Senators News: May 30th

-It’s Sens post-mortem time across the blogosphere and Nichols weighs in, providing brilliant context to the season that was which includes this gem:

The fact that management willingly parlayed an asset to acquire Matt Kassian, the realization that this was a bit of a lost season dawned on many of us

After going through all the positives he poses an obvious question:

You have to wonder whether the Senators’ goaltending may have masked the deficiencies this team had

Clearly they did and the open question Nichols’ leaves us with is whether there will be regression or not.  The positive is that the organisation feels confident in both their goaltenders, so if one falters they have a Plan B.  Nichols then wonders if the Sens are truly a contender going into next season:

The Senators are short on elite talent and problematically, each of its best offensive forwards are entering the final years of their respective deals and given their age and health issues, with the exception of Daniel Alfredsson, the  in Ottawa’s best interests to retain Milan Michalek or Jason Spezza.  Compounding the problem is that there is no one internally who can replace an Alfie, a Spezza or even a Michalek. Hell, they probably will have a difficult time replacing Gonchar’s minutes should the veteran defenceman find a better fit (read: one who gives him the money and term he’s looking for) on the free agent market.  In a nutshell, the Senators are left with two options: 1) they can move assets for an already established NHL player who can conceivably help this team for years to come; or 2) they can move a number of pieces in an effort to move up in the draft.

I partially agree with him in the context of next season.  Of the players mentioned Spezza‘s production simply can’t be replaced outside the draft or a monumental trade, while I think Michalek and Gonchar are more easily replaced (the former is rarely healthy and outside of last season his production wasn’t remarkable; I anticipate Patrick Wiercioch will provide a good chunk of offense produced by a declining Gonchar).  Can/should the Sens try to move up in the draft or make a deal?  I’m just not sure the team gets better exchanging one needed asset to acquire another–what do they have in abundance that they can afford to give up?

It’s a great article and I highly recommend it (although Nichols needs to figure out how to keep the ads on his site from blocking the text or his articles).

-Travis Yost examines a pair of playoff performances (here and here), beginning by looking at how much Alfredsson excelled in the Sens loss to Pittsburgh and how awful Jared Cowen was in the playoffs overall.  Yost wonders if Cowen will be ready for top-four duty next season, but admits there’s no other option as things stand.  If he’s healthy I think he’ll be fine, although a lot depends on who he is paired with.

Bryan Murray believes the Sens need a scorer in their prime, but it’s difficult to see how they could land such a player (free agency is not remotely promising).

-It doesn’t seem like news, but Ottawa has told Guillaume Latendresse that he won’t be back next season.  Unable to produce enough, the painfully slow Latendresse will be looking for a new team via free agency.

Don Brennan offers his grades for the season and doesn’t offer any particularly egregious assessments (his grade for Patrick Wierioch is a little low and Chris Neil is too high, but given his normal penchant for outright ridiculousness it’s not bad).

-Here’s my look at the ISS Draft Guide.

Allan Maki talks about the NHL’s relief that Stephen Walkom’s embarrassing performance can be ignored since Chicago ultimately won their game.  This isn’t Walkom’s first horror show and runs with how consistently awful NHL officiating has been (despite empty apologetics from Mark Spector).

Brian Cazeneuve offers a retrospective on John Tortorella’s time as head coach of the Rangers.  There’s not much love in the media for Tortorella, but for entertainment’s sake I’d love to see him back with TSN.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


ISS 2013 Draft Guide

The ISS 2013 NHL draft guide has been released and here’s my look at the guide (for last year’s go here).  ISS does not rank goaltenders and skaters together (20 of the former, 200 of the latter), making them the only purchased draft product that fails to make a unified list (Central Scouting separates their lists ever more radically, but it’s a free service).  ISS was dead last in drafting acumen (you can check it out here).  Here is their top-30 (which differs slightly from what they just released).

1. Nathan MacKinnon
2. Seth Jones
3. Jonathan Drouin
4. Valery Nichushkin
5. Sasha Barkov
6. Darnell Nurse
7. Elias Lindholm
8. Nikita Zadorov
9. Sean Monahan
10. Bo Horvat
11. Rasmus Ristolainen
12. Curtis Lazar
13. Hunter Shinkaruk
14. Ryan Pulock
15. Alexander Wennberg
16. Andre Burakowsky
17. Steve Santini
18. Frederik Gauthier
19. Valentin Zykov
20. Kerby Rychel
21. Joshua Morrissey
22. Madison Bowey
23. Michael McCarron
24. Anthony Mantha
25. Max Domi
26. J.T. Compher
27. Dillon Heatherington
28. Ian McCoshen
29. Nic Petan
30. Chris Bigras

Zachary Fucale is their top goaltender, followed by Tristan Jarry and Eamon McAdam.

ISS assessed each team’s prospect pool assigning them a grade and here’s how the league looks to them:

Ottawa, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Chicago
Anaheim, Minnesota, Florida, Montreal, New York Islanders,
Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Buffalo, Phoenix, Nashville, Los Angeles, Colorado
Columbus, Calgary, Detroit, Vancouver, New Jersey, Carolina,
San Jose

Last year ISS ranked Ottawa’s prospects with a B grade.  They’ve listed Patrick Wiercioch, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Jakob Silfverberg, and Ben Blood (of all people) as “on the horizon”.  Unlike last year there’s no list of team needs, but the players selected above match the 2012 list minus Robin Lehner (presumably graduated) and Ben Bishop (now “on the horizon” for Tampa).  In their mock draft they have the Sens picking Andre Burakowsky, saying:

Burakowsky plays the game with a lot of skill. His game seemed to fall off a little this year and he slipped in the rankings according. He could be a steal if he regains his mojo.

This is a very expensive product and isn’t meant for casual draft fans.  It’s a useful guide for serious fantasy/draft fans who want scouting reports for all listed prospects, but that’s the only thing that separates it from inexpensive alternatives like The Hockey News.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 28th

Jason Spezza returned to playoff action with a torn meniscus and will have surgery to repair it in the off-season.

Jakob Silfverberg talked about what he wanted to improve for next season:

I want to score more goals, I guess. You’ve got to take (the puck) to the net, you’ve got to drive the net hard and that’s one thing I’m trying to learn every day. You’ve got to be able to be tough (at the) net and go through some guys and be harder around the net.  You’ve got to go faster, they’re so quick. That’s where we want to be in a couple of years and that’s where I want to be in a couple of years, too.

Mark Parisi comes out swinging in his final Ups & Downs for the final week that was, criticising Craig Anderson after the fact, but even in the criticism he tries to offer excuses.  I don’t know why the blogging community struggles so much with pointing out that Anderson wasn’t good against the Penguins–it doesn’t make him a bad goaltender, it just means he was in the series (and the regular season).  The fact that Andy himself was offering up excuses bothers me a lot more than his performance (has any other Ottawa goaltender gotten away with that?).  Mark’s other arrows are all over the place and I’m not going to go through them all.

Dave Young makes the assumption that because an injury-rattled Sens team couldn’t score in the playoffs against Pittsburgh they need scoring depth (Ken Warren makes the same assumption).  Do they?  I really don’t know–the full team only played five games together and that’s not enough time to mean anything.  Every team could use more goal scorers, but Ottawa won’t land any prime fish in free agency (Warren is smoking something to think the Sens could land David Clarkson) so they are going to have to look within for goals.

-The WTYKY lads got together for a round table of death (no one died) to discuss the season that was for Ottawa.  The fellahs are positive about things going forward.  They debated keeping Sergei Gonchar, but I agree with James that it’s a no-brainer that they let him walk.  James pats himself on the back for predicting Jean-Gabriel Pageau to break out, but his argument that this is definitely different from Bobby Butler, Peter Regin, or the cast of thousands who have looked good over a short period of time isn’t convincing.  I think Pageau will remain a useful player, but the sample size is too small to be certain.

Jeremy Milks offers his roster decisions (let’s recall that Jeremy thought Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner needed to be retained last season) and decides Jim O’Brien, Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Regin, and Mike Lundin are likely gone (agreed), while (surprise!) he thinks Matt Kassian should be retained.  He’s unsure about Sergei Gonchar (my thoughts above) and Andre Benoit, but with Benoit wanting a one-way deal I suspect he is gone as well.

-Speaking of Benoit, he believes he has proven he’s an everyday NHL player.  That may be true, but I don’t think it will be with the Sens.

Bryce Aneloski‘s Allen Americans won the President’s Cup (the CHL championship), although he never suited up after the first round.

Jordan Fransoo (along with Aneloski) are on the clock for their rights to be reliquished by the Sens.

-ISS has released its latest 2013 draft rankings (for their previous list go here):

Rank Name Pos. Birthdate Shot H W Team League Last Rank
1 Nathan MacKinnon C 9/1/95 R 6.00 182 Halifax QMJHL 2
2 Seth Jones D 10/3/94 R 6.03.5 208 Portland WHL 1
3 Jonathan Drouin LW 3/27/95 L 5.10.75 185 Halifax QMJHL 3
4 Valeri Nichushkin RW 3/4/95 L 6.04 202 Chelyabinsk Traktor KHL 4
5 Sasha Barkov C 9/2/95 L 6.03 209 Tappara FinE 5
6 Darnell Nurse D 2/4/95 L 6.03.5 189 Sault Ste. Marie OHL 6
7 Elias Lindholm C 12/2/94 R 6.00 192 Brynas SweE 7
8 Nikita Zadorov D 4/15/95 L 6.05.25 230 London OHL 8
9 Sean Monahan C 10/12/94 L 6.02 186 Ottawa OHL 9
10 Bo Horvat C 4/5/95 L 6.00.25 200 London OHL 10
11 Rasmus Ristolainen D 10/27/94 R 6.04 207 TPS Turku FinE 11
12 Curtis Lazar C 2/2/95 R 5.11.75 193 Edmonton WHL 12
13 Hunter Shinkaruk C 10/13/94 L 5.11 175 Medicine Hat WHL 13
14 Ryan Pulock D 10/6/94 R 6.00.5 211 Brandon WHL 14
15 Alexander Wennberg C 9/22/94 L 6.01.5 190 Djurgarden SweJE 15
16 Andre Burakowsky LW 2/9/95 L 6.01.5 178 Malmo SweAl 16
17 Steve Santini D 3/7/95 R 6.01.5 207 USA Under-18 NTDP 17
18 Frederik Gauthier C 4/26/95 L 6.05 210 Rimouski QMJHL 18
19 Valentin Zykov RW 5/15/95 R 6.00 210 Baie-Comeau QMJHL 19
20 Kerby Rychel LW 10/7/94 L 6.01 200 Windsor OHL 20
21 Josh Morrissey D 3/28/95 L 5.11.75 182 Prince Albert WHL 21
22 Madison Bowey D 4/22/95 R 6.00.75 200 Kelowna WHL 22
23 Anthony Mantha LW 9/16/94 L 6.04 190 Val d’Or QMJHL 23
24 JT Compher C 4/8/95 R 5.10.5 184 USA Under-18 NTDP 24
25 Max Domi C 3/2/95 L 5.09.25 193 London OHL 25
26 Nicolas Petan C 3/22/95 L 5.08.5 163 Portland WHL 26
27 Dillon Heatherington D 5/9/95 L 6.03 196 Swift Current WHL 27
28 Michael McCarron RW 3/7/95 R 6.05 228 USA Under-18 NTDP 28
29 Chris Bigras D 2/22/95 L 6.00.5 189 Owen Sound OHL 29
30 Samuel Morin D 7/12/95 L 6.07 200 Rimouski QMJHL 30

Almost no positions changed except at the very top.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 26th; Ottawa 2 Pittsburgh 6

-The Senators season ended with a thud as they lost 6-2 to Pittsburgh in a game that wasn’t close.  Craig Anderson continued to be ordinary against the Penguins (he made 27 saves) and the Sens simply had no answer to the offensive barrage (Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris scored the final goals of the playoffs for Ottawa).  The inclusion of Cory Conacher in the lineup made no discernible difference, although he played more than Mika Zibanejad who saw a meagre 8:14 of ice time.  Here’s the boxscore; Scott had the scoring chances 12/18.

Paul MacLean reflects on the loss:

It’s a hard lesson to swallow, these last two games. It’s real tough for our goaltender, our team and our coaching staff and our organization to get beat like we did in the last two games, but one thing about our group is adversity really tends to be something (we learn from). We will take good things out of this and it will make us better. (The Penguins) never stepped off the pedal one time and that’s what it takes.

I think it’s indicative that MacLean mentioned the goaltender first.  Anderson deserved the praise he got this season, but he was not good against the Penguins in either the regular or post-season.  Anderson could not accept that he didn’t perform well however:

At the end of the day, if you lose the game 3-2 or 6-2, it doesn’t matter, you still lose. Obviously, statistics show a little bit, they don’t show the whole truth. If you break down the scoring chances and break down the quality of scoring chances, that’s what tells the story. Anybody that’s watching the game and knows anything about hockey, they’ll take the statistics and throw them out the window, because that’s just kind of the way things are.

There’s a pretty big difference in losing 3-2 or 6-2 and Andy shouldn’t hang his hat on losing being okay because the other team had a lot of scoring chances.  I’m not a fan of players making excuses.

-Prior to the series I predicted the Sens would lose in five and none of the trends of the match-up explored in the regular season changed in the post-season.  Anderson continued to be average (The Raaymaker offers up excuses for Andy, but a near-Vezina winning goaltender puts up better numbers than that), the Penguins continued to get the lion’s share of the powerplays, and the Sens continued to give up the first goal and were unable to keep up offensively.  An Ottawa loss is what most saw in the tea leaves prior to the series (other than Senschirp who thought Ottawa had the edge in all categories); the Penguins are locked and loaded and Ottawa just didn’t have the horses to run with them.

-Speaking of Raaymaker (link above), he gives up his random Milan Michalek criticism in the end–with Michalek scoring in back-to-back games it becomes hard to maintain the illusion he’s playing poorly.  He’s correct in criticising Jared Cowen‘s performance, but the Gonchar criticism doesn’t make much sense.

Jared Crozier, who brought up the idea of biased officiating in the playoffs, now dismisses it out of hand (25/18 was the powerplay split by the end–the Pens averaged five powerplays a game, just like in the regular season against Ottawa).  Crozier thought that game two was the breaking point for Ottawa because the Penguins “got” to Anderson.  Given that Pittsburgh “got” to Anderson in the regular season I don’t really see his point (they also scored 4 in the first game against him too).

-Speaking of Crozier, he looks forward to next season and puts forward the following:

With Sergei Gonchar a pending UFA, there will be a hole in the top 4.  After Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, and Jared Cowen, there is question marks.  Patrick Wiercioch should have been the 4th, but he has failed to gain the trust of Paul MacLean based on the way the Senators used him.

He has?  I wish Crozier would explain the point, because I’ve seen no indication of that at all.

-I’ll be looking at the Sens season, playoffs, and what’s coming up going forward soon, but the obvious roster changes will be the departure of Peter Regin, Mike Lundin, Guillaume Latendresse, and presumably Sergei Gonchar.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 24th; Ottawa 3 Pittsburgh 7

-Ottawa was crushed in game four against Pittsburgh, a game that got so tilted I’m not sure any meaningful insight can be derived from it–in that sense it’s a plus as the Sens should simply forget about it.  Craig Anderson allowed six goals and made 32 saves in the loss, while Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris, and Daniel Alfredsson scored the goals.  The Penguins continued to make dangerous plays (Matt Cooke hit Colin Greening in the head, among other things).  The Sens did enjoy early 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but simply could not keep up with the Pens.  Here’s the boxscoreScott had the scoring chances 20/25.

-While some line juggling is expected going into tonight’s game the only roster change is either Cory Conacher or Matt Kassian stepping in for the injured Mark Stone.  Normally I’d pick Conacher, but at this point it’s hard to know what MacLean will do.

-I continue to be amazed at the circle-the-wagons approach in the blogosphere when it comes to Craig Anderson‘s play.  In a city happy to throw anyone to the wolves after even an average performance (see Varada below), no one seems to want to criticise the goaltender’s play.  Despite how some people want to dress it up, Anderson has been below average and the constant references to his play against anyone who isn’t the Penguins doesn’t seem particularly relevant.  Including the regular season he’s had two good games out of seven–that’s not a good resume.  Would Robin Lehner be any better?  We’re not going to find out.  Also skating largely under the radar is Jared Cowen, who should thrive in a physical series, but has had all kinds of trouble with down low coverage.  Zack Smith has been completely invisible, but I believe he has been playing hurt the entire series.

Varada looks at the officiating (sort-of) by examining the recent past and learning that the most penalized team in the playoffs (like the Sens) have done well.  Apparently because of that isolated stat Ottawa can’t blame special teams for their losses–or, at least, I think that’s his conclusion.  Varada dovetails from that point to look at game four specifically where (I think) he says that Gonchar was bad because he was too soft on the Dupuis goal (the 5-2 goal).  I think it’s a mistake to take one play that night as indicative of anything, nor was Gonchar the only player to make mistakes on a goal (so why pick him?).  Varada then says the tough players on the Sens weren’t being as physical because they were afraid of taking a penalty, but at the same time the officials didn’t give the game to the Pens.  I think what Varada is trying to say is that he doesn’t like the excuse that poor officiating dictates winning or losing, but it’s difficult to discern that in his post.  For my part, the officiating clearly is bad and it hurts the product (the games aren’t as entertaining when referees are inconsistent), but it’s unlikely to improve any time soon (the rhetoric that “these are the best” continues to be made by the league and the media).

Dave Young looks for positives from the game four loss, but for me the only interest tidbit he offers is that Dan Bylsma’s Penguins are 0-6 in closing out a series at home (which I take as an interesting anomaly, not a sign of anything).

-Here are my thoughts on The Hockey News draft guide.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Hockey News 2013 NHL Draft Guide

The Hockey News‘ NHL draft preview is out on the stands for a bit and I thought I would take a look at it (here is my preview of THN last year and here is a look at the success of their prognostication).  For the sake of comparison I’ve bracketed the differences from ISS’ latest rankings (which can be found here, keeping in mind ISS ranks goaltenders separately and NR simply means the player is not in ISS’ top-30).  This is not a comprehensive guide (like Red Line Report), instead being like McKeen’s in offering a top-100 list.

1 – Seth Jones – D – Portland – WHL
2 – Jonathan Drouin – F – Halifax – QMJHL (3)
3 – Nathan MacKinnon – C – Halifax – QMJHL (2)
4 – Elias Lindholm – C – Brynas – SweE (7)
5 – Valery Nichushkin – F – Chelyabinsk Chelmet – RusS (4)
6 – Aleksander Barkov – F – Tappara – FinE (5)
7 – Sean Monahan – C – Ottawa – OHL (9)
8 – Darnell Nurse – D – S.S. Marie – OHL (6)
9 – Lazar, Curtis – C – Edmonton – WHL (12)
10 – Ryan Pulock – D – Brandon – WHL (14)
11 – Alexander Wennberg – C – Djurgarden – SweJr (NR) (15)
12 – Robert Hagg – D – Modo – SweJE (NR)
13 – Adam Erne – LW – Quebec – QMJHL (NR)
14 – Nikita Zadorov – D – London – OHL (8)
15 –Max Domi – C – London – OHL (25)
16 –Bo Horvat – C – London – OHL (NR) (10)
17 – Andre Burakowsky – F – Malmo – SweAl (16)
18 – Mirco Mueller – D – Prince Albert – WHL (NR)
19 – J. T. Morrissey – D – Prince Albert – WHL (21)
20 – Samuel Morin – D – Rimouski – QMJHL (30)
21 – Kerby Rychel – F – Windsor – OHL (20)
22 – Rasmus Ristolainen – D – TPS Turku – FinE (11)
23 – Hunter Shinkaruk – F – Medicine Hat – WHL (13)
24 – Anthony Mantha – LW – QMJHL (23)
25 – Zachary Fucale – G – Halifax – QMJHL (n/a)
26 – Ian McCoshen – D – Waterloo – USHL (NR)
27 – Michael McCarron – RW – USNDP – USHL (28)
28 – Ryan Hartman – RW – OHL (NR)
29 – Jacob de la Rose – C – Leksand – SweAl (NR)
30 – Frederik Gauthier – C – Rimouski – QMJHL (18)

Just like last year Adam Proteau writes an uninspired blurb about the Senators.  After praising the Sens’ system he says they still need scoring forwards and defensemen (I’m not sure who doesn’t, but fair enough), although he calls the Sens blueline “old” which only applies to two members of their blueline (and therefore their blueline isn’t really old).  He also thinks that Eric Gryba is the only right-handed blueliner in the organisation (somehow missing Cody Ceci among others).  The only prospect named that isn’t already on the NHL roster is Mark Stone and Proteau ends the short piece by bringing up Alexandre Daigle as if that has any relevance whatsoever (different era, different GM, different organisation).

There’s a marked difference in prospect assessment by THN, which is interesting, but not compelling in and of itself (it might be if their accuracy was better).  The guide is inexpensive and easily available and offers very brief scouting reports on their top-60 prospects.  It’s a useful product for casual fans, but there’s n0t nearly enough meat or insight for those with a serious interest in the draft.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 22nd

-The biggest news of the morning is that Mark Stone will play tonight (not yet confirmed by MacLean, but apparently he’ll replace Cory Conacher if it happens).  Stone enjoyed a strong end to his season in Binghamton (19 points in his final 20 games along with a point-per-game performance in the B-Sens brief playoff series against Wilkes-Barre).  The change would mean the Sens lose some speed, but replace it with size.  In terms of skill-level it’s probably a draw, although Stone is more of a passer than Conacher.  The plan would be for Stone to play with Spezza.

-Also on the roster side of things, Chris Neil will be able to play tonight despite the injury suffered via Brooks Orpik in game three.  Jussi Jokinen may be added to the lineup for the Pens.

Scott had the scoring chances for game three 25/28.

Scott Burnside interviewed Paul MacLean who talked about his approach:

What I wanted to be as a coach was: If a player played for me … he knew what was expected of him. And if I had to make him do it, I would make him do it. Because when I played, they didn’t always make me do things. They didn’t always make me be a backchecker. As long you scored goals, everything was fine. I didn’t want a player to leave and say, ‘Well, he didn’t ask me to do that. That wasn’t expected of me.’ That’s kind of the credo I had. When I first started to coach, I yelled and screamed like every fool. And I can still do that a little bit now if I have to.  But to me, some of the best things you do is just having conversations. This is what an Ottawa Senator is. There’s not a whole bunch of things; there’s one picture. That’s what I think my biggest job is to do, is to keep everyone focused on that one picture.

Travis Yost looks more at Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s surprising contribution (again) which served as a reminder that I’ve never taken a full look at his time in Binghamton (where he finished eighth in team scoring).  As Yost mentions (and is now well known with the fanbase), Pageau was a borderline roster player to start the season in Binghamton and he began it as the fourthline, checking center (he beat out Jakub Culek who would have had that role otherwise).  He was only scratched once, very early in the season, which is a sign of confidence from Luke Richardson (who talked about him a couple of weeks ago).  Offensively, through his first 39 games (roughly half way through the season) he had 13 points.  With the return of the NHL season he moved up to the scoring lines and his production increased with it, albeit not exponentially (16 points in 30 games).  There’s nothing about his bare numbers in the AHL that screams out at the kind of impact he’s had with Ottawa, and even his recall was largely a result of injuries to more well-known prospects.  Clearly, the pace of the NHL and the talent around him in Ottawa has given him a boost (offensively) that he wasn’t getting in Binghamton.

The Raaymaker examines how the Sens have scored against Tomas Vokoun this series looking for weaknesses.  It’s a fun exercise, although a more comprehensive job would be to look at him over this season and his career.

Marc Brassard points out that Craig Anderson‘s performance in game three crushes any goaltender controversy there could have been (although, an oddity for Ottawa, there was none after game two).  He also points out that Anderson has learned in his time in Ottawa to not blame his teammates for goals allowed (something he was well-known for previously).

Wayne Scanlan thinks the game three win was emblematic of the Sens season.

Nichols transcribes Daniel Alfredsson‘s interview on Jim Rome and two things stuck out to me:

But, I’ve been here so long that it felt, ‘If I’m going to win the Cup, I want to do it here.’ That’s the relationship that I have with the city and the fans, and it didn’t really feel right. And I’m happy I made that decision as well.

And (on former teammates)

There’s a few. Zdeno Chara, who is now the captain of the Bruins, I admire him. He’s a guy who works extremely hard and Marian Hossa, same thing in Chicago – great work ethic. To go back to Chara though, I can’t really say that I enjoy going back to battle with him, but I admire him. There’s also a few other guys. Dany Heatley was here for a while. We had some great success – me, him and Spezza as well. There are quite a few guys that have been here and you look back and it’s fun to have been a part of their careers. I’ve learned a lot from them and hopefully I’ve been able to help them out as well. And then, you mentioned Roy (Mlakar) as well, to go back, one of the things that I’m really liked (for) is the charity work I do. And Roy was one of those guys who really taught me how I could give back to the community and he was instrumental to that and if he listens to this, thanks Roy.

Varada thinks Ottawa should embrace being hated rather than trying to be more loved by other hockey fans.  I don’t accept his premise–do other Canadian fans really hate the Sens?  A few, maybe, but on the whole I expect the feeling is indifference.  The only consistent “hate” I see comes from the old crowd at the CBC which makes watching the national channel painful, but that’s a very specific group that isn’t going to be impacted by the role the Sens fanbase embraces.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 20th; Ottawa 2 Pittsburgh 1 (OT)

-Ottawa overcome a 1-0 deficit in the final 30 seconds of the game to beat the Penguins 2-1 in double overtime.  Craig Anderson made 49 saves for the win, while Daniel Alfredsson (short-handed off a fantastic feed from Milan Michalek) and Colin Greening scored for Ottawa.  The game was markedly more physical than the previous two, and featured the awful officiating we all expect (Eric Furlatt and Stephen Walkom on this occasion).  It was a mixed bag from Erik Karlsson, who was solid in regulation, but then turnover-happy overtime.  There was more great play from Erik Condra, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Greening (and a tip of the hat to Andre Benoit who was instrumental on the game winning goal).  Jason Spezza did not play much (18:40) and his most notable moment for me was being run over by Craig AdamsChris Neil was injured on a hit from Brooks Orpik, but whether he will miss any action or not remains unknown (speculation is a shoulder injury).  Cory Conacher played the least of any Sen (13:22) with Mika Zibanejad not far ahead of him.  Here’s the boxscoreRyan Classic‘s overview of the game is solid, although he doesn’t reference that the ticky-tack call on Niskanen was a make-up call for the absurd Chris Phillips penalty.  Alan Muir offers some thoughts on the game where he emphasizes Anderson‘s play and some Pittsburgh mistakes.  Scott Burnside balances Penguin failure with the Senators doggedness.

Daniel Alfredsson talked about the game:

It doesn’t always work out, but we always believe we can do it. That’s a good feeling to have. With a minute and half to go we get a penalty and it doesn’t look good, but we know we have some skill, we made some good passes and found an opening and it gives us a chance to win. We’re right back in it.

Scott had the scoring chances in game two 10/23.

Sylvain St-Laurent wonders if playoff performances will assure Pageau and Benoit roster spots in Ottawa next season.  I think the former is a lock, but I’m not sure that Benoit has the same kind of guarantee.

Mark Parisi added to his Michalek-Bad column by saying Erik Karlsson, Cory Conacher, and Jakob Silfverberg are struggling–two out of three ain’t bad.  Silfverberg has been fine this series, albeit his usual linemates (Zibanejad and Conacher) have struggled and that might lead to Parisi’s impression (for Paul Maclean’s two cents I’d point to Silfverberg‘s third highest ice time among forwards last night).

Jared Crozier explores the possibilities of a conspiracy against the Sens in regards to the officiating:

 I hate thinking that the league might secretly favor one team advancing instead of another and that they might have some secret directive.  I don’t think they do, but games like this make my opinion waver.

This idea can be pretty easy to gravitate too (like when Dan O’Halloran rolled his eyes at Karlsson after getting high-sticked by Malkin in game two), and comments by the lamentable Adam Proteau don’t help (I’m not sure how Adam thinks fans would have “definitive proof” of officials colluding–that’s the kind of thing journalists are supposed to look into).  Would the league prefer Sidney Crosby to move on to the next round over small-market Ottawa?  Sure.  Is there a directive from the league to make that happen?  Of course not, the league isn’t that stupid.  Are the officials aware of what makes the most sense for the league?  Absolutely.  Does it impact the calls they make?  I don’t see how anyone could answer that question.  Rather than look for conspiracies I’ve always preferred simply saying the officiating is awful.  Calls get ignored on both sides and the complete lack of consistency makes it almost impossible to determine if there is favouritism or not.

-Speaking of Proteau (link above), even he thinks the officiating this playoff year has been awful (similar comments were made last year as well), but offers no solution for it.

Jason Spezza talked about his back surgery:

It got to the point [last year] where I couldn’t go out to dinner with the guys, I’d eat standing up. I slept on the floor. I’d start on the bed and wind up on the floor. Those were pretty dark times. Toward the end of last year, I felt a bit of stuff. But it was manageable. I played over in Switzerland and it was manageable. For whatever reason, one or two games into the season, it flared up. I wasn’t messing around with it. I took a cortisone shot and it didn’t do anything. When you take a cortisone shot and it doesn’t work, you know it’s time for surgery. It was an instant relief. The nerve pain goes away almost instantly. Then there’s a whole bunch of weakness that follows because they cut through the muscles. I knew what to expect. The surgeon warned me ahead of time that this might shut me down for the year. Fortunately for me, the team has played for so long and given me a chance to get back. It’s better than before I had surgery, but it’s going to take awhile before I feel 100%. At no point did I think that my year was over. Mentally, I had to keep feeling me like I could play. That’s gotten me to where I was feeling better and could ramp up my rehab to the point where I can now play. It’s not very fun being the first guy at the rink and the first guy to leave … not being around the guys, not getting the stimulation of playing. The first time I went on the ice to shoot pucks, I felt like a kid again. Once you have back problems, they never really leave you. It’s kind of a daily grind. I’ve done exercises every day for the last six years. My wife doesn’t like when I have to sit on the floor and stretch instead of sitting on the couch with her. I wouldn’t wish back pain on my worst enemy.

-I wonder if anyone still thinks the Sens miss Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka–maybe Jeremy Milks, who was sure the team was much worse without them.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 18th; Ottawa 3, Pittsburgh 4

-Ottawa dropped to 0-2 in their series against Pittsburgh after a spirited 4-3 loss.  Craig Anderson looked average in allowing 3 goals (18 saves), but Robin Lehner ultimately took the loss despite 17 saves.  Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for Ottawa.  The Penguins enjoyed a significant edge in powerplays (six to two), and the game winner game just after the end of a dumb Chris Neil infraction, but ultimately the officiating (while bad) wasn’t the determining factor in the game.  It was a rough night for Mika Zibanejad (who only played 7:52 TOI and -2), as well as for Erik Karlsson who spent most of the second period benched (15:37 TOI and -2).  On the positive side the Condra-Pageau-Greening line continues to be excellent and I thought Turris was solid as well.  Jared Cowen continues to have problems down low in his own end, but Marc Methot and Sergei Gonchar were the best among the defenders.  Here’s the boxscore.

Erik Karlsson was left searching for answers after the game:

We finished pretty strong, but we started poorly. Some of the blame is on me. I’m struggling a little bit. I don’t really know [if my problems are a result of injury or fatigue]. I don’t think I have the answer to that myself. I just have to find a way to figure my body out and obviously I’m not feeling the same way as I’m used to. It started bad and I just couldn’t get it going.

-There seems to be no goaltending debate amongst the blogging community (eg Mark Parisi), which surprises me given the other roster debates that go on paired with Anderson‘s lacklustre results against Pittsburgh all season.  Everyone wants to stay the course and if Andy blows another one maybe put in Lehner for clean-up duty when the team is down 0-3.  It seems counterintuitive to me–go with one or the other–as I don’t like the “safe” play.  With this kind of team MacLean should swing for the fences whatever he does (his comments after the fact give no indication he’s going to make a change).

-The big news is that Jason Spezza will play in game three (presumably putting Guillaume Latendresse back in the pressbox), but I wonder if he’s going to be like the Karlsson (a shadow of his pre-injury form) or not.  Regardless, he creates match-up problems for Pittsburgh and improves the Sens special teams and faceoffs (among other things).  Chris (and Travis Yost) speculates that Zibanejad will be moved to the wing.

Kerry Fraser wants officials to have discretion with the delay of game penalty when the puck is shot over the glass, which I think is a terrible idea.  I want refs to have less decisions to make, not more–consistency is the goal.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: May 17th

-Two lineup changes for the Sens tonight: Andre Benoit steps in for the injured Eric Gryba, while Guillaume Latendresse replaces powerplay specialist Matt Kassian.

Graeme Nichols takes a look at the game tonight and talks about the underlying statistics that illustrate the Sens weren’t as behind the Pens in game one as the score would indicate.  He believes the inclusion of Latendresse is meant to help the second unit powerplay–certainly, unless his play warrants it, Guillaume won’t get much more ice time than Kassian did.  The switch to Benoit from Gryba is that of grit to skill; I also think Benoit will be a little more reliable in his own end as both Gryba and Cowen struggled in their own zone.  Nichols quotes Chris Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson who talked about the emphasis on controlling the play (possessing the puck) more.

Cory Conacher talked about his approach to every game:

I like to be in those dirty areas. I like to kind of [tick] off some of their players and get in their heads, and the fans obviously take note of that sometimes. It’s all fun for me and hopefully I can continue to do that.

Paul MacLean has liked what he’s seen:

We’ve been very pleased with his evolution. He was a good player when we got him. As advertised, he’s a very competitive person and his heart is bigger than his size a lot of times. But at the same time, he’s very competitive and he works hard to score goals and he goes to the dirty areas to have an opportunity to score, and those are the things that we like about him. And those are things that we continue to need to see from him, and I thought he was in there and competitive and battled at the net last night, and we need more people that’ll do that.

-Penguins coach Dany Bylsma is a big fan of Paul MacLean’s and believes he deserves to be named coach of the year:

He deserves it.  You talk about last year with his team, coming into an Ottawa Senators team that he didn’t know what to expect or where they would be at, he did a great job last year. But this year, different challenges for his team and his group, and they dealt with some injuries and still [were] consistently a good hockey team without some of their key guys and with some of their key guys. I would have cast a vote for him.

-If there’s one thing we can count on when it comes to opinion pieces on the Sens, it’s Jeremy Milks telling us the solution to Ottawa’s problems is to get physical.  Jeremy says the Sens need to emulate the Flyers of last year who were very physical.  The fact that Philadelphia had no difficulty putting the puck in the net doesn’t make the comparison particularly apt to me (nor did the Penguins have an alternative to replace Marc-Andre Fleury).  Milks also advocates playing on the edge, but not taking any penalties, which ignores how officials have called every game Ottawa has played Pittsburgh this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree that the Sens need to be physical because the Penguins do lose their cool, but it’s a lesser consideration when put next to goaltending and scoring.

Stu Hackel takes a long look at the Raffi Torres suspension.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)