compared to what they’ll have to work with and work against in a few weeks. As the cuts come and the team makes its way closer to actual NHL skill and pace, the evaluations will start to count; for the moment, don’t count anyone out.

From Youtube, on Shannon’s forced exit from the game,

While the first angle doesn’t look anything more than brutal, Allen Panzeri seems to have the second, head-on angle in mind in his tweets,

6-3, 215 Leafs thug Jay Rosehill proves his manhood by ramming the smallest guy on the ice, Ryan Shannon, headfirst into the boards. [Shannon is generously listed at 5-9]

Rosehill didn’t even get a penalty but should have. It’s exactly what the NHL wants out of the game but doesn’t get called.

Shannon won’t be back tonight. Being held out for precautionary reasons. He had a cut lip but concussion is a worry. He had one last year.

I still have trouble seeing Shannon as someone who can work on energy or checking lines, but this is not the way he needs to be ruled out of the lineup. Not an easy call to make as a referee, but even if quietly, this will be looked at by the NHL, if only to add to Rosehill’s reputation.

From Puck Daddy, a more out-of-the-box (and yet somehow eerily into-the-box) hit,

Listening to the radio this morning, I can confirm that McGuire’s self-preservation instincts are in top form.

From Ian Mendes, on Mike Fisher’s unheralded strength,

Fisher, according to the vast majority of Ottawa fans, is a gritty centreman who doesn’t put up the offensive numbers generally associated with players in the top six. But because Fisher is being paid like a top-six forward ($4.2 million cap hit), head coach Cory Clouston has to pencil him in as the No. 2 centre every night.

There is only one problem with this line of thinking: It’s completely false.

Not only is Fisher a legitimate second-line centre—he’s one of the better ones in the NHL. And yes, I’m speaking of Fisher from an offensive standpoint.

Mendes goes on to explore his redefined role for a 2nd line center a couple decades after more run-and-gun times when the GAA’s of guys like Miller and Rask were unheard of. For an alternate take, seeing Fisher as still a disappointment compared to his 29 other counterparts, head on over to the 6th Sens, where indeed you can see a breakdown showing that seven 2nd line centers in the NHL are more productive than Fisher, when ignoring Bergeron’s concussions and the team-wide aberration that was the Ottawa Senators’ 2008-09 season.

That would still leave over two-thirds of the League who can’t boast a Mike Fisher, not to mention those, when the 6th Sens refers to underperforming centers, who can barely exceed him in a 1st line role. Not too shabby. Only Kesler and Pavelski have noticeably more shorthanded time on ice per game than Fisher, and that alludes to the other key part to value in Fisher: he can work at both ends of the ice. Would you feel as confident seeing Briere or Connolly hop over the boards alongside Alfredsson to kill a penalty? For me, it’s that confidence that allows me to opine for a more offensively aggressive third line, since with a more equally shared defensive responsibility, the offensive opportunities could be better spread around as well.

Then again, the grass is always greener on the other side.

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


Flashtastick56's avatar

Great headline.  It took me, like, 2 minutes to figure out what you were saying, haha.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 09/23/10 at 11:48 AM ET

SENShobo's avatar

If it drew you in, what else can I ask for?

If I hada gem like Halak/A Lack to work with, I would have given you, the reader, a better one.

Posted by SENShobo from Waterloo, ON on 09/23/10 at 12:15 PM ET

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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.

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