I’ve had this post in the works for a couple of days now, but interesting things keep happening.
Ary M takes a look at the Sens PK struggles and sifting through the numbers points the finger at a general decline from both the defensecorps as a whole along with forwards Milan Michalek, Curtis Lazar (no surprise) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (surprising). I agree with him that switching Lazar‘s usage with Alex Chiasson is a good idea as things stand.
This brings up something I’ve been wondering about for quite some time–is Lazar really earning his NHL spot? Would he benefit from time in the minors? I feel like for both he and Cody Ceci were rushed and the organisation can see no evil, hear no evil about them. The oft trotted out mantra about being patient with prospects seems out the window when it comes to these particular players.
Kevin Lee (via my old stomping grounds) picks up the question of whether the Sens blogosphere is being too negative. Points of interesting:
At the end of the day we’re all Sens fans who want the team to win. From that perspective we should be supporting every player on the team, from the crease outwards. That’s what made the miracle run last season so fun. Winning makes it easy to do that, for both bloggers and fans alike.
I think the first point (support) doesn’t make much sense (only a cult mindlessly supports every aspect of something), but I agree with his latter point–everyone loves winning.
One of the more common responses I see to bloggers is that the team isn’t ready to win yet anyways, just enjoy what we have now, and when the time is right the team will make their moves. Well, when is the winning window?
The only time I get resistance from readers is if I criticise someone who is “good in the corners”, but that aside, Kevin’s point is on target (I think Nichols brought this up last week as well–something that seems likely given Kevin echoing the belief that the prospect cupboard is bare… somehow…sort of…er, moving on).
Personally, I think it’s within the next two to three years.
I don’t agree with this, as I don’t think the roster has a window with the current talent. For me, what I want to see is the best possible performance given what’s available. Constantly wanting a Cup win seems more than a little unrealistic to me–winning a championship really boils down to some luck at the draft followed by having an excellent org to build around it, and the Sens have neither the organisation nor the elite talent to do it.
I think this is a major reason why fans are seeing so much negativity in the Sens blogosphere
I disagree with Kevin here: I think the reason for all the criticism is that the blogosphere finally has the information (analytics) necessary to properly criticise what the organisation does. We are in a rare period where some fans do know better than management and that gets very frustrating when that knowledge is widely disseminated. It’s worth pointing out that the actual media doesn’t perform its critical role anymore either, leaving a vacuum for the blogosphere to fill.
Michael Kostka was recalled by the Sens after the injury to Patrick Wiercioch. Is he the most deserving call-up? No (Fredrik Claesson has been better), but he’s second on the list and I don’t mind giving preference to a puck-mover.
Speaking of roster moves, Matt Puempel was returned to Binghamton (he played in the loss to Toronto). Has Dave Cameron finally realised (11 games in) that he may not be NHL ready? And will this at last give Shane Prince an opportunity? I also wonder if Luke Richardson’s whining about callups contributed to this decision.
In yet another move Chris Driedger was called up after Binghamton’s game against Toronto. It seems like Andrew Hammond is coming down on a conditioning stint while Matt O’Connor is simply being returned (presumably Scott Greenham will be sent back to Evansville as a result). Also returning to Ottawa is an undeserving Colin Greening (see below).
The Nichols’ ditto-tape machine was back in action transcribing the words of Pierre Dorion and amongst some pretty rather drab patter were comments on Binghamton rookies Nick Paul and Tobias Lindberg:
Nick’s been good, but not great. I think there’s an adjustment when you go to the pros. Nick was such a dominant junior. I thought he was a big part of Canada winning the World Juniors, a big part of North Bay’s success over the last few years that I think there’s an adjustment there. Realizing that you’re going up against 25, 26 and even 30-year olds that are so much stronger. So there’s a bit of an adjustment there. We’ve seen in little sequences or in some good sequences, some flashes of what he can do well offensively and defensively. For a guy who shoots the puck so well, I don’t even think he’s got a goal yet. Luke (Richardson) had to sit out Nick one game just because he had to realize that you have to work at everything here. It’s just the pro game: you have to work at it. With Tobias, he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s stepped in. He’s probably on our top line and I think, if I’m not mistaken, he sat out one game too. Which is alright. We have no problems with that as far as development and realizing that you have to earn it at whatever level you’re at — whether it’s the American League or the NHL — you have to earn it. His skill set and his skating is good NHL, not just NHL, even very good NHL(-calibre). We think both players will be here. No, we know that both players will be Ottawa Senators. It’s just a process that they have to go through to do their time in the American Hockey League
You don’t need to read between the lines very hard to tell Dorion has no idea why Lindberg sat for a game (as indeed he did again last night), but more importantly, for him to say both that Tobias has very good NHL-calibre skill is remarkable–even more so that the organisation didn’t anticipate it. I agree with him, incidentally, but it speaks to the multiple blind-spots the org has with skilled players. Dorion also stated the obvious that Chris Driedger has been much better than Matt O’Connor, but that the latter was recalled largely so he could get some coaching and get his game in order (which makes sense).
I didn’t think I’d see the day that Nichols would start pining for the “good old days”, but he wants ties back in the NHL–ties! Unless the NHL is going to adopt 3-point wins in regulation (which I deem impossible under Gary Bettman), ties are an abomination. Give me 3-on-3, give me 2-on-2, give me fans coming out of the stands to play five minutes of beer hockey to determine the winner–anything but the tedium of freaking ties. Yes it would be better if games were determined 5-on-5, but for good reasons that’s not possible in the regular season and at least 3-on-3 gives us goals (something the NHL doesn’t know how to do otherwise).
This is old news now, but my puzzlement over Scott Greenham‘s injury status has been cleared up as he is healthy enough to play and could suit up for Binghamton whenever they need him.
Something I haven’t mentioned before but I’ve had in mind since the beginning of the season is that Richardson is trying to follow Paul MacLean’s old third line formula when he used to trot out Zack Smith-Chris Neil-Colin Greening–a “tough” checking line, albeit one that failed miserably–Richardson uses Greening-Dziurzynski-Stortini. The latter works a bit better in the AHL, but a better player than Stortini would help it quite a bit (McCormick would be ideal).
I watched Binghamton’s 3-0 win over the red-hot Wilkes-Barre Penguins on Friday. As nice as the score looks, the BSens were outplayed and out shot (finishing 31-41) and benefited from a pair of bad goals given up by Pens goaltender Matt Murray (the third goal was into an empty net). Here’s a fairly lengthy blow-by-blow:
-a nice Mark Fraser moment: the first line creates pressure and he shoots a one-timer over the net with no traffic in front (Murray grabbed it anyway)
1. Kostka (PP) shoots through Murray with a shot between the wickets from the point
-the following shift Stortini turns it over creating an icing call and on the subsequent play Dziurzynski is forced to take a holding call as the third line runs around in its own end
–Hobbs was guilty of a brutal turnover on the PK leading to a 3-on-1, but the Pens missed a wide open net
–Mullen turnover, but he blocks the shot on the play
-a stupid boarding penalty from Ewanyk
-beautiful pass by Lindberg springs McCormick who can’t cash in on a breakaway
–Lepine throws away a PP-opportunity by pointlessly punching Uher after the whistle and giving the Pens a PP
–Fraser watches his check in front bang away at the puck
-Inexplicably the Sens put no one in the box for Lepine, leading to shorthanded play after the PP was over
2. Schneider floats a puck in from the point (looked like it hit the Pens defenseman)
-pretty soft hooking call on Paul
–Fraser did his second “watch-and-pray” trick, this time on the PK in front of the net
–Schneider had a great chance in the slot
–Harpur appears on the PP? Don’t get that one–not something he did much in the OHL; Stortini returns too, although his teammates never gave him the puck (for obvious reasons)
-great save by Driedger after the powerplay
-with Lepine ejected for the aforementioned punching we got to see the nightmarish defensive pairing of Fraser-Harpur
–Dzingel shot a rolling puck over the net with it wide open, getting hurt subsequently when O’Dell hit him with a slapshot; Mullen blocked a shot with his chest not long after and looked hurt, but both continued to play
3. Claesson loses his check and Stortini is caught watching the play as the lead is cut into via a nice pass from behind the net
-inexplicably Greening replaced Lindberg on the PP (the Swede had one shift in the period)
-a good shift by the first line draws a penalty and then draw another on the PP for a 5-on-3 which accomplishes nothing
–Greening wastes a 2-on-1 with Robinson with an ill-advised shot
-some frantic action via the fourth line in front with a couple of scoring chances
-third line gives up a 2-on-1 forcing Mullen to take a hooking penalty; Robinson is called on the kill leading to a 5-on-3 against
–Dziurzynski pots the empty-netter
It was a strong effort from Driedger, but if the BSens hadn’t gotten lucky this game would have gone down the road of most this season. There was no reason to sit Lindberg, but with the talented Swede Richardson doesn’t see reason (see below).
Richardson’s cluelessness continued as he scratched Lindberg against Toronto (replacing him in the roster with Puempel). Apparently giving ice time to players like Danny Hobbs trumps the best prospect on the team (it reminds me of when he’d trot out the now retired Brad Mills while scratching Ryan Dzingel last season). With Kostka recalled Carlisle returned to the lineup. The BSens paraded to the penalty box for the 6-4 loss; here’s a look at the goals:
1. Fraser gets a soft call for pushing too hard (a reputation call I think) and on the ensuing PP McCormick gets a little out of position leaving Kapanen open in the slot
2. Greening floats a wrist shot towards the net that deflects in off the D
3. Schneider steals the puck behind the net and throws it out to O’Dell who makes no mistake in the slot
4. Lepine doesn’t take the man, his stick, or the shot, so Driedger is beaten off a rebound
5. Puempel makes a terrible pass to Mullen who was speeding through the neutral zone–it results in a 2-on-1 against and Toronto makes no mistake
6. Greening loses the battle along the boards and then loses his check who is wide open for a cross ice pass
7. Claesson throws the puck into a crowd on the PP and it goes in
8. Paul gets a delay of game for the puck going over the glass and just after the PP ends (but before he can get into the play) Greening covers no one and the player right behind him scores
9. With Driedger pulled Schneider scores on a backhand in the slot
The score was flattering to the BSens who spent a lot of the game chasing the puck. It’s a little horrifying watching players like Lepine try to make passes–throwing wobbly grenades up the middle of the ice. Greening was by far the worst player on the ice so gets rewarded with an NHL call-up (!). Without Lindberg in the lineup what little possession the BSens can manage was hurt and that’s evident both in the slant in play and the all the penalties taken.
Bad news on the Christoffer Bengtsberg front as his injury is described as “week to week”, meaning the IceMen were initially at the mercy of Keegan Asmundsen.
Evansville lost 6-4 to Orlando, as the Asmundsen/Carlson goaltending combination failed for the second game in a row (the latter getting the start). The goals:
1. A weak backhand somehow beats Carlson
2. MacDonald scores from behind the net as his pass bounces in off the goaltender
3. Carlson is beat off the ensuing faceoff with a bad angle shot top-shelf
4. Carlson is beat on a soft wrist shot high that he simply misses; he’s pulled after the goal
5. Fawcett creates a turnover behind the net and Leveille beats the goaltender high to the short side
6. Dunn converts a great pass from Penny shooting from the slot
7. Fawcett shoots through a screen to give the IceMen the lead
8. Trebish gets a pretty soft slashing call and on the PK after Dunn took an idiotic unsportsmenlike call, leading to a 5-on-3 and just as it ended Orlando bangs in a rebound
9. Trebish falls leading to a 2-on-1 and Asmundsen is beaten five-hole
10. On the ensuing faceoff Asmundsen is beaten off a tip in front
Fawcett has been really improving and that’s boosted Leveille‘s production; MacDonald has also been heating up. For BSens interests Rutkowski has been fine, but his production has slipped, while Penny has been solid, but on the third line he’s not going to score much.
On Saturday Evansville finally put up another win, beating Kalamazoo 3-2 behind the goaltending of Cody Reichard (called up from I don’t know where–I can’t find him listed, so it’s possible he wasn’t playing anywhere this season). Dunn did not dress for this game–I’m not sure if he was a healthy scratch or not (when I find out I’ll put it here). The goals:
1. On the PP Kalamazoo was able to bang in a rebound on a scramble in front
2. Nice 3-on-1 passing play ends with Penny scoring
3. MacDonald is allowed to walk in from the blueline and scores five-hole
4. On the PP Leveille bangs in Fawcett‘s rebound
5. Trebish doesn’t see the player behind him who cashes in on a rebound
Given Reichard‘s performance I assume he’ll start the next game unless Bengtsberg is healthy–while Asmundsen was a little better in the previous game, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. In terms of BSens related results, Alex Guptill finally hit the scoresheet–he has decent speed, but not much in the way of hands.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)