Senators 4, Leafs 3
With 17 goals against, Ottawa's still in the top third of the NHL for least amount of goals allowed since the Olympic break. If they could remedy their scoring, they'll be in a comfortable position heading into the playoffs. That being said, I'm hoping that Luca Caputi isn't the only Italian whose addition to a roster can inspire a team. With the probable returns of Chris Campoli and Nick Foligno, I have to pick the Senators to win at home, a place where they've played well -- 23-9-4 -- this season.
Lately the Senators are doing have been doing their best Adrian Peterson impersonation by repeatedly fumbling the ball when it matters most. With a 1-4-1 record in their past six games, Ottawa's squandering their opportunity to secure a home ice advantage for the playoffs. While it's not a fait accompli, it is disconcerting when you look at the team's polarizing home-and-away splits:
- Home: 23-9-4
- Away: 14-18-1
Like I mentioned in my last article, it hasn't been the Senators ability to keep the puck out of the net that has let this team down. Since the Olympic break, the team has actually been in the top third of the League for the least number of goals allowed. Unfortunately, they have also done a pretty good job keeping the puck out of their opposition's net. So what's been the problem?
“He’s like everybody else on our team, just having trouble scoring. You can’t just single one guy out and say he’s playing poorly. To me, it’s no different than you ‘win as a team and lose as a team.’ There’s another 10 or 12 guys we count on to provide at least a little offence. He has to use his creativity.” ~ Cory Clouston
Now who is The Little General referring to?
Alexei Kovalev of course. The poster child for the Ottawa Senators’ offensive struggles.TM (Ed. note: TM by the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren.)
Like Warren mentioned in his most recent article, in the six games since the break, Kovalev has zero goals, zero assists, a plus/minus of minus-six and 10 shots on net. Impeccable numbers by Bill Muckalt standards but not exactly the kind of production that one expects from a dynamic offensive talent who is expected to carry the load on Ottawa's second line. For Kovalev, I understand why he gets a bum rap since he's not that defensively apt. Unlike some of Ottawa's other skilled forwards, when he's not producing offensively, he's rarely contributing in other facets of the game. I get that.
However, it has become laughable at how much press AK-27 gets when he's not producing. (Ed. note: This isn't a gripe against Warren, I enjoy his work.) Regardless of this 6-game stretch of uninspired play, based on proportionate ice-time, Kovalev has been the Senators' most productive forward. There are others who are worthy of having their productivity questioned:
- Daniel Alfredsson: 1 goal in his past 11 games.
- Milan Michalek: 2 goals and 1 assist in his past 8 games. He's also on course to post his worst point total totals since his rookie season. I'm a bit
- Mike Fisher: 2 goals and 3 assists in his past 13 games.
- Ryan Shannon: The diminutive forward hasn't scored since January 19th and only has 5 goals on the year. Ottawa shouldn't have had to rely on him to produce, but I think everyone expected more out of Shannon than he has shown thus far.
- Peter Regin: Hasn't scored in his past 6 games. In fact, his rookie season has reminded me a lot of Antoine Vermette's: He has shown some flashes of offensive brilliance but needs to finish more of scoring opportunities.
Like Cory Clouston said, it's a systemic problem that goes beyond just Kovalev. More media attention and focus needs to be shed on the collective because this whole enigma angle is played out and tiresome.
Cheechoo Train Riding The Buses
The San Jose Mercury News ran a feature detailing Jonathan Cheechoo's struggles in the minors. According to the paper, Cheechoo is among those caught off guard by the latest career twist.
"I didn't see this coming," he said. And now I think I know why Cheechoo has struggled to return to his Rocket Richard Trophy winning form. He obviously can no longer see. Carkner vs. Orr The progression of these fights mirrors my interest level in the progression of the Rocky movies. Wake me up when one of Carkner's fights is ready to stop the next Cold War.
"I didn't see this coming," he said.
And now I think I know why Cheechoo has struggled to return to his Rocket Richard Trophy winning form. He obviously can no longer see.
Carkner vs. Orr
The progression of these fights mirrors my interest level in the progression of the Rocky movies. Wake me up when one of Carkner's fights is ready to stop the next Cold War.
What ever happened to that old NHL adage that the first home game after a long road trip was supposed to be beneficial to the visiting team?
After watching the first period of last night's game on PVR, I wasn't able to stomach any more and had to turn it off. Like a boxer who's been knocked out for the first time, the Ottawa Senators have lost their competitive edge. In fact, it's eerily reminiscent of the 2007 Stanley Cup team that endured a ridiculously long layoff between the Eastern Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals and came out flatter than Kiera Knightley's chest. After winning 14 of 16 before the Olympic break, the Senators have responded by collectively shitting the bed -- Amassing an atrocious 1-4-1 record over the 6-game post-break span and compiling an 8 goals for total that only Bill Muckalt could appreciate.
For whatever reason, this team has maintained their historical inability to overcome any Olympic break scheduling.
Is it alarming?
Am I worried about it?
Granted, the one game on their roadtrip that they did manage to win came against the worst team in the NHL. However, I'm not that concerned ... yet. As it stands, there are far too many games left between now and the end of the season to get wrapped up in one offensive dry spell. If a few of the top six forwards start producing again (Ed. note: Don't look now but Daniel Alfredsson only has one goal in his past 11 games.), the team will be fine. That Vancouver game notwithstanding, it's not like they're giving up a ton of goals. With 17 goals allowed since the Olympic break and with a few games in hand, they are still in the upper third of the NHL for least number of goals allowed.
Not so long ago, I received an email from Mike C., that asked why NHL General Managers were the ones primarily responsible for the league's rule changes. In a profession of such turnover, why should this generation's version of MacLean, Milbury and Muckler be this empowered?
It's a fair question and it's one that I'm not entirely sure of the answer. If it were up to me, I probably would have leave these kinds of decisions to the NHLPA player representatives and the league office. But for whatever reason, it's left up to the GMs and it has left me somewhat intrigued and leaves me wondering whether guys like Doug MacLean and Mike Milbury are bitter that they're no longer the alpha dogs of the NHL's circle.
It's because of this incessant need to be in the spotlight that I really wish the NHL would capitalize on the reality television boon and produce a program that casts a number of failed GMs and has them live together in the same house. Obviously the house would have to be located in a city where there's nothing to do and where the GMs would be easily recognized and lauded. A place like Saskatoon would suffice. The next step would be casting:
- Mike Milbury: The meathead who thinks he's smarter than everyone else.
- Bob Gainey: A man who has lost his way.
- John Ferguson Jr.: The young guy who talks a big game but rarely delivers.
- John Muckler: The aggressive drunk.
- Doug MacLean: Like his arrangement with Balsillie, he's involved only because he'll do anything for cash.
- Cliff Fletcher: Only in the house because he'll react to situations by making this face.
Who wouldn't want to watch a television program in which the following could conceivably happen:
- Milbury would saunter up to a bar and order a rye and ginger for $5. Immediately upon paying for the drink, a local resident would offer him $2 for the same drink. Because he's Milbury, he takes the deal. Scorned and now without a drink, Mike goes back to the bar and puts down a lifetime offer on rye and cokes. (Thinking it's a stroke of genius on his part.) A few minutes later, he remembers that he doesn't even like rye and coke.
- After a few drinks, Muckler parades around a local establishment like it's one of Eugene Melnyk's luxury suites -- smacking bottles off of tables and making overly theatrical hand gestures. When he eventually becomes cognizant of the fact that no one at the bar is impressed, he calls Rob Ray to stroke his ego.
- John Ferguson Jr. reguarly brags about how he's going to bring some high-quality females home with him. Instead, he overspends and only brings home role-players.
- Recognizing him at a bar, a local resident strikes up a conversation with Doug MacLean and asks the question of whether or not MacLean thinks a NHL team would be viable in the prairies. When MacLean says no, the local would raise his ire by retorting, "But Columbus has a team." Mike Milbury would inevitably have to invervene in the situation by beating the local down with a shoe.
- Noticing a small group of Dukhobors at the bar, Milbury promptly tells the bouncer to "Get that Eurotrash out of here!"
- The housemates bicker over whose turn it is to clean the kitchen mess before Muckler chimes in and says, "Screw it. We'll let the next tenant clean up after our mess."
A Thought On Phil Kessel
Lately, it seems as though every time I turn on a sports highlight program, Phil Kessel has scored another goal by doing his patented circle the right faceoff circle before burying a wrist shot. I don't want to take anything away from Kessel, but why teams have not keyed in on Kessel's tendencies via advanced pro scouting is beyond me.
Congratulations to Boo Boo
I'm not entirely sure who Gene Florcyk was but I do know that the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch is a finalist for the Gene Florcyk Memorial Award for Sports Writing (over 25,000 circulation). Bruce was nominated for his coverage of this past summer's Dany Heatley coverage thereby proving that good things can happen when you throw selfish assholes, who have dilated pupils, under the bus.
Senators in on Wellman?
HNIC's Elliotte Friedman has revealed on Twitter that the Senators are in heavily on the California-born, UMass forward Casey Wellman. Wellman's a NCAA prospect at UMass who will be turning 23 later this fall. As an undrafted NCAA overager, once he decides to turn pro, he is free to sign with anyone. You can read about Wellman here, here and read his statistics here.
Here's a startling admission, last night the Ottawa Senators lost to the Calgary Flames 2-0 and I didn't really mind. With much being made of Anton Volchenkov's impending UFA status, Tim and I had an opportunity to spend the better part of the night talking with Volchenkov's agent and the President of Puck Agency, Jay Grossman.
For anyone with a passing interest in Anton Volchenkov's situation, this interview is worth listening to. Also, if you want to stay tuned with what's going on with Mr. Grossman, be sure to check out Puck Agency's blog and if you use Twitter and haven't done so already, I'd highly recommend following Jay Grossman's Tweets.
As always, you can subscribe/download/stream the episode or entire catalogue of episodes from Itunes. Or you can download the file by right-clicking and saving this file. Or you can simply stream the episode below. We hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions or comments about the podcast, please leave us some feedback in the comment thread below. Thanks for listening, we hope you enjoy the show.
Here's the tracklisting for the podcast: Us3 Cantaloop; Propellerheads History Repeating; The Minutemen This Ain't No Picnic; and Firehose Brave Captain.
While everyone is looking forward to tomorrow's Senators/Flames game, some interesting speculation in the Metro News, of all places, that has me looking ahead to this offseason instead. According to The Hockey News' Ken Campbell contributed to the Metro by stating that Anton Volchenkov's contract demands may be less than what has been speculated on the Interwebs...
So, can the Senators re-sign Volchenkov? They should be able to if Volchenkov wants to stay. Going into next season, the Senators have $46.7 million committed to nine forwards, five defencemen and two goalies, which would leave them a shade over $10 million to spend providing the cap stays in the neighbourhood of the $56.8 million it is this season. That’s also assuming they’re willing to continue to take the hit on Cheechoo’s salary and keep him in the minors next season.
With that cap space, the Senators would have to basically sign Volchenkov, plus restricted free agents Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester and Chris Campoli if they choose to keep them. Assuming Andy Sutton, Matt Cullen are rentals and Shean Donovan will be set free after this season, they’d also have to find replacements for those players.
Clearly Volchenkov and Foligno are the two most important of that group. Defensive defencemen are valuable, but the Senators know that teams are rarely willing to overpay for them.
The thinking is Volchenkov would get between $3.5 million and $3.75 million on a long-term deal if he stays in Ottawa and might get slightly more than $4 million on the open market.
On a day in which Bruce Garrioch is reporting that Volchenkov's agent, Jay Grossman, rejected a 5-year contract extension before the Olympic break, it is encouraging to hear Campbell use these reasonable terms. However, I can't help but think that it's a bit naive to assume that because teams are rarely willing to overpay defensive defenceman that someone won't. (Ed. note: I'll never forget the state of shock that I was in when Glen Sather inked Wade Redden to his current 6-year $39 million pact.)
The words frugality and unrestricted free agency are hardly ever strung together in the same sentence. Especially in a lame duck profession in which overpriced contracts and trades are inherited by future regimes. Like the Edmonton Oilers players who frequented Osteria de Medici, a swank Calgary restaurant, it's all about passing the buck. The key for Bryan Murray here should be to get Volchenkov under wraps before the July 1st deadline for fiscal sanity goes out the window.
Senators 4, Oilers 1
With a healthy lineup and a resurgent Pascal Leclaire, Ottawa will be out of excuses if they can't beat up the League's worst team. Like Dany Heatley's refusal to waive his NTC, here's hoping that an Ottawa victory leaves the Oilers faithful in tears.
As I mentioned earlier, Elliott will be in nets tonight. Also, Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Regin will return to the lineup. Thanks to the Ottawa Senators' Twitter, here are Ottawa's lines from practice this morning: Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson; Regin-Fisher-Kovalev; Kelly-Cullen-Neil; Ruutu-Winchester-Shannon.
Other News and Notes (aka your glorified Google News Feed) with a Little Something, Something Thrown In
- Cory Clouston hasn't ruled out a Nick Foligno appearance during the latter stages of the team's current western road trip. For those, like me, who aren't thrilled with Ryan Shannon's production, this is fantastic news.
- "Getting drafted was definitely a thrill. I think every kid who loves the game dreams of playing in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup. Getting drafted has made me that much more hungry to chase after my dream. I knew that there was a chance I would get picked and couldn't be happier that Ottawa selected me." ~ Michael Sdao, USHL chat transcript
- Anyone who has a vested interest in Anton Volchenkov's contract extension talks will want to stay tuned to this website for the next few days.
- Tim and I will likely be running a contest in the next week or two with a prize up for grabs. If anyone has a suggestion for a contest idea, email us.
VOORHEES, N.J. — Barring an epic collapse – which should never be considered out of the question — the Flyers will make the playoffs.
Situated as the No. 6 seed, they have a five-point lead on the ninth-seeded New York Rangers and have two games in hand on their rival, so unless they get infected by a case of Mets-itis, the Flyers will be playing hockey well into the month of April.
But will those April showers bring May playoffs? The answer depends on what team they play.
He's right. It has absolutely no bearing on how well the Flyers play.
We’ve talked about the Web site playoffstatus.com in this space before. It’s a useful tool when determining playoff odds in any of the four major sports. It uses mathematical formulas to determine the odds of a team making the playoffs or missing them entirely and then the probability of seeding.
According to that site, before games commenced Monday, the Flyers had a 96 percent chance of making the postseason. But where will they finish?
I'll go out on a limb and say there's a 96-percent chance that they finish somewhere between 1st and 8th in the East. I think I know where this is heading...
Again, following the math, they have less than a one-percent chance of finishing as one of the top three seeds and only a five percent chance of finishing No. 4. (Which means they’ll be starting the playoffs on the road again).
The most likely finish for the Flyers seems to be where they are right now – No. 6 (41 percent chance). Next most likely is the No. 5 seed (29 percent), followed by No. 7 (15 percent) and No. 8 (6 percent).
... I was right.
That means they are most likely to face the winner of the Northeast Division in the opening round of the playoffs.
For the Flyers, that’s probably their best chance at advancing, because while they would certainly give Washington or Pittsburgh a hard, well-played series, the Flyers aren’t on the same playing field with the Eastern powers.
If they make it to five, a matchup with New Jersey also would be tough. The difference between the teams is in goal.
And depth on the blueline. And New Jersey plays a tight, defensive style as a collective. And Jersey has two dynamic game-breaking talents in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Saying that the difference between these two teams is limited to goaltending is akin to saying that the only difference between the cities of Calgary and Toronto is the height of their respective towers.
While Michael Leighton deserves his chance at doing something special by the way he’s played since coming to Philadelphia, Marty Brodeur is the best goalie in the NHL. Ever.
Anthony SanFilippo writes like the Cheechoo Train song guy talks.
It’s fair to say the Flyers would be significant underdogs against any of those three possibilities in the opening round. That leaves two other potential first-round opponents, the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Senators.
For a writer who prides himself on numbers, SanFilippo does a great job overlooking the fact that New Jersey is only 5 points back of Pittsburgh while holding two games in hand. Or maybe he's just exhibiting some avoidance behaviour because Philadelphia isn't on Pittsburgh's playing field.
The Senators are a good team, there’s no denying that, but are probably the best first-round possibility for the Flyers. That’s because they are a smoke and mirrors team, scoring fewer goals than the league average and allowing more than the league average.
Prior to the Olympic break, Ottawa had 174 goals. Two less less than the Flyers and good enough for ninth highest total in the NHL. And they did so while enduring significant injuries or lost games to Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno and their best offensive defencemen, Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson. The statistic isn't truly representative of this team's offensive potential.
They have a dreadful power play and a so-so penalty kill.
For the record, Ottawa has the 7th best penalty kill percentage in the League. SanFilippo would know this if he spent half his time researching playoff possibilities and less time researching potential playoff opponents.
Ottawa's lack of power play production can be attributable to two things: One, there hasn't been a viable threat to shoot from the blueline and two, Alexei Kovalev hasn't matched his power play production from his past two seasons in Montreal. (Ed. note: In 2007-08, Kovalev registered 47 power play points and in 2008-09, 32 points. This year, he has 13.) While we're still waiting for Kovalev to put up points with the man advantage, at least Bryan Murray attempted to remedy a weakness at the trade deadline by acquiring Matt Cullen to run the PP from the point.
Like the Flyers, their stars aren’t really stars. Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev are closer to 40 than 30, and they’re the team’s offensive studs.
Daniel Alfredsson should sue you for slander.
Mike Fisher is an underrated Selke Award candidate but Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek aren’t as good as advertised.
Mike Fisher's defensive reputation precedes him, but the true irony here is that he's not even the best defensive forward on the team. That distinction belongs to their not really star Daniel Alfredsson. Besides the point, I've seen Jason Spezza advertised. He's better than how he's portrayed in those Jubillee Jeweler commercials.
A true measure of a team's worth isn't how many of its players can be photographed with a porn star. No, one only has to look at statistics like, Ottawa has 10 of 12 forwards who are on pace to post double digit goal totals this season.
Defensively, Chris Philips is underrated, but the rest of that group is suspect at best. Filip Kuba has some offensive skill, but doesn’t instill fear to opposing forwards in the Sens’ end. Alexander Volchenkov is a solid stay-at-home rearguard, but when you count on Chris Campoli and Matt Carkner for big minutes … yikes!
I'm sure Bryan Murray's going to bring this paragraph to the attention of Jay Grossman when renegotiating Anton Volchenkov's contract extension. Well, Anthony ThhhanFilippo thinkthhhh that beyond Phillipthhh, the blueline ithhh thhhuthhhpect at bethhht.
I want to try my hand at writing and construing thoughts like a published journalist ... Ahem ... Defensively, Chris Pronger is good. He's slow and his gap control might be going the way of his front teeth, but he's still good. Hell, he's still talented enough to have Matt Carle benefit vicariously through his play. Timmo Kimonen is overpaid for his offensive skill and doesn't instill fear to opposing forwards in the Sens' end. Braydon Coburn is a solid stay-at-home rearguard, but when you count on Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Parent for big minutes ... yikes!
Then there’s the goaltending, which is equally as unproven in the postseason as Leighton. The tandem of Brian Elliot and Pascal Leclaire have been among the worst in the NHL team-wise, and don’t look to be world beaters the rest of the way.
Elliott was also a recent back-to-back winner of the NHL's first star of the week and I'm pretty sure that he won the Molson Cup for the month of February. He's kind of a big deal around here. Also, to their credit, neither of Elliott or Leclaire were acquired this season via waivers.
The Flyers would win this series rather easily, and it’s the one matchup in which they would have the advantage.
Let me get this straight. You think that the Senators, a well-coached team that has persevered through significant injuries, a team that will likely finish in the top four of the Eastern Conference, a team that re-upped at the trade deadline, and who by your own admission, are a good team whose success you can't figure out? And your desire is to play them in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs? Good luck. If you think that Ottawa is fretting playing against the most penalized team in the NHL, guess again.