15 January 2014

Game n°47 file notes: Sens' neat hockey shuts out Wild 3-0

Turns out watching an entire game filled with tape-to-tape passes and shot attempt after shot attempt all made by your home team is pretty tremendous fun.

Seriously, if there was one takeaway from last night’s game, it was the fact that the esoteric chemistry frequently cited as a reason to keep forward trios together exists. MacArthur, Turris and Ryan connected time and time again with beautiful passes through the neutral zone that led to near-perfect zone entries, moving straight through the oddly passive Minnesota Wild defence; their first goal was a result of a textbook-rush. And they were facing top competition, too; Ryan Suter faced no one Senator forward more than Kyle Turris. (Suter was also line-matched with the Cowen-Karlsson tandem almost exclusively.)

Spezza might still have a little to complain about regarding the skill level of his linemates, but he surely can’t be too upset about the way Stone is feeding him two and a half sweet passes per shift. If Stone and Spezza find some lasting chemistry (no need to hit up Match.com for these two), it would aid both players simultaneously, considering Spezza’s season-long revolving door of wingers and Stone’s potential for being sent down still hanging around.

This type of game happened to be the kind that highlights the uselessness of players like Kassian. It was impossible not to feel for Condra and Smith, being forced to play with a dud of a puck-handler on their other side. Kassian’s inability to move the puck smartly through the neutral zone (does he know how to skate with the puck?) and his inadequacy at setting up an effective cycle deep in the OZ nullified any kind of offence Condra and Smith managed to scrape together. (And as we saw, Condra can most definitely scrape together some offence. You go for that Selke, Condra.) It almost feels like a waste to have Smith’s above-average strength and skill all expended on the effort to keep the puck out of our own end.

While we’re beating down on players, Cowen’s got to get a mention. Perhaps we shouldn’t go so far as to call him the Kassian of defencemen, but projecting him as a top 4 stay-at-home blueliner seems more and more improbably at this point in his development. Whenever he played the body on a forward in our own zone, he almost never came out in possession of the puck. He seems unable to link his physicality to his stick. The few times when the puck was loose behind the net, he managed to scoop it up easily and make a safe outlet pass. But when it comes to less-than-simple-plays, Cowen just isn’t there yet. I can’t imagine him becoming as good as Methot.

But let’s talk about happier things in the face of a 3-0 win, like the fact that Ottawa now has two certifiably hot goaltenders. Granted, Lehner wasn’t exactly tested, but in what will likely be his only start in a while, he couldn’t have punched in a better performance. His rebound control and positioning mostly made up for the few gaffes he made outside of his crease, and Anderson isn’t the only one with a hot glove. Oh, and also, his save percentage is now 92.6%; his GAA is now 2.54. Just so you know, Anderson.

Now, for your own amusement, head over to Extra Skater’s Fenwick shot attempt chart for the game. Bask in the glow of the surging Sens. Let it only get better from here.


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