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SENShobo

Ottawa Neither On Track Nor Off The Rails

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?

Seven teams thus far have failed to capitalize on their road opportunities, another six have yet to take advantage at home. Only three have failed to capitalize at all, including both the Senators and the Montreal Canadiens. Like Ottawa with Kuba, the Canadiens are missing a key piece in Markov, and like Ottawa with Karlsson are adding pressure to their young gun on the point in Subban. How much you doubt the Canadiens’ ability to get back on track should also relate to confidence in the Senators’ chances.

Ottawa has been as high as 20.8% in the year after the lockout, on down to17.9%, 18.3%, 19.5%, and finally 16.9% on the power play last season. Not much fluctuation overall, even less if you ignore the first post-lockout year when Ottawa was flying at its highest and teams were adjusting to new kill strategies. Last year the team lost Heatley, and with him one of their most deadly elements with the extra man, and their 2.6% drop does not look at all surprising.

Clouston has not shown a hesitance to mix things up when they don’t work, and should Ottawa continue to struggle to get the machine in motion, don’t be surprised to see Gonchar moving back to his familiar side, to see Neil come into play in the crease, and to see a new strategy evolve for a team that is missing its potent forward sniper, but should find itself with good options from the blue line. With a great 86.7% start on the penalty kill, including hard fought 5 on 3 moments and great goaltending under pressure, there is time to wait on a squad that could not work on these systems in the pre-season, or retool them in playing three games in four nights in Ottawa, Toronto, and Washington.

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC), Clouston’s remarks confuse Ottawa’s situation in goal,

“We need him to make that last one,” said Clouston. “It was very disappointing. To me, if you’re thinking of Ovechkin’s shot, he didn’t get all of it. There wasn’t a whole lot on it.”

Clouston’s reaction was a little surprising. He has every right to criticize the goal. It wasn’t good. You could argue Leclaire has given up one of those in all three games the Senators have played this season. Derek Roy’s winner in a 2-1 loss to the Sabres Friday was a bank shot from behind the net. The fifth goal in Toronto wasn’t good, either.
[...]
Given Clouston’s reaction, it would make sense for him to start Elliott against the Hurricanes. The Senators need a victory to get back on track.
[...]
The last time Leclaire played Carolina Feb. 4, he was coming back from a concussion, gave up two goals on five shots and didn’t last the first 10 minutes. He made only six regular-season appearances after that.

Given that amazing reflex saves, with Leclaire channeling shades of Hasek at times, are his specialty, it would make sense that the routine save focus he’s been working on would warrant comment from Clouston. In his criticisms, however, he’s made a story out of a great player who knows he’s been Ottawa’s best, getting beat writers to chase him down rather than any of the 18 men struggling outside the crease.

In a city of endless goalie issues, Clouston has refused to hand over the reins so easily to Leclaire, in spite of his great work, and breaking clear from previous failed “win-and-you’re-in” strategies. That Carolina spelled the end of Leclaire’s time as Ottawa’s No.1 last season would give Clouston ample reason to prepare for possibly starting Elliott instead, to keep the competition healthy, and remove the mental stigma.

That, and with eight games left before November that feature four separate two or three day gameless blocks, no goaltender could truly get on a roll. Better to roll them both out, and wait for a good resume to form, in advance of November, featuring two two day gameless blocks and 14 starts overall in need of judicious doling out.

From the Ottawa Sun (and SENS), Alfredsson already rallying the troops,

Alfredsson called a “players’ only” meeting at the Verizon Center on Monday to air out any concerns after two ugly losses.

“We just talked about the whole situation and what our approach is going to be going forward in every area,” said Alfredsson. “We can’t do anything about what happened before. We just have to get better and move forward.”
[...]
“The message was: Don’t panic. It’s only two games and we know we’re a good team,” said Senators winger Nick Foligno. “We just had to get back to basics and understand what we’re doing wrong and what we did right last year that made us successful.

“We did that (Monday). We showed what we’re capable of when we’re playing the right way. It’s unfortunate that we lost in overtime, but we took a lot of good things out of that game. We’re going to move forward and keep building on that. If we keep doing that stuff, we’re going to win a lot more games.”

Taking things into their own hands just two games into the season? Nothing bad to say about that. Bring on the next 79.

Update - 10:27 a.m. - From Joy Lindsay:

Team photo being taken on the ice at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, and guess who’s in it? Robin Lehner has arrived.

Now something to watch for down on the farm, too.

Update - 10:29 a.m. - From Wayne Scanlan:

No Alfredsson on the ice for #Sens. He’s in the hallway talking to GM Bryan Murray + strength coach

Looking more and more like a game time decision, sadly. Could be that the Wolverine-caliber healing powers are fading after being so generous over the years.

Update - 11:03 a.m. - From Wayne Scanlan:

Zack Smith on #Sens first line. Kovalev now a fourth liner. Yikes.

The fact that Alfredsson is apparently working out off ice is a good sign that he’ll be a game time decision. The fact that Kovalev is on the fourth line makes one wonder what it takes to light a fire under this man.

Update - 12:25 p.m. - From Senators Extra, on both Alfredsson and the goalies,

Daniel Alfredsson will be in the lineup when the Ottawa Senators face the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place Thursday night.

The Senators’ captain suffered a lower-body injury in a game against Washington Monday and it wasn’t certain he’d be ready to play. Zack Smith will likely come out of the lineup as a result.

Coach Cory Clouston also revealed goaltender Brian Elliott will start one of the next two games. The Senators play the Canadiens in Montreal Saturday night.

All wrapped up nice and neatly, and probably the best issue that could be hurting Alfie.

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

Comments

Avatar

No reason to panic for Sens fans.  This is a playoff team. Every team in the league will lose 3 in a row, doing it now magnifies it. Neuvirth stole the game for us the other night, I’m betting Ottawa wins 2 or 3 in a row soon.

Posted by flacco5 on 10/13/10 at 12:22 PM ET

Avatar

The power play discussion is interesting.  Any hockey fan knows Gonchar is one of the best offensive defensemen and power play quarterbacks in the league.  And yet, somewhat mystifyingly, the Penguin power play was typically ranked in the bottom half of the league when he ran it, despite no shortage of skilled players on the ice.

I will be curious to see how Ottawa’s PP is this year, once there’s more of a sample.

Posted by Lex Talionis on 10/13/10 at 12:56 PM ET

SENShobo's avatar

It is curious, and still you can’t ignore that he has put up the quarterback numbers.

09-10: 30PPP (3rd to Green, 35PPP, Doughty, 31PPP)
08-09: 13PPP in 25GP (would place him with Green, 38PPP in 68GP, and Markov, 39PPP in 78GP)
07-08: 46PPP (1st, followed by Lidstrom and Streit, 34PPP each)
06-07: 48PPP (tied for 1st with Souray, followed by Zubov, 40PPP)
05-06: 38PPP (7th, well behind Kaberle, 51PPP, and Lidstrom, 50PPP)

On one hand, there’s consistency. On the other, that first Pittsburgh year could mean chemistry took time to develop, and he is no spring chicken. Still far too early just three games in with Kuba out, Fisher, Spezza, and Alfredsson all nursing minor injury recoveries, and Kovalev anything but in form.

Posted by SENShobo from Waterloo, ON on 10/13/10 at 01:59 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

Clouston has apparently announced Alfie will be in the lineup on Thursday…so no need to doubt those healing powers yet.

You definitely get the impression from watching the guys on the ice that they are a little frustrated trying to force the chemistry to develop. Playing these three games, two on the road, so close together probably doesn’t help.

Still, they seem to be either trying to get way too cute (especially when trying to gain the zone) with the passing plays. When that doesn’t work, they go to the other extreme and individuals try to do everything themselves.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 10/13/10 at 04:58 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.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net