Kukla's Korner


Turnaround is Fair Play

The Sens fall to the Rangers in an outmatched but not completely outplayed game, and last night was last call for several rookies looking to make an impression by leaving their mark on the ice and on Ottawa’s management and coaching staff.

Not that it was what we wanted to see, but last night’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers was not too surprising, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, the Ottawa Senators’ website, and TSN. Winning their first game 3-2 while icing their pros against New York’s less star-studded cast, tonight’s rematch reversal had to leave you expecting a different ending. While the subtraction of Spezza, Heatley, Alfie, and Fisher, as well as the addition of Lundqvist to the Rangers could easily be responsible for Ottawa’s drop from 3 goals down to 1, more surprising is that the Sens replacing starter Gerber with Auld and standout prospect Elliot with Glass, losing the defensive presence of our stars along with Smith, and the Rangers’ addition of half a dozen stars still left them with the same 2 goals as the first game.

From what I gathered from some fans, there was a bit of disappointment that Auld let in 2 shots, despite the other 28 saves (.933 Sv%) he made over two periods. Nedved’s snap shot was just high enough to pass over Auld’s stick, but low enough to not get caught by his falling legs, and the other goal was an unfortunate deflection, long the bane of goaltenders. Otherwise, you can hardly complain with that standout performance, nor could you be disappointed that Glass’ debut saw him make 8 saves to continue Auld’s work of keeping the game close, which it should not have been.

A couple of the pleasant surprises for me came from sources that others had long seemed to rule out. First, Richardson looked very steady on the blueline, making some very smooth and effective defensive plays at both even strength and on the penalty kill. The other pleasant surprise was Isbister. I had been hearing that he was too old, too unwilling to use his 6’4 frame to his advantage, and yet last night he was a physical presence in the Rangers’ end, and his size was very much at play as he outraced ex-Senator Redden to feed McAmmond a nice pass that ended New York’s bid for a shutout.

It was not surprising that the two teams would be trying to rotate as many players as possible (New York has another game today as well as one tomorrow, and both need to trim rosters before heading overseas). Playing your stars in front of your home audience makes good sense: it shows them who they are there to see of course. But alternating star-studded-status allows each team to get a good chance at a morale-boosting win - great coming after a disappointing season for both teams - it prevents a head-to-head skills matchup that could cause injuries due to more intense competition, and also seeing your rookies go up against a team of stars really allows you to see if they can rise to meet the challenge, as the Rangers’ Dubinsky proved he could on Satuday and again to a less-flashy degree last night. It also gives you a chance to see how the teams deal with adversity, as the Sens worked very hard killing penalties and playing defensively, but took too long to break into a more offensive mindset.

It’s never easy to make a good first impression on the big stage, but the shortened North American preseason schedule means that for some, one game will be all the time they get, from the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Senators’ website. If you aren’t expected to make the team, as Glass, Regin, and Zubov were not seen as likely to do so, last night would mark the one chance they had to make a difference in the mind of the coaching and management staffs. Granted, could you be disappointed if you were Glass, stopping all 8 shots you faced, and helping to keep the Senators’ offense ready to burst out as long as you could? Zubov made some good impressions with flashes of aggressiveness and forechecking, including hunting down the puck in the dying seconds with Glass on the bench. Even Regin made a few good strides, especially defensively.

“This is the first time I’‘ll be tested on this level, so it’s a big opportunity to show what I’ve got,” he said before last night’s game. “I felt it was the right time for me to come over, and we’ll see if I’ll start up here or down in (Binghamton of the American Hockey League).

“My goal is to be in Ottawa within two years. I signed a two-year contract, so I want to make the team within two years, hopefully as quick as possible.

“I know it’s tough. There are a lot of good players in this camp, so it’s tough to make the team, but I want to do my best and show the best I’ve got, and then I can’t do anything more.”

A humble attitude like that, shared notably by Zubov, is exactly the mature, responsible, hardworking mindset that Hartsburg and Murray are undoubtedly looking forward to seeing, and indeed the kind of behaviour that will get them a very thorough consideration as injuries or later on expiring contracts and trades free up some space on Ottawa’s roster. Nonetheless, it should be expected that sometime later today, Ottawa will announce the return of all three of these players to their clubs, as part of another reduction of the team roster.

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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