Ottawa 3, Boston 4

As much as some fans will want to blame the officials for tonight’s result (and it’s true Rob Martell, Dan O’Rourke and the linesmen put their whistles away), it was two bad goals given up by Craig Anderson and a dumb penalty taken by Nick Foligno that sealed the deal.  The Sens played well offensively, but got caught running around in their own zone at times.  Here is the box score.  A look at the goals:
1. Boston, Chara (pp)
Fires the puck home on a Lucic screen
2. Greening (Michalek, Spezza)
A great tip by Greening
3. Turris (Alfredsson)
A laser shot off a nice pass from Alfredsson
4. Karlsson (Neil, Kuba)
Karlsson keeps on a 2-on-1 and makes no mistake
5. Boston, Lucic
A bad line change leaves Lucic wide open in the slot
6. Boston, Marchand (pp)
Anderson inexplicably baubles the puck which is banged in by Marchand
7. Boston, Seidenberg
Beats Anderson from center ice (Anderson actually knocks it into his own net)

Top-performers (most of the forwards could appear here):
Daniel Alfredsson – clearly feeling great after the all-star game; tied for the team lead in scoring chances
Colin Greening – was strong in all three zones
Jared Cowen – despite a last-second miscue when the team was trying to tie the game he was a monster defensively

Players Who Struggled:
Matt Carkner – too many turnovers in his own zone
Erik Karlsson – lead the team in turnovers
Craig Anderson – made many incredible saves, but two bad goals sours the night


Senators News: January 31st

Craig Anderson will start against the Bruins tonight; Brian Lee is still out with a lower body injury

Don Brennan reports that Peter Regin underwent successful shoulder surgery.  It will be interesting to see if the Sens retain his rights or allow him to become a free agent.

Jesse Winchester has returned to practice after suffering a concussion December 20th

Dmitry Chesnokov Tweets that Nikita Filatov has been demoted by CSKA Moscow to their MHL affiliate (the Russian junior league).  CSKA is a deep team and I have to think there’s not much point in Filatov playing third or fourth line minutes there, but it’s still a disappointment.  I wonder if he’s suffered after effects from the two head shots he took in the AHL (the biggest was by Tim Sestito October 29th).

Stu Hackel of Sports Illustrated has a look at both the rise of concussions across the league and the how the NHL handles injury statistics.  Gary Bettman reported that concussions were up 10% from last year, whereas blogger Dustin Fink (link) says they are up 60%, “‘Last year at this time there were 54 concussions reported/found in the NHL….The current total sits at 90,” Fink writes. ‘Last year the entire regular season produced 98, and including the playoffs, 114.’ The figures may vary substantially, but both Bettman and Fink agree that the increase, whatever it may be, has to do in part with both better awareness and the players taking the situation more seriously than in the past.”  Regardless of which number is more accurate, it’s an indication that the NHL’s efforts to reduce the number of head injuries has failed dramatically.  In terms of overall injuries, Hackel points out the strange way the NHL reports injuries, “the NHL leaves that to the clubs. One of the most interesting stats the league itself does not formally track is Man Games Lost to Injury. It is not a readily available figure to the general public,  clubs compile and publish their own in game notes that are distributed to the media by their public relations departments prior to each contest. It would be good info for fans to have, if only to gauge which clubs are banged up and which have relatively good health.”  I’ve heard arguments that team’s should be allowed to disguise player injuries to avoid being targeted, but given that the NFL is explicit with their injuries I don’t think that argument holds water.  Hackel lists the man-games lost per team (Ottawa has lost 144, making them the 12th healthiest team in the league–Boston is first, Pittsburgh last), pointing out that there’s no correlation between travel and injuries and that bigger teams seem to suffer less (given that his sample size is the first half of this season means one has to take these numbers with a grain of salt).  All in all it’s interesting food for thought and the entire article is worth reading.

Senators News: January 30th

-There are many stories summing up the all-star game, but the best is ESPN‘s Pierre LeBrun’s.  Daniel Alfredsson said, “It’s been surreal, it’s almost like you’re walking on Cloud 9. It’s been almost overwhelming, to be honest. You can never dream of anything like this. You don’t really know how to embrace it, really. I don’t think, until tonight when the kids go to bed, you can kind of sit and relax. I’m sure I’ll be dead tired, but take it all in and realize that this is something that not everybody gets to experience. I don’t know if I deserve it or not, but it’s definitely humbling.”

Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Farber writes an interesting article where he bemoans the NHL’s lack of dynastic teams and star players.  Here’s a look at the first part of his argument, “The absence of spectacular teams was all but mandated by the salary cap that  was hammered into place the last time owners locked out the hockey help, in  2005. The cap was going to level the field to a degree, in dollars if not in  terms of the hockey smarts of general managers who are still wrestling with the  CBA just as it is about to be renegotiated. Forget about building the Canadiens  of the late 1970s or the Islanders of the early 1980s, the last teams to win  more than two straight Stanley Cups. Because of the cap system, you couldn’t  even put together a veteran team like the 1999 Stars or dream of stockpiling a  roster like the 2002 Red Wings, which should have its own wing in the Hall of  Fame. Parity. The calliope music was stilled and the circus was leaving town  forever, replaced by the egalitarian notion that everyone could win a Stanley  Cup and be special. Even Columbus. This has left the NHL with … what?”  I disagree with Farber’s thesis entirely–the days of dynasties were boring.  Predictable results do not make for engaging sport, nor has parity hurt the NFL (a model the NHL would love to emulate).  As for his second argument, “The prevailing theory is that individual greatness has been muffled by the  increasing sophistication in coaching. Says the NHL GM, ‘Like baseball with  pitching coaches and batting coaches and third base coaches … we’ve gone down  that road. The coaching is so thorough, the video preparation so solid, that  it’s difficult to stand out. It’s tough finding individual guys that you can  sell all on their own. I bet with the NBA you could come up with a list of 10  pretty easily.’ ‘I think what’s been lost is the distinctive style of teams,’ a veteran coach  tells ‘At one point you knew that the Calgary Flames were going to play  a certain way, a big marauding team that was going to be physical with you. You  knew the Dallas Stars had a certain way of playing. New Jersey played their way.  Edmonton. The Rangers would try to play a lot like the Oilers. That’s been  lost.'”  While I agree with Farber’s general point I think much of what he quotes and says is either hyperbole or simply wrong.  Star players produce points and the NHL has been squeezing down goals since the first few months of the new CBA.  Each year more and more interference is allowed and officiating becomes more and more inconsistent.  Like many problems the solution is simple: call the rule book–but the league turns away from that again and again.

-Prior to Binghamton’s last two games PTO Andy Thomas was returned to Trenton

-Prospect updates (their position in team scoring is noted in brackets, defence compared to defence; I’ve also indicated if the player’s scoring position has change (with a + for up, – for down, and = for unchanged):
Mark Stone (RW, Brandon, WHL) 46-32-47-79 (1st=)
Shane Prince (C/LW, Ottawa 67s, OHL) 39-28-35-63 (2nd+)
Stefan Noesen (C/RW, Plymouth, OHL) 44-20-37-57 (1st=)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (RW, Chicoutimi, QMJHL) 32-30-23-53 (3rd=)
Matt Puempel (LW, Peterborough, OHL) 30-17-16-33 (5th-)
Darren Kramer (C/LW, Spokane, WHL) 47-18-14-32 (5th=)
Jakub Culek (C/LW, Rimouski, QMJHL) 38-8-15-23 (7th-)
Jordan Fransoo (D, Victoria, WHL) 49-2-12-14 (2nd=)
Jakob Silfverberg (C/RW, Brynas) 36-15-19-34 (1st=)
Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, Djurgarden) 15-3-4-7 (17th-)
Fredrik Claesson (D, Djurgarden) 36-1-5-6 (5th-)
Marcus Sorensen (RW, Boras) 23-7-6-13 (6th=)
Ryan Dzingel (C, CCHA-Ohio State) 25-5-13-18 (3rd=)
Michael Sdao (D, ECAC-Princeton) 20-6-9-15 (1st=)
Chris Wideman (D, CCHA-Miami) 28-1-14-15 (1st=)
Max McCormick (LW, CCHA-Ohio State) 19-7-7-14 (4th+)
Bryce Aneloski (D, WCHA-Nebraska-Omaha) 26-3-10-13 (1st+)
Ben Blood (D, WCHA-North Dakota) 27-2-11-13 (t-2nd+)
Jeff Costello (LW, CCHA-Notre Dame) 22-3-6-9 (10th=)
Brad Peltz (LW, ECAC-Yale) 7-1-0-1 (20th=)

Senators News: January 29th; Binghamton 7, Wilkes-Barre 4

-Eugene Melnyk is chasing the bonus he had to pay Dany Heatley two years ago (link).  I’m not a legal expert, but it’s hard to imagine Melnyk winning the case (clearly there was no clause in Heatley‘s contract preventing him from collecting it, nor is it against any element of the CBA).

Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Farber writes about the influence of John Collins on the NHL since 2006.  “[He] helped turn the frigid and nearly-forgotten 2003 Heritage Classic, which had no  visibility in the United States, into a phenomenon, at least in relative terms.  HBO’s 24/7 … that’s him. The NHL’s media and digital revolution also has his  fingerprints all over it.”  Collins has been pushing to make the game about the athletes, which makes me wonder if he’ll manage to get rid of the dinosaurs responsible for player safety.  It’s an interesting article and worth reading in full.

-Binghamton continued its winning ways by beating the Penguins last night, scoring seven times on only twenty-one shots.  David Dziurzyski scored twice and had a four-point night (a career high), Andre Petersson scored twice, while Mike Hoffman, Corey Locke, and Jack Downing rounded out the scoring.  Mike McKenna picked up the win.   Click here for the box score and here for Joy Lindsay’s game summary.

Maxime Gratchev, who has spent the bulk of the season with Elmira, was traded to the Springfield Falcons (Columbus’ affiliate) for future considerations.

-Elmira lost last 4-1 last night (Louie Caporusso did not play).

Senators News: January 28th; Binghamton 3, Albany 2

-The Sens news is all-star related this weekend, but there are a couple of things to note

-Binghamton extended its winning streak to three games last night, with Mike McKenna making 38 saves for the victory.  Andre Petersson scored twice and Jim O’Brien got the winner short-handed.  Click here for the box score and here for Joy Lindsay’s game summary.

-Joy Lindsay Tweets that “Patrick Wiercioch got [the] hard hat in his return to the lineup tonight. He could come out tomorrow, just to avoid back-to-backs. Wiercioch said it was almost like a full summer off missing those 7 weeks, but he feels good, didn’t feel out of place on the ice.”

-Elmira lost Thursday night, with Louie Caporusso getting a goal and an assist and Maxime Gratchev adding an assist.

Senators News: January 27th

-Not surprisingly, Daniel Alfredsson is talking about coming back for another season (TSN, Senators Extra, The Ottawa Sun, etc).  Before the season he said his decision would be based on his health and how the team was performing, so assuming he stays healthy I’d be shocked if he didn’t come back.

-Joy Lindsay Tweets tonight’s expected lineup (including the return of Patrick Weircioch, his first game since suffering a throat injury December 9th): Klinkhammer-Locke-Petersson, Hoffman-Da Costa-O’Brien, Dziurzynski-Cannone-Bartlett, Cowick-Hamilton-Downing; Henningson-Gryba, Wiercioch-Schira, Raymond-Godfrey.  Mike McKenna is expected to start.  Mark Borowiecki is sick and is out of the lineup, but the biggest surprise for me is Derek Grant as a healthy scratch–he hasn’t been the same since returning from injury (two points in eleven games, including an ongoing stretch of nine games without a point).

Brian Elliott is back in town for the all-star game and talked about the impact of the media during his struggles last year, “Obviously, the Canadian media is pretty harsh on goalies and in Ottawa it’s been kind of a focal point for them in years past. They like to throw people under the bus. I try not to think about it too much. I never really read into any of it. The guys know how you are in the locker room and that’s all that really matters.”  I was a fan of Elliott‘s when he was here, so I’m happy to see him land on his feet in St. Louis.  While some of the criticism he received was justified, I think it was more than was deserved.

Senators News: January 26th

-There are many all-star stories, but as the event means nothing to me I won’t bother summarizing

Andre Petersson and Mark Borowiecki were returned to Binghamton

Don Brennan thinks Ottawa’s problems with officiating go back to the days of Bryan Murray as coach, writing “Murray had tantrums of all-star proportions. Some were to get his team going. He’ll admit that now. And some were because he was genuinely mad at the ref.”  I’d like to think Brennan isn’t serious, but to look at the issue itself I think the explanation is pretty simple.  In terms of the overall season officials have long given preferential treatment to veteran players and Ottawa is a young team.  The particular events of the last few games are a reaction to Paul MacLean speaking publically–no doubt officials believe their conversations with coaches should remain private and were ticked off with what was reported (particularly given how absurd the comment was).

Sports Illustrated‘s power rankings have Ottawa 13th

Joy Lindsay assesses Robin Lehner at the mid-season point.  Goaltending coach Rick Wamsley said, “I thought he got off to a decent start at the start of the year. We didn’t score a lot of goals for him, the way the games went. Lately here, his game hasn’t been where it needs to be or where we want it to be. It’s a good challenge for a young professional, when things aren’t going well, to just kind of get your nose back to the grindstone, get back to fundamentals, limit your game in terms of how much you’re trying to do, just do the basics and grow out from there.” And “He’s not the only guy on this team who played in the playoffs last year that’s struggled a little bit. But that’s all part of growing up, that’s part of developing, for me, is going through adversity.”  Kurt Kleinendorst said, “If there has been a falloff in Robin‘s game, he’s 20 years old. He’s very young. I don’t think that it’s a major issue, other than just a young player learning and growing. But I will tell you that I have seen a lot of growth in Robin as a person. I’ve seen him become a better teammate, a better team player. I’ve seen a lot of things I like in how he’s coming along.”  Lehner himself said, “It’s been, gone both good and bad, I think. The positive note is that I’m getting better. I feel better now than I felt last year in practice and certain spots of the game. I think that outside of the ice, there’s been lots of progress, too. Still, there’s been a lot of games that I’ve been showing a lot of really good things. The negative note is this year has been hurting, it’s been hurting all of the statistics and all that stuff. But, you know, my talk with all the coach and all that stuff, we can’t really think about all that stuff. It’s … we’re last. We’re last in the league, I think. We’ve been struggling this year, and it’s not really easy for any of us. And I think that’s been reflected in all of our statistics, everyone on the team. So, yeah, that’s … I can’t look at numbers too much, either. We average, I think Mike (McKenna) and I average, about 37 shots (against) a game. I think it’s not just shots, it feels like it’s a lot of chances. It’s not an easy game for us. But you know, lots of credit to ourselves, and the guys, too. We’re fighting through it. We’re trying every game and stuff like that. It’s going in the right direction.”

Joy provides the lines at practice: Rob Klinkhammer-Corey Locke-Jack Downing, Mike Hoffman-Stéphane Da Costa-Jim O’Brien, David Dziurzynski-Pat Cannone-Mike Bartlett, Corey Cowick-Wacey Hamilton-Derek Grant (Francis Lessard); Dan Henningson-Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch-Craig Schira, Bobby Raymond-Josh Godfrey (Andy Thomas).

Ottawa 2, Phoenix 3

The Sens lost a point (and a chance to win) due to a brutal call that cost them the tying goal (Dan O’Halloran and Tim Peel were the officials–the latter part of the Anaheim crew).  The result tonight was another clear illustration of why team’s should never comment on officiating.  Overall, the Sens were half-asleep for half the game, benefitting when Paul MacLean finally moved away from the failed line combinations he used in Anaheim (the end of the Bobby Butler experiment among other things).  I was surprised that MacLean did not dress Andre Petersson, particularly in a back-to-back situation, but  he’s been reluctant to play him.  Here is the box score.  A look at the goals:
1. Phoenix, Brule
Kuba can’t clear the zone and Brule cashes in on Boedker’s rebound
2. Phoenix, Doan
Karlsson gets burned by Korpikoski and Doan cashes in the rebound
3. Alfredsson (Foligno, Phillips)
A great behind the net pass from Foligno to a wide open Alfredsson who makes no mistake
4. Phoenix, Vrbata
Butler is late on the backcheck
5. Neil (Condra, Smith)
Great pass from Condra sends Neil in on Smith and he makes no mistake

Jared Cowen – rock solid defensively tonight
Daniel Alfredsson – a great performance from Alfie who should have had the game-tying goal

Players Who Struggled:
Zenon Konopka – his resume for tonight: took a bad penalty
Bobby Butler – amazing how effective the first line became when he was taken off it

Senators News: January 24th; Ottawa 1, Los Angeles 4

Don Brennan thinks Craig Anderson played well last night, which is simply inaccurate–Anderson has been much better the past month, but did not play well last night.

Kyle Turris talked about the difference in his game since coming to Ottawa, “I’m definitely a lot more comfortable here. I’m having more fun, playing more of my game and how I know I can play, compared to when I was with Phoenix. It’s been amazing. Coach MacLean has given the team and myself confidence, allowing us to play our game and have fun. Having that confidence makes you 100 times better as a hockey player. The game and the majority of sports is all about confidence. He has instilled that in me from Day 1. I can’t thank him enough for it. It’s made me feel comfortable and allowed me to play my game. It’s just such a great group of guys. We all mesh so well” (link).

-Eugene Melnyk provides a note of sanity amongst trade speculation, “(Dealing) would come with one caveat. Let’s not lose focus of what our job is: That’s to rebuild. The deal we made for Kyle Turris was more of an anomoly than anything else because we did give up a piece of our future and we weren’t going to be competitive without a second-line centre. We had to give something up. You tell me: Unless there is an injury here, I can’t see a void. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to to fix it. Even if we lose a couple in a row, it’s not the end of the world. We need to just keep grinding away. The ones that will succeed in the league, are the ones left standing” (link).

-TSN’s Kerry Fraser writes about Erik Karlsson‘s diving flap (link), “I find it difficult to believe that the referee would openly make a statement to label or brand a player as a “diver.” What I could believe is when questioned by the coach as to why a penalty was not called on the play a response such as, “I felt your player fell down easy, did a toe pick, embellished the light contact in an attempt to draw a penalty or (more directly) I thought your player took a dive.” Any of these types of responses would be appropriate as opposed to branding the player a “diver”. The referee has to make decisions all the time based on criteria such as this to determine when an infraction occurred. In the emotion and intensity of any game a statement can sometimes be misinterpreted. Words of explanation must be chosen wisely by game officials so as not to be construed as offensive or inflammatory. The job of the referee is to always be part of the solution and not part of the problem. When a discussion of this nature takes place it is advisable to have another official alongside to provide support if necessary and act as a witness to what was actually stated. If by any remote chance something inappropriate was accidentally stated by the referee, I am confident that a direct apology will be made in a private conversation to right the ship.”  To unpack these comments you have to read between the lines: no referee should ever call a player a diver and if by chance they do they should apologise.  It seems clear O’Rourke did call Karlsson a diver and no apology has been forthcoming.  It’s a classless move by O’Rourke who clearly didn’t like being called out for it judging by last night’s officiating.

TSN, Sportsnet, ESPN, and The Hockey News‘ power rankings are out, with Ottawa 10th, 10th, 11th, and 11th

The Sens played an uninspired game in their 4-1 loss to LA, running into penalty problems (officials were Dan O’Rourke and Tim Peel, the later clearly not happy to see his name in the papers) and were unable to deal with LA’s forecheck.  Craig Anderson was deservedly pulled (for the first time since December 27th) and the Bobby Butler experiment on the first line failed yet again.  Chris Neil was KO’d by Kyle Clifford who “accidentally” ran into him–I wonder if this is part of a new trend.  Here’s the box score.  A look at the goals:
1. LA, Mitchell
Borowiecki turns the puck over and Anderson let’s a floater in from the point
2. LA, Clifford
Anderson baubles the puck in his glove and Clifford bangs it in when he drops it
3. LA, Johnson (pp)
5-on-3 one-timer
4. LA, Lewis (penalty shot)
Phillips is called for closing his hand on the puck in the crease and Lewis scores on the penalty shot
5. Alfredsson (Karlsson, Gonchar) (pp)
A great one-timer by Alfredsson

Top-performers: no one had a great night, but Daniel Alfredsson and Filip Kuba were the best.

Players Who Struggled:
Erik Karlsson – had a difficult time dealing with the Kings heavy forecheck and was a turnover machine
Craig Anderson – two bad goals is too many

Senators News: January 23rd; Binghamton 4, Adirondack 3

Erik Karlsson was magnanimous in his comments about officials today after the diving flap in Anaheim, “I’ve been a ref myself. I liked it a lot. I think it’s fun. It’s hard, and at this level it’s even harder. I know they’re going through a lot of stuff. I respect them a lot for what they do. It’s not easy being out there all the time and making hard decisions. They’re doing a good job at what they’re doing” (link).

-Binghamton continued its winning trend over Adirondack; Jim O’Brien had the winner for the second game in a row (O’Brien scored twice, Cannone and Da Costa adding the others).  Mike Hoffman and O’Brien lead the way with three-point nights and Mike McKenna earned the win.  Here’s the box score and Joy Lindsay’s game summary.

-Prospect updates (their position in team scoring is noted in brackets, defence compared to defence; I’ve also indicated if the player’s scoring position has change (with a + for up, – for down, and = for unchanged):
Mark Stone (RW, Brandon, WHL) 42-31-44-75 (1st=)
Shane Prince (C/LW, Ottawa 67s, OHL) 36-25-33-58 (3rd=)
Stefan Noesen (C/RW, Plymouth, OHL) 41-20-33-53 (1st=)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (RW, Chicoutimi, QMJHL) 28-28-23-51 (3rd=)
Matt Puempel (LW, Peterborough, OHL) 30-17-16-33 (4th=)
Darren Kramer (C/LW, Spokane, WHL) 44-15-14-29 (5th=)
Jakub Culek (C/LW, Rimouski, QMJHL) 36-8-15-23 (6th=)
Jordan Fransoo (D, Victoria, WHL) 47-2-12-14 (2nd=)
Jakob Silfverberg (C/RW, Brynas) 34-13-18-31 (1st=)
Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, Djurgarden) 14-3-4-7 (15th=)
Fredrik Claesson (D, Djurgarden) 33-1-5-6 (t-4th+)
Marcus Sorensen (RW, Boras) 23-7-6-13 (6th=)
Ryan Dzingel (C, CCHA-Ohio State) 23-5-13-18 (3rd=)
Michael Sdao (D, ECAC-Princeton) 20-6-9-15 (1st=)
Bryce Aneloski (D, WCHA-Nebraska-Omaha) 26-3-10-13 (1st+)
Chris Wideman (D, CCHA-Miami) 26-1-11-12 (1st=)
Ben Blood (D, WCHA-North Dakota) 25-2-9-11 (3rd-)
Max McCormick (LW, CCHA-Ohio State) 17-4-7-11 (7th=)
Jeff Costello (LW, CCHA-Notre Dame) 21-3-6-9 (10th-)
Brad Peltz (LW, ECAC-Yale) 7-1-0-1 (20th=)