Senators News: April 30th

-Ken Warren channels his inner Popeye and declares that Jason Spezza is what he is.  There’s not much new here, but Warren does share an interesting anecdote, “After a preseason game last September, I had a drink with a long-time NHL executive as we talked about what we both thought would be a long, difficult season ahead for the Senators. When he asked if I thought there was any chance the Senators could be competitive and challenge for a playoff spot, I suggested only if goaltender Craig Anderson could steal them at least half a dozen games. He said the Senators wouldn’t get there because Spezza couldn’t get them there. I’m guessing he wasn’t alone in his opinion at that time.”  There’s no #1 center waiting in the wings for the Senators so they are hitched to the Spezza wagon; what the team needs (and is developing) is secondary scoring so there’s less pressure on him (which they did very well throughout the regular season).

-Andrew Duffy has a long piece about Erik Karlsson that delves into his background and his play with Ottawa up to this point.  For those who want insight into his personal journey it’s worth a read.  The part that stuck out to me was, “In his first NHL season, 2008-09, the 19-year-old was sent to the minors nine games into the year without a goal to his name. Karlsson was upset, breaking down with emotion when Murray delivered the bad news.”  I don’t recall hearing that reported at the time.

-Nichols wonders if it’s time to trade Milan Michalek.  He offers six points: 1. Selling high, 2. His numbers are inflated (versus career averages), 3. Contract situation (his actual salary his higher than his cap hit), 4. Age (he turns 28 in December), 5. Replacements in the offing (Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone), and 6. Trade to help an aging blueline.  It’s an interesting argument and one I find persuasive (the odds of Michalek having back-to-back healthy seasons are virtually nil), but I doubt management see’s it that way.

-Jeremy Milks takes a look at potential roster changes for the Sens, but writes Garrioch-styled opinion without analysis.  He suggests Butler, Kuba, Gilroy, and Auld could go while guessing ReginKonopka, Daugavins, and Carkner will be retained.  It’s going to be a crowded lineup with Milks as GM, since presumably Konopka and Carkner would reside in the pressbox until the playoffs arrived.  Incidentally, I apparently don’t have a heart and I hate Christmas, because those are the only people not fond of Chris Phillips as a player.

Senators News: April 29th

-Here’s my review of the Sens in the playoffs.

-Paul MacLean talked about his first season coaching in the NHL, “I feel good about the fact I can coach in the league and we’ve had satisfaction, so I guess I give myself credibility that I can do this. But now the hard part is to do it again. I remember when I scored 30 goals for the first time, and I was all pumped up about it and an old guy, Floyd Thomson, said ‘Oh yeah? well now you’ve got to do it again.’ I feel the same way today. That’s a motivator for me, and it also scares me to death. Because I know how hard it is, and it’s hard to do. But I’m looking forward to it, and I’m excited about September, of getting back for training camp and getting started again. But I’m also scared to death.”

-Bryan Murray made an interesting comment regarding his second line, “Up front, we’re always looking for somebody to step in and score goals. That line with (captain Daniel Alfredsson) played with Turris, if we had one more guy that could score consistently or be a 20-to-25 goal scorer would make our team different.”  That’s a shot across the bow at Nick Foligno.  Murray also said the team needs another defensive defencemen which might come internally or externally.

-Joy Lindsay Tweets that “[Bryan] Murray said he told Lehner that Bishop‘s one-way can be managed, but that org likes goalies to play in minors — and win“, apparently without a sense of irony since Lehner has already won the Calder Cup.

-Ian Mendes Tweets that “[Bryan] Murray says he will not automatically qualify all of his RFAs“, but implies Nick Foligno will be back by saying “he challenged Nick Foligno in their exit meeting. Wants him to prove he’s a 2nd liner.”

-Peter Regin talked about his status going forward, “It was a different injury this time. It wasn’t the same. I guess I was just unlucky that it was the same body part on the same side, so it looked bad that way. I’m confident, the doctors are confident, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

-Bruce Garrioch grades the Sens and I’ll delve into his comments after listing the grades (Regin and Gilroy were not assessed):
A+ Karlsson, Alfredsson
A Anderson, Spezza, Paul MacLean, Bryan Murray
B+ Cowen, Phillips, Neil, Michalek
B Kuba, Gonchar, Turris, Greening, Bishop
B- Foligno
C+ Carkner, Smith, Condra, Konopka, O’Brien, Winchester
C- Daugavins
D Auld
F Butler

As you’d expect there are oddities in Garrioch’s assessment.  You’d think MacLean and Murray would warrant an A+; Phillips (as always with Ottawa’s media) is given the grade of a teacher’s pet; how Kuba is only a B is difficult to understand, but Garrioch doesn’t provide a rationale for how he grades players, so there’s nothing to evaluate how grades are assigned.  Winchester does not deserve a C+, while Smith, Condra and Daugavins deserve better grades; I’m not sure why Auld doesn’t get the same failing grade Butler earns.

Now for the odder statements from Garrioch: he wants Carkner to be retained–the same player who has a bad knee and can’t play during the regular season; he says Gonchar showed veteran leadership in the playoffs, but will likely be dealt in the off-season (no reason is provided for why); he speculates Chris Kelly might be brought back because…well, no reason is provided; he says Winchester has a role when healthy–what role?  There’s nothing he offers that other players don’t do as well (or better).

-Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s season is over as Chicoutimi was knocked out of the QMJHL playoffs.

Ottawa Senators: Playoff Review

The Ottawa Senators lost in seven games to the President’s Trophy winning New York Rangers.  Six of the seven games were decided by one goal, with the other game having a two-goal margin.  While this is a fantastic accomplishment for a team thought to be among the worst in the NHL coming into the season, the loss stings as Ottawa had two chances to close out the Rangers, but couldn’t get the deal done.

Here’s a look at how player performed throughout the series with my analysis and a grade for each player (A=outstanding season, B=above expectations, C=expectations met, D=below expectations, F=well below expectations; TOI=time on ice, FO%=faceoff percentage, INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR=scratched):
Jason Spezza 7-3-2-5 +2 20:58 FO% 54.3 Grade D
Was unable to bring up the level of his game to help a team starved for offence
Sergei Gonchar 7-1-3-4 +1 TOI 24:35 Grade B
Solid in all zones and his TOI was higher than in the regular season to reflect that
Nick Foligno 7-1-3-4 TOI 15:10 -1 Grade C
Played like he has his whole career–great one minute, invisible the next, then takes a bad penalty
Chris Neil 7-2-1-3 +2 TOI 13:35 Grade B
At his best in the most physical games
Kyle Turris
7-1-2-3 -1 TOI 16:37 FO% 39.7 Grade C
Couldn’t carry the offensive load when Spezza disappeared, but play well throughout
Daniel Alfredsson 4-2-0-2 -3 TOI 17:57 INJ 3 Grade C
The only elite forward to really show up in every game, but that’s what you expect from Alfie
Milan Michalek 7-1-1-2 +3 TOI 21:53 Grade D
He was excellent defensively, but the team needed him to produce and he couldn’t bury his chances
Filip Kuba 7-0-2-2 +1 TOI 23:25 Grade C
He continued his solid play from the regular season
Zenon Konopka 6-0-2-2 +2 TOI 11:17 FO% 70.7 SCR 1 Grade B
It’s amazing that a guy who was completely useless during the regular season could turn in a solid performance at playoff time, but his effectiveness dropped considerably as the series moved away from its early, chaotic start
Erik Karlsson 7-1-0-1 Even TOI 25:21 Grade D
He was one of Ottawa’s better players in the series, but he couldn’t provide the expected offensive contribution
Erik Condra
7-1-0-1 Even TOI 11:40 Grade C
Solid throughout; he played on every line during the series
Colin Greening
7-0-1-1 +1  TOI 13:59 Grade C
His offensive production could have been a little higher, but he provided much needed jam
Zack Smith 7-0-1-1 -2 TOI 13:21 FO% 53.7 Grade C
Showed a number of offensive flashes and was solid in his grinding role
Chris Phillips 7-0-1-1 Even TOI 21:33 Grade C
Just like the regular season, sometimes he helped his own team, sometimes he helped the Rangers
Jared Cowen 7-0-1-1 -3 TOI 17:01 Grade D
Much like the second half of the season, Cowen struggled with decision making
Jim O’Brien 7-0-1-1 Even  TOI 8:37 FO% 48.4 Grade B
A great series for O’Brien who gave the team all he had in limited ice time
Matt Carkner 4-0-1-1 +1 TOI 7:02 SCR 1 INJ 2 Grade B
Provided toughness when it was needed, but his wonky knee knocked him out of the series
Mark Stone 1-0-1-1 +1 TOI 8:43 SCR 6 Grade incomplete
Added to the lineup when it became apparent Butler had nothing to give; played well with limited minutes
Jesse Winchester 4-0-0-0 -2 TOI 10:52 FO% 52.0 INJ 3 Grade D
In the lineup largely for faceoffs and to grind, he wasn’t very effective and then was concussed
Bobby Butler 3-0-0-0 Even TOI 12:44 SCR 4 Grade F
Had yet more chances to show something, but remained invisible and was scratched in favour of prospects
Matt Gilroy 3-0-0-0 Even TOI 12:55 SCR 4 Grade F
Added nothing to the lineup in limited, laconic play
Jakob Silfverberg 2-0-0-0 Even TOI 9:10 Grade incomplete
While occasionally confused in coverages, he showed glimpses of the talent to come
Kaspars Daugavins 1-0-0-0 -1 TOI 10:30 SCR 6 Grade incomplete
Only appeared in game one
Craig Anderson 7-3-4 2.00 GAA .933 SV% Grade C
He had to at least equal Lundqvist in his play and he simply couldn’t

Players who were available but did not play: Mike Hoffman, Andre Petersson, Stephane Da Costa, David Dziurzynski, Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch, Ben Bishop, and Robin Lehner.

Looking at performances as a whole the Sens remained just shy of what they needed.  Top offensive players couldn’t produce enough and Anderson couldn’t rescue the team often enough.  The players who went beyond expectations were mostly veterans with low expectations (Konopka, Carkner, Neil) or rookies (O’Brien), with only Gonchar among the better players lifting his level of play.  The playoffs didn’t particularly hurt the futures of any player, as marginal guys like Gilroy and Butler are already on their way out.  As a team I think the primary reason the Sens lost was the top-six forward group, specifically Spezza and Michalek failing to produce.

Throughout the series I named players as top-performers or as players who struggled (Karlsson and Anderson were tied for the most top-performer nods, while Spezza lead the way for players who struggled):
Erik Karlsson 3/0
Daniel Alfredsson 2/0
Jim O’Brien 2/0
Craig Anderson 3/2
Nick Foligno 1/0
Kyle Turris 1/0
Chris Neil 1/0
Filip Kuba 1/0
Bobby Butler 0/1
Chris Phillips 1/2
Milan Michalek 0/2
Jason Spezza 1/4

Senators News: April 28th

-Daniel Alfredsson talked about his possibly retirement, “Do I have what it takes to play at a high level in this league? To go through the rigourous workouts in the summer and play an 82-game schedule? All those questions I’ve got to ask myself and then be honest with myself. From there, an answer will come.”  He had an interesting answer when asked if he thought the Sens were becoming an elite team, “I don’t know. I think we’ve taken a lot of good steps and we’ve had a lot of guys that have really improved their play and experience. There’s a lot of potential. We’ve done a good job of making sure that there is progress. The challenge is to repeat this coming back next year and be good again.”

-Ian Mendes Tweets that Peter Regin is healthy again and wants to be re-signed by the Senators.  I like Regin but with his injury history have doubts that he’ll be retained (although the lack of push from Binghamton’s forwards and the failure of Bobby Butler may leave room for him).  If the Sens do let him go don’t be surprised if he joins his best friend Frans Nielsen with the Islanders.

-Mendes also reports that Winchester suffered a concussion in game four and has no idea how it happened–getting concussed from incidental contact is a bad sign and maybe Winchester (who plays a robust game) needs to think about stepping away from hockey.

-Bruce Garrioch speculates that Bobby Butler‘s days are numbered and that Sergei Gonchar might be traded (the latter is hard to imagine unless Filip Kuba is retained).

-I’ve mentioned before that Bryan Murray’s trade deadline track record is poor and the Matt Gilroy addition is another example of it.  The UFA added nothing to the lineup.

-Tim Murray was on The Team 1200 and unfortunately wasn’t asked about prospects or free agents.  He did say, however, that he believes David Dziurzynski has the potential to play in Ottawa’s bottom six as a power forward in the future.

-Shane Prince and the Ottawa 67s have been eliminated from the playoffs, meaning the only Sens prospects remaining in the CHL playoffs are  Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Jakub Culek.

-As has been widely reported a number of Sens prospects and players are going to play in the IIHF World Championships, including Kaspars Daugavins (Latvia), Jakob Silfverberg (Sweden), and Stephane Da Costa (France).

-Here are my predictions for the second round of the playoffs.

-Don Brennan thinks the 2010-11 Sens roster with Paul MacLean as the coach would be in the second round of this year’s playoffs.  It’s simply an impossible debate to have–the circumstances to create that scenario could not happen, so why speculate?  He’s also still arguing that Butler or Daugavins should have played instead of Stone and Silfverberg–its utter nonsense, but Brennan likes to put the blame somewhere and it has to be on players who aren’t his favourites.  This kind of stunted reporting is why he’s so disliked by the fan base.

Playoff Preview: Round Two

The second round of the NHL playoffs has been set (one game already in the books) and here’s my look at the match-ups.  The league can’t be very happy to have so few key markets making it into the second round, although playoff success for the Coyotes helps the books of 29 other teams.  Like most prognosticators, my predictions were a mixed bag (3 for 8).  Here’s how I did (winners in bold, my prediction in italics):
East
New York Rangers-Ottawa – I had Ottawa in seven, as the Rangers were able to score enough to win
Boston-Washington – I had the Bruins in six, but they could not overcome injuries to get through Washington’s stifling style and third-string goaltender
Florida-New Jersey - I had the Devils in five, but the Panthers (as during the regular season) were better than expected
Pittsburgh-Philadelphia – I had the Penguins in seven, not foreseeing how bad Marc-Andre Fleury would be
West
Vancouer-Los Angeles – I had the Canucks in five, expecting to Kings to struggle to score
St. Louis-San Jose – I had the Blues in five, which was spot on
Phoenix-Chicago – I had the Hawks in six, but terrible goaltending made that impossible
Nashville-Detroit – I had the Preds in seven, but the Wings weren’t able to push it that far

Before I get into each series, I want to reiterate the main points to remember:
1. Team’s rarely repeat Cup runs (with both Vancouver and Boston eliminated, this trend continues)
2. The Cup winner has been no lower than 8th overall in the NHL, leaving us with the Rangers, St. Louis, Nashville, and Philadelphia
3. Playoff experience is something that gets thrown around as a vital ingredient over and over again, but I’ve never seen actual data to show that it equals success (for recent Cup winners it works with Boston, but not Chicago)–if it was a vital criteria than Detroit should win the Cup every year
4. The idea that teams need to lose before they win is simply absurd–29 teams lose every year, so other than the Cup winner it’s axiomatic for everyone
5. The officiating will be awful; calls will be missed and bad calls will be made (including goals reviewed)

New York Rangers (2)-Washington (15th)
Goals For: 226 (NYR, 13th), 222 (Wsh, 15th)
Goals Against: 187 (NYR, 3rd), 230 (Wsh, 18th)
Powerplay: 16.7% (Wsh, 18th), 15.7% (NYR, 23rd)
Penalty Kill: 86.2% (NYR, 5th), 81.6% (Wsh, 21st)
Faceoffs: 50% (Wsh/NYR, 17th/18th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.14 (NYR, 6th), 1.01 (Wsh, 13th)
Shots Against Per Game: 27.8 (NYR, 6th), 30.2 (Wsh, 16th)

Despite the Rangers owning most of the statistical categories, this is the match the Caps wanted most given their recent history (beating the Rangers and Lundqvist twice with essentially the same rosters).  Washington beat Boston which plays virtually the same game as the Rangers and I’m beginning to wonder if the Caps have a Montreal-esque run in them (ala the Habs in 2010) where mind-numbing defensive hockey knocked out superior teams.  There won’t be many goals scored here, but I wasn’t impressed by the Rangers in their series against Ottawa so I give the edge to the Caps.  Washington in seven.

Philadelphia (6th)-New Jersey (9th)
Goals For: 264 (Phi, 3rd), 228 (NJ, 11th)
Goals Against: 209 (NJ, 8th), 232 (Phi, 21st)
Powerplay: 19.7% (Phi, 6th), 17.2 (NJ, 14th)
Penalty Kill: 89.6% (NJ, 1st), 81.8% (Phi, 17th)
Faceoffs: 48.3% (Phi, 24th), 47.1% (NJ, 29th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.13 (Phi, 7th), 0.93 (NJ, 19th)
Shots Against Per Game: 26.8 (NJ, 2nd), 28.4 (Phi, 7th)

The Flyers beat a team (Pittsburgh) which owned nearly all the statistical edges against them in dominating fashion.  I don’t think the Devils stack up against Philadelphia very well at all and Martin Brodeur just isn’t the goaltender he used to be.  The Flyers are young so the series may go for awhile, but if Philadelphia is even remotely healthy this shouldn’t last long.  Philadelphia in five.

St. Louis (3rd)-Los Angeles (13th)
Goals For: 210 (Stl, 22nd), 194 (LA, 29th)
Goals Against: 165 (Stl, 1st), 179 (LA, 2nd)
Powerplay: 17% (LA, 17th), 16.7% (Stl, 19th)
Penalty Kill: 87% (LA, 4th), 85.8% (Stl, 7th)
Faceoffs: 51.5% (LA, 7th), 50.4% (Stl, 14th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.34 (Stl, 2nd), 0.98 (LA, 17th)
Shots Against Per Game: 26.7 (Stl, 1st), 27.4 (LA, 5th)

If your choice is watching paint dry or watching this series, pick the former.  The Kings only calling card in these playoffs is defence and goaltending and they are playing the only team which is consistently better than they were in both categories.  The teams are lead by two experienced coaches who secretly wish games could be won 0-0.  The Blues will usher out the Kings in short order.  St. Louis in five.

Nashville (5th)-Phoenix (11th)
Goals For: 237 (Nsh, 8th), 216 (Phx, 17th)
Goals Against: 204 (Phx, 7th), 210 (Nsh, 9th)
Powerplay: 21.6% (Nsh, 1st), 13.6% (Phx, 29th)
Penalty Kill: 85.5% (Phx, 8th), 83.6% (Nsh, 10th)
Faceoffs: 50.2% (Phx, 15th), 49.0% (Nsh, 22nd)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.11 (Phx, 8th), 1.05 (Nsh, 10th)
Shots Against Per Game: 30.8 (Nsh, 20th), 31.6 (Phx, 28th)

Nashville will dominate this series (don’t let game one’s result fool you, the Predators dominated that game) as they simply have a better team.  Rinne has had his one bad game and that may well be the only one the Coyotes win.  Nashville in five.

If my crystal ball is more accurate in this round then we will have a Philadelphia-Washington series for the east and a St. Louis-Nashville series in the west.  I’d give the former to the Flyers and the latter to the Predators; a healthy Philadelphia wins the Cup, while a beat-up Flyer team loses to Nashville.

Senators News: April 27th

-The Sens season is over and hockey fans whose teams haven’t advanced have virtually nothing to look forward to going in the second round except the Philadelphia series (the other three series will be variations of 1-0 and 2-1 scores with minimal scoring chances).  My preview of the round is forthcoming, as is my breakdown of the Sens playoff effort.

-Daniel Alfredsson talks about last night’s loss, “It’s an empty feeling. Especially when the game goes down to the last seconds like it did. Then, all of a sudden, it’s over. It feels weird and tough. We played a hard-fought game. We played really good, at times, we made a couple of mistakes that cost us. Henrik (Lundqvist) made some big saves to keep this close. It was a hard-fought series. I thought this game kind of reflected the whole series.”  He remains cagey about his future, “I will see how I feel physically and mentally after taking some time off. This year has been unbelievable. I’ve had a lot of fun. It’s been great to be part of a great group of guys. They kept me upbeat and happy when I’m a grumpy old man. They’ve made this year very enjoyable.”

-Peter Raaymakers thinks Craig Anderson was the Sens best player in the playoffs and I’m not so sure that’s the case.  He struggled in games 1 and 6, wasn’t a factor in games 2 and 4, and he lost 2 of his 3 best games.  When he was good his play didn’t spark the team, while playing poorly guaranteed a loss.  Goalies are an axiomatic factor in every game, but while Anderson was good in the post-season he was not the straw that stirred the drink for his team.

-Jeremy Milks suggests that either Kaspars Daugavins or Bobby Butler should have played in place of both Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg in the final three games.  Yes, that’s the same Butler who hadn’t scored in his last 15 games (Februray 15th) and Daugavins who has one goal in his last 15.  I thought both rookies played well, both are larger players than the ones they replaced and both have more offensive potential, so I think the changes were the right choice.

-Ian Mendes Tweets “I’ve covered the Sens for more than a decade and that was the most enjoyable season I’ve ever had on the beat.”

-Don Brennan just can’t bring himself to criticise one of his favourites.  He lists the defensive lapses last night that lead to the first goal, doesn’t identify the culprit on the second goal (Spezza), and then inexplicably singles out Filip Kuba (of all people) at the bottom of his article.  Chris Phillips, who lead the team in turnovers last night (including being unable to navigate around the back of the net) goes mentioned.

-The Ottawa Sun doesn’t do Matt Gilroy any favours in their picture of the game ending handshake–the deadline flop has a big smile on his face while his teammates all look devastated.

-Sens prospect Marcus Sorensen has been traded/released from his Skelleftea contract and will continue to play for Boras in the Allsvenskan.  He was disappointed that former Sens scout and Skelleftea coach Anders Forsberg didn’t give him a chance to play.  His future as a Sens prospect is up in the air as they need to offer him a contract or he becomes a UFA.

Ottawa 1, New York Rangers 2

Ottawa’s season ended tonight in a game that mirrored the entire series–close, tight-checking, and determined by goaltending.  The Sens did not put together a full sixty-minutes and it wasn’t until some late line juggling that they started to take over.  Ottawa needed Anderson to step up and he did, but they also needed production from Spezza and Michalek and that didn’t happen–the young players were fine tonight and not the reason for the result.  I thought Silfverberg struggled to start the game, but was excellent in the third period.  Gilroy was invisible, but actually played better than his defense partner (Phillips).  Despite the result it has still be a great season for Ottawa and if they did one thing it was illustrating how vulnerable the Rangers are in these playoffs.  Random thought, but if there’s one thing the CBC seems to never grow tired of its shots of Mark Messier watching the game–I have no idea why viewers would have any interest in that.  Here’s the box score.

First Period
It was a nervous start for Ottawa through their first two shifts, but the third line (Neil-Smith-Greening) pushed back.  Anderson made a big save on a 2-on-1.  A Turris shot deflected just wide.  Anderson got bumped and nearly gave up an empty-net goal when it wasn’t called.  Karlsson had a great chance when Girardi tipped his slap-pass towards his own goal.  Karlsson made a couple of great plays in the offensive zone.  Anderson made a great save off Gaborik in tight.  Alfredsson got in close, but the Sens couldn’t get the find the loose puck in time to get it on goal.  The Phillips-Gilroy combination struggled down low.  Karlsson got drilled trying to make a play in the slot.  Spezza drew the first penalty (I feel a little sympathy for Dubinsky because similar plays were ignored in the period).  Kuba had the best chance in the first minute of the powerplay, but couldn’t get his shot through; Phillips had a great chance in the slot.  Smith had a chance late.  Overall the period was very tight and pretty even.  Silfverberg looked a little confused in limited ice time.
Second Period
The Sens got running around in their own zone to start the period.  Alfredsson had a great chance off a Spezza rebound.  Rangers opened the scoring off a Foligno turnover.  After fumbling around with a number of turnovers Spezza had a chance in close.  The Rangers added to the lead on a defensive breakdown as Spezza doesn’t back check leaving Girardi wide open in front.  The third line drew a penalty on the following shift.  The first unit couldn’t accomplish anything, although Greening and Michalek had a 2-on-1 towards the end of it (but the former couldn’t make the pass), but the second unit (Alfredsson) scored in short order.  Spezza came close to tying it off a sweet pass from Karlsson.  The teams then clogged up neutral zone, but Smith came close and Richards fired a shot over the net.  Kuba took a penalty during a scramble in the Sens zone.  Anderson made a great save just before the period ended.  Overall the Rangers controlled the period.
Third Period
The Sens kill off the rest of the powerplay, but Anderson nearly gave up a goal as he baubled a rebound.  Spezza turned it over and Anderson hds to make a stop on Gaborik.  Ottawa took a penalty shortly thereafter (Cowen), which I think was called to even up the advantages.  Michalek had a golden opportunity all alone in front short-handed (courtesy of an Alfredsson steal).  The Rangers had no chances–a credit to the PK.  Anderson made a great save on Dubinsky in close.  Anderson made a save off an accidental deflection by CowenFoligno had a great chance but couldn’t beat Lundqvist high.  By this point MacLean had put his lines in the blender, and the combination of Greening-Spezza-Silfverberg had a great shift.  Michalek had a fantastic chance when that line came out next, missing the net on another chance;  Turris had his shot right in front deflected over the net (on the same play).  The frenetic action continued with Smith just missing the backdoor play on a pass from Kuba.  With the net empty Turris tipped the puck just wide on the exact same backdoor play (also from Kuba).  Gonchar took a penalty preventing Hagelin from scoring on the empty net and the Sens aren’t able to get control for another chance on goal.  The Rangers dominated the first half of the period, Ottawa the second.

Here’s a look at the goals:
1. Rangers, Staal
Foligno turns the puck over, Cowen decides to make a hit leading to a 2-on-1 and Gonchar can’t block the pass
2. Rangers, Girardi
A 3-on-3 turns into a 4-on-3 as Spezza doesn’t back check leaving Girardi wide open
3. Alfredsson (Phillips, Gonchar) (pp)
A point shot beats Lundqvist short side

Top-performers:
Craig Anderson – he had no chance on either goal against
Erik Karlsson – was far more involved tonight in all areas of the rink
Daniel Alfredsson – the only Sen to score tonight

Players Who Struggled:
Jason Spezza – MIA when it mattered and a lazy backcheck cost them the winning goal
Milan Michalek – he was good defensively and had a number of scoring chances, but he has to bury those chances
Chris Phillips – the big rig lead the team in turnovers

Senators News: April 26th

-Paul MacLean is playing games with his lineup, although I suspect there will be few (if any) changes from Saturday unless Zenon Konopka is hurt.  Ian Mendes suspects Silfverberg will play again and Stone will only play if Konopka can’t.

-I’m not sure what to expect tonight, but simplistically it’s going to come down to goaltending.  If Anderson can be as good as Lundqvist Ottawa should win, but if he can’t, then the Rangers will win.

-Paul MacLean talked about what Erik Karlsson needs to do, “We just need him to be him. When (Karlsson) skates is when he’s at his best. He hasn’t skated the way that we need him to skate. We need him to use his skill as a skater to (help create) offence. He’s a target on our team, they’re going to try to get to him physically. He has to come up with ways at counteracting that. At times, he’s done a good job.”

-Michael Grange echoes my sentiments from yesterday that the Sens are playing with house money no matter what happens tonight.

-Here’s my profile of Shane Prince.

-I’m not sure what Allan Muir is smoking, but Mike Smith is not the Conn Smyth leader so far in the playoffs (he doesn’t even justify it, he simply states it).  For those wondering, Smith is third in save percentage and fifth in goals against average.

-It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age there are fans who resort to racism to vent their frustration.  For those who haven’t heard, some Bruin fans made racist comments after Joel Ward scored the OT winner for Washington.  These sad, pathetic losers are thankfully a vanishing minority.

Prospect Profile: Shane Prince

Shane Prince (C-L, 5’10, DOB 1992, 2-61/11)
2009-10 OHL Kitchener/Ottawa 65-15-15-30 -2 45pim (ppg 0.50) 8th
2010-11 OHL Ottawa 59-25-63-88 +43 18pim (ppg 1.49) 2nd
2011-12 OHL Ottawa 57-43-47-90 +34 12pim (ppg 1.57) 2nd

The intense Prince was picked by the Senators at the end of the second round (ranked #26 by Central Scouting).  He followed up his breakout season last year with a strong campaign this year (the 67s are still in the playoffs), although he did not make the US World Junior Championship team.  He’ll likely be signed and join Binghamton in the fall.  As an undersized forward, it will be interesting to see how his game translates at the pro level.  Red Line Report was a big fan, saying, “We love everything about him – except his inability to stay healthy.  Plays much bigger than his mediocre size; edgy player who isn’t afraid to stick his nose in – very competitive and smart.  Biggest concern in his penchant for carrying the puck into traffic without regard for his body – takes some big hits to make plays but also ended up with a bum shoulder and a head/neck injury late in the season.  Has terrific speed and is an agile, elusive skater.  Makes imaginative passes at top end gear – excellent vision and playmaking skills.  Team catalyst has tremendous work ethic.  Blocks a ton of shots on the PK unit and starts dangerous rushes the other way, transitioning from defence to offence in a heartbeat.  His team was one of the OHL’s best with him in the lineup, and couldn’t win a game when he was out injured.”  ISS said, “Prince hasn’t enjoyed a lot of the same hype that fellow OHLer Ryan Strome has even while eclipsing him in the scoring column for part of the season. The reason for this is that scouts believe Prince‘s stronger supporting cast is amplifying his skill set and that without this he doesn’t project as well. Ranked much higher at CSS, however ISS scouts have not been impressed by Prince’s production away from his star teammate Tyler Toffoli. Prince is the big risk/reward!” All his skills were listed as very good except his size/strength which is “average”.  Here’s Prince being drafted and here’s a highlight package.

Senators News: April 25th

-With so many days between games journalists and bloggers are throwing everything at the wall trying to find angles and things to write about (including Mark Borowiecki going with the team to New York, even though there’s zero chance he’ll play).  Various game seven stats are being thrown around, but how the Senators (or Rangers) performed in a similar situation 10 years ago has nothing to do with either team now.  Only a few Ottawa players have been involved in a game sevens with the organisation before and that’s not indicative of how the team will perform tomorrow.  Many of the Rangers were part of the team that lost game seven against Washington in 2009, but even that’s not terribly relevant.  The stats that mean something are the Rangers inability to score at even strength and the inability for Ottawa’s elite players to produce.  The pressure remains on the Rangers, as Ottawa has already enjoyed a successful season irrespective of what happens Thursday night–for New York, anything less than a long playoff run is a failure.

-Jason Spezza talked about Paul MacLean’s as a coach, “Just his general understanding from being a player, because he’s played the game. He knows the ups and downs that go with it and knows we can get frustrated at times and we know he can get frustrated. It sounds corny, but we’ve been all on the same page and together all year and I think that’s what’s made it successful for us.”  MacLean has been nothing if not blunt in his assessment of his players and it will be interesting to see what effect (if any) it has in game seven.

-Milan Michalek was cleared by the league for what the Rangers thought was an attempt to kick Girardi.  The Rangers have complained throughout the series about the officiating and I’m interested to see if it’s either going to work for or against them.  Paul MacLean had a good line about the officiating, “It’s not always the referee’s fault. They’re human. They’re not going to catch everything, but you can’t continually put yourself in a position that you make them make a call and always blame them. The responsibility is on us and our players to be (more) disciplined.”

-Another correction for bobbykelly: Jim O’Brien did not make his debut this year (he played six games in 2010-11).  Bobby is also part of a chorus of Sens bloggers who have been very restrained about Jakob Silfverberg which initially surprised me–bloggers typically want highly touted prospects inserted in the lineup immediately.  I believe David Rundblad‘s inability to make an immediate impact has dampened the enthusiasm for prospects coming out of the Swedish Elite League and I wonder if Bobby Butler and Stephane Da Costa‘s seasons have done the same for NCAA free agents.  Only CHL stars like Mark Stone still receive the enthusiastic hype I remember Alexei Kaigorodov receiving back in the day.  Stone is a good player, but his skating is poor and that’s likely the main reason he did not play in game six.  To me, hype is something the organisation has to generate and what they say about a player is what indicates whether a prospect is NHL ready or not.  We’ve been told Silfverberg is an NHL player–should he be in the playoff lineup?  If Paul MacLean thinks so, then he does.

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