by SENShobo on 11/15/10 at 11:55 AM ET
Kuba’s return not all smiles, Elliott’s opportunity wide open, and condolences for the Richardson family, but first. . .
THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators’ challenging road trip got off on the right foot against the Boston Bruins Saturday night, but their next opponent is even tougher. The Philadelphia Flyers are feeling no ill effects from their long run through the playoffs last season and, interestingly, seem to be getting stronger with every passing game. Perhaps watching the Chicago Blackhawks pass the Stanley Cup around their rink last June is a motivating factor.
THE OPPONENT: Philadelphia has been dominant on both sides of the puck this season. Only the Washington Capitals score more goals per game (3.61 to 3.41) than the Flyers, and only four teams (Kings, Bruins. Habs and Blues) average fewer goals against. With a talented, young forward corps and a defence anchored by punishing elder statesman Chris Pronger, this is the team to beat in the East.
After a 2-0 blanking of Boston, it only makes sense to turn up the heat and see if the Senators can prove it’s not a fluke.
Despite a compelling 3-1 season series victory last season against the Flyers, tonight will be anything but a cake walk. In the Flyers, Ottawa stares down one of the most boisterous buildings in the NHL, and with good reason: taking only a slight step back from the Capitals in offense, the Flyers have finally risen to their place as a team to be reckoned with in the East, and there will be plenty of motivations driving both squads tonight.
Sure, it’s just another game, but to be a true contender the Flyers have to be able to take down the upstarts, what Ottawa currently is in the eyes of many prognosticators, and what they did so successfully last spring with the Canadiens. So far this season, the Flyers have re-signed both Giroux (4 years) and Carter (11 years), locking them into their core in the mold of recent championship teams. Once they start to excel, those not locked in as a part of the core disappear as costs rise, and that’s bound to happen in Philly too.
Giroux and Carter will both be motivated to come strong out of their new contracts, but it has to be others who will look around and wonder what to make of things. With less than $2 million in cap space next season and an incomplete roster, what will happen to guys like Leino, Zherdev, and Nodl? All are looking to boost their production, and doing well at it, but they will soon price themselves out of Philly, and to ensure a good landing elsewhere they will want to succeed at the highest levels. Not to mention wanting to take advantage of what they have now in a chance to win it all this season in Philly.
Tonight specifically, the Flyers will want to prove last season’s record against Ottawa was a fluke. They will want to shield the successful but still unproven Bobrovsky from any humiliation, much as Ottawa has tried to do with its ‘tenders. Perhaps Meszaros will feel some hostility towards his former team, having been declared extraneous in Tampa. And Perhaps unsung guys will step up. Just look at Powe: a mere 17 goals and 31 points in 140 GP. Yet in 6 GP against Ottawa, he’s 4-1—5. Must be the home cooking in Kanata.
While Senators coach Cory Clouston was hoping to ease the veteran blueliner into the lineup after he missed the first 16 games of the season, Kuba played 17:05 with partner Erik Karlsson on Saturday in Boston. It was the first time Kuba, who had back surgery at the end of last season and had an assist on Karlsson’s goal, had suited up for a game since March 18.
“I thought he looked poised back there,” said Clouston. “I’m happy with his game. He just didn’t really do anything to get himself into trouble. He adds a calmness and a presence back there that we miss when he’s not in the lineup. That’s not to slight David Hale because David came in and filled in very, very well. It’s nice to have (Kuba) back.”
Kuba’s return means the back end is a bit crowded with eight defencemen in camp. Hale could be sent back to the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton at any time because he’s on a two-way contract. But if they try to send him down, the Senators may lose him on waivers because there are plenty of teams — including Tampa, Colorado and San Jose — in the market for defencemen.
It is an undervalued steadying of Karlsson and balancing on the blue line pairings that Kuba brings to the Senators, and after 5-10 games it will be interesting to note the transformation that the blue line may be showing. But it does put the team in an awkward position with the veteran Hale.
Meant to steady the forces in Binghamton, Hale proved a more capable replacement for the injured Kuba than Lee. But now that he bridged the 10 game mark on Thursday, one game shy of Kuba’s return, he can no longer be sent down without clearing waivers, according to the Citizen’s Allen Panzeri, and you can bet that it won’t be as clear a demotion as Brian McGrattan.
It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this, but there is really no way to guarantee he goes down. It could even wind up as I’ve seen before, where a demoted player is claimed by a team, only to have the former employers part with a late round pick to bring him back. You could hope that there is some respect for a more veteran player, but in this day and age it doesn’t seem to mean much. Once again, the farm team may wind up with the short stick after propping up the cropping up issues of their patron NHL squad, adding to a long list that’s long overdue for more positive exchanges.
With the way Brian Elliott has been playing, and especially with the 2-0 shutout he threw at the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, it appears that it will be tough for Leclaire to get back in net for the Ottawa Senators for much more than the odd game.
Clouston thought that Elliott looked fully in control in Boston.
“Very comfortable, very confident, and poised … those are the words that come to mind when I think (about Saturday’s game),” Clouston said.
“And just really solid rebound control. Just a couple of times, when they did crash the net, he was strong in the crease, he didn’t get pushed around, and he was able to control the rebounds. Against a team like Boston that’s a very strong, physical team and goes to the net hard, it’s so important to not allow rebounds.”
“He doesn’t have to make spectacular save when he’s at his best,” Clouston said. “He’s just in good position and has very good rebound control, and, if the highlight reel save has to (be made), he’s able to make that because he is in good position.
A 2.58 GAA and .918 Sv% are still dead average in this League, and buoyed by that 2-0 shutout of Boston it will take a great deal more to solidify his claim to a reliable production of those stats. Given the past two results, a 2-0 shutout for Elliott and a 6-2 loss for Leclaire, you would think that it is as all tied up for the late round pick as it is coming unraveled for the high round pick, but there is one grave consideration to take into account for the quick infusion of emotion into the Senators lineup.
From the Ottawa Sun, on the Richardson family’s personal tragedy,
Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson is opening up his second home — Scotiabank Place — to the community Wednesday to celebrate his daughter’s life.
On Saturday, 14-year-old Daron Richardson, died in hospital[...].
The ceremony to honour Daron will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Richardson family has asked that, in lieu of floweers, donations be made to the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health Youth Program.
A true tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with the Richardson family at this time.
But it is impossible to read the quotes from players and Ottawa staff and not realize that this could well have charged them all as they outplayed Boston on Saturday. It’s an association you don’t ever want to make, but it is undeniably on their minds, and a win tonight that nobody is expecting from the Senators would go a long way to showing that the team is meant to be in a playoff spot, and that they truly do carry the Richardson family in their hearts.
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