Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Game n°12 file notes: exciting hockey (nearly) makes up for the Sens’ 6-5 loss to Chicago


It was Colin Greening a season or two ago who, during a second-intermission interview with a CBC Hockey Night in Canada reporter, commented on the end-to-end nonstop pace of the game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Yeah, it’s a track meet,” he said in his honeyed I-graduated-from-Cornell-University tone, and proceeded to comment on how they’d like to slow it down and get back to their game.

I don’t know… sometimes a track meet is a good thing.

It certainly kept things interesting last night. In a road game against the Chicago Blackhawks, proud real estate owners of the league’s longest still-active home winning streak, the Ottawa Senators rolled its refurbished lines with surprisingly smooth cohesion against the always-strong Hawks. The result? A track meet-like three periods broken up by only five penalties, none in the third period. This was fast, skilled hockey at its best. (Greening shouldn’t be complaining anyway, considering the fantastic shape in which he is always reputed to be.)

The score reflected everything, too, and by “everything” we mean everything: the subpar level of Khabibulin’s goaltending, the full-team effort (or let’s say a four-forward-line-effort) on the Sens’ part, the awful defensive mistakes in our own zone. Every single player who worked hard enough got a goal or assist to show for it, except maybe Wiercioch. And likewise, the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw was rewarded for his 70.6% Corsi For night with 2 goals, and Jonathan Toews with a hat trick. Turris’s eleventh point in twelve games is completely warranted as well; the passes he’s been making to MacArthur have been occasionally spectacular, and suggest very good hockey vision from #7 that could serve the team for years to come.

We might want to keep Ryan on Spezza and Michalek’s line forever if it means that Michalek’s play will duplicate itself. If anyone calls his game last night invisible, please direct them to me for a good dose of #RealTalk. The strength he derives from the speed he’s able to generate on his charges up and down the ice was on display on both the forecheck and the backcheck. It didn’t help him in preventing three goals against while his line was on the ice, but then again, the only forwards who had zero goals against was the trio of—are you ready for this?—Neil, Smith and Conacher.

Hard to believe, right? But rest assured, their Corsi numbers were nowhere near spectacular: 36.4%, 39.3% and 40.9%, respectively. And all of them played less than Mika Zibanejad (except Smith by a few seconds), who led the team in Corsi For at 66.7% in approximately 15 minutes of ice time. He received relatively favourable zone starts, though, as did Wiercioch, who seems to have been used more in an offensive role—much to Jared Cowen’s detriment.

Cowen’s a big part of the fact that the Sens are still giving away pucks like cadeaux, and Chicago’s talent meant that the tide turned very quickly, over and over again. The rushes that moved from one end to another like a metronome set at allegretto exposed the Sens’ defensive shortcomings rather badly, and one can fully expect this topic to be exhausted in coming days. On the other hand, we need to talk about Jason Spezza’s faceoff percentage, because holy cow: he went 13-5 for the night, which is 72.2% and absolutely wondrous for the Sens as a team considering 50% of his faceoffs were in the defensive zone. In other words, he saved us from having to rely on shaky defending and kept us from being (too) lit up like the Eiffel Tower.

When all’s said and done, scoring five goals in the last game we play against a top-tier team in a long while isn’t a bad way to head into November. With the firepower we now know we have, we should be able to fake having a solid D-corps. Heaven knows that’s the least of what the other Eastern Conference teams are doing.

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