Senators News: January 7th

-The Sens continued to win since my last post, beating Winnipeg (4-3) and then Montreal (4-3) in overtime.  Neither game was a Picasso, but Ottawa has to be happy with every win they can get.  Mark Stone scored after being called up, which can only help his chances of staying with the team (I don’t think he has a future as a checker–his skating just isn’t strong enough to play that role).

Travis Yost provides the data the illustrates how good a penalty killer Erik Karlsson is.  Given his talent this comes as no surprise, although Travis may have a point that ideally he shouldn’t be on the PK.

-Speaking of Travis, he illustrates how much better Ottawa’s third line is with Neil replaced by Condra, yet another piece of evidence that the dreaded Neil-Smith-Greening combination just doesn’t work.

Nichols put on his transcribing hat to give us the goods on Paul MacLean’s recent interview and he had a lot to say about Cody Ceci:

Well, during the lockout when Cody was here with the 67s, I went to watch him and I would go home. Like, I wouldn’t even watch the whole game. I’d be like, ‘Oh, it can’t be. He can’t be… how could we pick this guy? Our scouts are way better than this.’ But he was playing a different game and a different type of system. And every once in a while you could see it. (Our scouts) told me he could really skate, but you never really saw that with the 67s that year, whether or not beforehand they must have saw it but that year. And then I saw him play with Team Canada in Halifax in the summertime. My son Adrian and I went up to Halifax to watch one of those Russian/Canada things and he had a bad night that night too. So my (report) card on Cody wasn’t very flattering coming into training camp to begin with, but I said, ‘He’s a young player. He has all these tools to put into the toolbox, so don’t overrate him too early.’ And I thought that in training camp, he came in and played very well. He skated and we (said) to him, ‘You need to skate. If you’re not going to defend by using your feet and skate, then you’re not going to have any chance to play in the league.’ And he took to coaching like a duck to water and then he went down with Luke (Richardson) and obviously continued to do the same things down there. He turned himself into, arguably, the best player in the American Hockey League over the strength of October and most of November before we called him up. He was like, the best player in the league and that says a lot. It’s a pretty good league when you get down there and get playing. And he’s come up here and he’s continued to do what he did down there. Obviously he had it in him and we just had to find the right tap to open up and get it to come out.

Calling him the best player in the AHL is (as Nichols points out) high praise (albeit likely hyperbole), and I agree that Ceci‘s play has allowed Murray to stop trying to force a trade for a defenseman.  MacLean also talked about Mika Zibanejad:

his strength and his size is one of his strengths and he’s been good. He’s been through the middle of the rink, like 200 feet, like impressively. He’s really done a good job of getting through the middle of the rink and when you have a centerman that can do that, it makes a huge difference in your offence and what they can bring and how the other team has to defend you and what they need to do to be able to counter what you’re doing. He’s just taken the bull by the horns a little bit now and you’re starting to see him, when he’s playing good, he’ll start getting against better players and challenging them a little bit. But, he’s stepped up and he’s answered those physical challenges when people have tried to get up in his face and tried to get him to back off a little bit. To his credit, he’s come back out and put his foot on the gas pedal and gone right through them.

This isn’t news to most Sens fans, but given MacLean’s reluctance to play him a lot this season it’s an encouraging thing to hear.

Erik Karlsson has (not surprisingly) made Sweden’s Olympic roster; more surprisingly, Milan Michalek made the Czech team.  It’s a good thing for the team that so few players will be going to Sochi, as there’s less chance for injury or fatigue.

-The flap regarding Brian Burke’s comments on Bobby Ryan has been covered extensively and all I’ll add is that his exclusion from Team USA is a plus for the other squads.

-Binghamton went 2-1 over the weekend, beating Manchester (5-4) and Syracuse (6-5 OT), before falling to Hershey (4-1).  From all reports the B-Sens pooped the bed in their final game, but after winning seven straight a letdown isn’t surprising.

-Since I last looked at Sens players in Elmira, Jakub Culek has posted average numbers (5-2-1-3), while Troy Rutkowski has pulled out of his offensive drought (5-0-2-2).

Pierre Dorion offered his thoughts on the Sens prospects at the WJC (Curtis Lazar, Marcus Hogberg, and Quentin Shore):

Curtis is going on a real good trend right now. I think he’s having a great season with his Edmonton team and that carried over to the World Junior team. I think the way the coaches used him, I think he was a key part of the team, I think he’s a high character kid. The way he handles the puck, the way he puck with pace, the way he drives offensively, the way he goes to tough areas — he can score goals just with his release but he can also score goals in tight — he makes plays off the cycle, I think he is very responsible defensively, he’ll block shots, he’ll do all the little things you need to do to win and I think we got a high character there.

It’s tough to say when someone [Hogberg] doesn’t play a lot and they weren’t really tested. In that game [10-0 win over Norway] I think he had to make two or three big saves, I think one went off the shoulder. He looked big in his net, he looked comfortable. I think Rick Wamsley going over there spending time with him, with his team, was very beneficial for him and I think he is headed in the right direction.

I think his [Shore] development has been going really good, I think we drafted a good player there, especially in the late rounds. I think he understands the game, I think he has got to get stronger and quicker and I think Randy (Lee) has addressed that with him as far as those things. He is smart, he knows how to play above the puck, he knows how to get in lanes to check, he has got good skills for a role player. I think down the road, I don’t think we’re going to see someone who is going to come in here and get a lot of points, but I think with his progression and development he has a chance to be an NHL player one day.

Dorion also briefly spoke about the system in general:

I think obviously the first two guys that we drafted last year, Lazar and Hogberg, are having — Lazar has been having a good season and Hogberg has been up and down. I think we’ve got a few guys that are coming out in major junior this year that we’re going to have big decisions to make on with Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard. We also have some college players on their way that could be good pros.

Assuming Dorion’s college comment is specifically on those close to turning pro, this could reference any or all of Jeff Costello (09), Max McCormick (11), and Ryan Dzingel (11).

-The boys at WTYKY (who cluttered up Twitter this morning by spamming movie titles, to the consternation of anyone who wanted to see anything else on their Twitter feed) made the excellent choice of bringing Puck Possessed into the fold to feature her always entertaining illustrations.  Check them out if you haven’t already.

-To any StarCraft fans who follow the blog, I’ve created a separate one for it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)