Kukla's Korner


Team-First the Key to a Fresh Ottawa Start

Maturity the key to succeeding in a team-first Senators game, defensive responsibility the key to winning and turning the corner from last season, full committment and dedication from the players expected to take the team to greater heights, Winchester working hard to prove his worth while staying grounded, and a few roster updates for tonight’s game.

Check your ego at the door(OC). That’s the message Hartsburg has been preaching (well, one of many) leading up to the beginning of the season. Part of the team mentality is that you will do what is asked of you. If you are Fisher, asked to play on the third line with Ruutu and Neil, you will not hesitate. If you are Spezza, and you are not playing up to the level expected of you, you should not be surprised to see your ice time reduced.

Sound strange? That’s really a big key to getting the team to be a team. Look at the success of Montreal last season, or Buffalo two years ago; both teams successfully pushed the concept of teamwork and balanced attack (compared to the big line in Ottawa and three lines unsure of their purpose). Now it is time to bring that success to the Senators. It carried both other teams far in their seasons, and no doubt it can work for the Sens. All that character Murray brought in and Hartsburg stressed over the summer? It’s time for it to start showing.

The Sens’ game will change this season, with the goal of changing the team’s fortunes along with it(OC). Last season, the high-powered Ottawa offence delivered a League-high 3.15 goals per game. The cost? Placing 24th in the League with 2.95 goals against per game, meaning that after five games, the Sens would only have scored one more goal than their opponents, not at all a surefire way to guarantee a win.

This season will be about committment and dedication, to work as a team to make life hard for opposing scorers. The technique was on display Wednesday, when the Sens limited the Flyers to only 11 shots, which any goalie should be able to deal with. Last season the team was 20th in the League, allowing 30 shots against per game. The League leader only allowed 23.5, and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Notice a pattern? Defence wins Cups.

Granted, it won’t be likely that the Sens will limit all teams to 11 shots, but on average, every 10 shots you eliminate should save you one goal. Eliminating 19 shots a game might be a challenge, but what about seven and a half? That should have been the key to taking Ottawa from 2.95 goals against per game down to 2.2, second only to Detroit’s 2.18 last season.

Don’t expect to see a trap or a waiting style game from Ottawa, only a more responsible game without the puck. Oh, and did I mention it should include seeing a lot more of Phillips, Volchenkov, Smith, and Kuba crushing opposing forwards into the boards? For the good of the team, of course.

All in, whatever it takes(OS). That would be the slogan painted on the wall of the Senators’ dressing room, replacing the Stanley Cups that were a tribute to the original Senators’ victories. That slogan, motto, or mantra, however you see it, will define the team this season.

‘Whatever it takes’ must be going through the heads of several players who have so far survived the Training Camp roster cuts. It must be on the minds of Lee, Picard, Bell, Schubert, and Richardson, five men competing for the last two spots on defence (along with the illustrious position of 7th defenceman). It must be on the minds of Winchester, Foligno, Bass, Carkner, Zack Smith, Carkner, and Regin, rookies who have all been varying opportunities to prove themselves, and certainly not one among them eager to waste even a moment of them.

It must be going through the heads of every player on the team, who just over a year ago felt so close to their ultimate goal, and now know what the greatest of falls feels like. Not one player here isn’t hungry for their chance, and not one player here, purposefully by design, would hesitate to give themselves and their energy to the team, if it would bring them even one step closer to the Cup.

Winchester is trying to take his position on the top line in stride (OS, OSW). Certainly, few players are lucky enough to make their first NHL season, and find themselves playing with a pair of superstars. But Winchester will be working plenty hard to earn that spot, and to help make Hartsburg’s goal of balanced scoring a reality. Just as he was in Kitchener, he is continuing to show good hockey sense and awareness, and should not be a cause for worry on the ice. To the contrary, once he starts feeling more comfortable with his new linemates and with his new place in the NHL, he stands a good chance of being the first non-Alfie to stick on the top line.

A few lineup changes are in store for tonight’s game in Montreal (OS). Alfie will not make the trip (but will play Saturday), nor will Donovan, who is reportedly dealing with a hip flexor problem. Fisher and Picard continue to recover from their groin injuries, and so McAmmond draws into the lineup. Auld will play the full game.

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


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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