by SENShobo on 09/28/08 at 01:35 PM ET
The North American pre-season ended on a positive note last night as the Sens beat the Habs 3-1, with Foligno playing a first-star game with energy and success all over the ice, and a few more roster decisions set the team up to begin their European expedition.
The Sens beat the Habs 3-1 last night, allowing themselves to fly to Europe tonight on a good note (TSN, OC, OS). It would have been more convincing if the game hadn’t stayed so close, despite Ottawa with a nearly full roster and the Habs missing half a dozen of their top players, but the boost before beginning their trip was likely worth it.
All it took to get Gerber in shape was to allow a goal on the first shot of the game, 35 seconds in, a quick snap shot. From then on, nothing else would pass him by. By the end of the period, Foligno would give a highlight-reel goal, dodging around stud defenceman Komisarek to flip the puck over Denis’ arm while falling to the ice. In the second, it would be a quick one-two as Neil would give the Sens the lead, and Alfie would do what he does so well, sneaking behind the last Montreal player to take a pass from Spezza, and then streaking in to put the Sens up by two.
It would have been a better victory had the team been facing a full Montreal squad, and more so had Hartsburg not bumped Alfie up to the top line.
“We needed (Jesse) Winchester on the second line,” Hartsburg said jokingly. “How can you not like the line? You want to do some things and see where your team can be in certain situations. I thought when we started the game, it looked like we needed a little spark.
“We started camp and we said we wanted to split it up. We know what they can do together. I gave Jesse a chance to play with (Spezza and Heatley) and it gave him some confidence. It’s good for our young players, but at the end of the day (Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson) can be one of the best lines in hockey if we keep them together.”
Despite their success together, it has always been apparent, especially since the Finals two season ago, that they present one of the most tantalizing targets for physical defencemen and checking lines, and given the fun the team has had with losing its top players, it never seems to make sense lining them all up for any opposing line to take a shot at, or to so successfully shut down. Tell me how much success any one-line team has had. Really, time is needed, and I hope that this is not Hartsburg being impatient as Paddock was, jumping the gun to get the top line back together.
Foligno earned the game’s first star last night, in a performance that should leave no doubt as to where he will spend the next 82 games (OS). Aside from his amazing effort to tie the game, he brought energy to every shift, and even had another great chance that missed, failing to connect after a deke on a shorthanded break. He may not be Crosby, Ovechkin, or Kane, but he is showing that he can be a solid player all over the ice, bringing energy and determination, and he is giving the team exactly what it needs right now.
The Senators send six home, and bring one more back for a (possibly final) year in skates (OS, MW, OSW). Bell, Carkner, Isbister, Regin, and Mauldin were sent down before last night’s game, with Zack Smith following this morning. That leaves the team at 24 players - 3 goalies, 8 defencemen, 13 forwards - all of whom will be making the trip to Europe tonight.
Bell was likely the most disappointed of the bunch, hoping to get a shot at playing in Ottawa before the Tampa trade made things more complicated, though I’m sure he’ll be one of the first to get a call should injuries mount. None of the others had much chance of making the team to start the season, but all helped to show their usefulness, including Carkner as a rough customer should we need one. Of interest to see will be whether Isbister jumps to Europe, or gets the chance, as his contract reportedly has an out clause that lets him sign there if he isn’t in the NHL by November 7th.
The one player to earn more than some expected was Richardson, whose one year, two-way deal was announced at Scotiabank Place last night. He will likely see little time in the NHL, but he will undoubtedly be a great mentor for the younger players in Binghamton. Should he be called up, I expect that he will continue to be a solid presence on the blueline, and while he won’t chip in too much, he won’t check out on any shift either.
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