Ok, I used up my cheesy headline of the year. After extending their win streak to seven games, it's going to be hard not to get too high on this Senators team, especially with the throttling game they played tonight. Hosting New Jersey, Ottawa played the kind of solid team game we've suddenly come to expect, and the team that crapped out a five-game losing streak seems like a distant memory. How much of that is for real is a topic for discussion later. For now, let's recap the game.
The Senators took the play to the Devils from the beginning of the game, and executed a complete team game. Without Rod Pelley, there was not much hope of the Devils breaking through Ottawa's defensive scheme. Much of the credit for this execution goes to Cory Clouston, who has the team playing his system, and that system has them winning. It's also notable that Clouston was able to roll four lines effectively all night long. Chris Neil was the player with the least ice time at 10:13 and Daniel Alfredsson led the forwards with 19:18. Among defensemen there was also an even spread with most logging somewhere in the 19 minute range. Chris Campoli led all defensemen with 20:53 of ice time.
Sens Hero: Nick Foligno
Foligno killed it out there. Even though he only recorded one assist (and it was a great assist) tonight, he played with intensity throughout the game. Foligno's play led to numerous cycles for his line, and off of those cycles, good scoring chances. I wasn't thrilled with the creation of a Foligno-Fisher-Cheechoo line, but if this is the kind of play we can expect from them every night, there's not much to complain about. Their work earned Cheechoo a "goal" that was waved off due to a kick. Think about that. If these two players can get Cheechoo going, what can't they do?
Sens Hero: Brian Elliott
It was another game where Elliott did not have to make any amazing saves, and we've seen several like that recently. That's not a knock on Elliott, though. If anything, it puts more pressure on the guy, since it magnifies any weak goals allowed. To his credit, he allowed none today. Shutouts are the sign of great work and communication between goalies and their defensemen, and Elliott's solid play has absolutely infused the team with a kind of confidence we haven't seen in years.
Sens Hero: Alex Kovalev
I am not the biggest Kovalev fan, so believe me when I say he looked good tonight. I don't believe it's a coincidence that Kovalev's seven-game point streak comes at the same time as the team's seven-game win streak. Bro is ON. He's showing great chemistry with Regin and Shannon and has even been helping on the powerplay. Kovalev's production gives this team three scoring lines, and with that kind of depth, you win more games than you lose, plain and simple. He hasn't looked lazy in a while. Maybe his linemates understand him?
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
No amount of praise for this guy could be hyperbolic. In his never-ending quest to impress his father, Alfie was dishing the puck, shooting, and creating space. Ottawa's second and third goals were direct results of his efforts: the first, a decision to shoot -- the rebound eventually made it to dangerous sniper Chris Phillips and the second, a ridiculously sick pass to Kuba, who saw Spezza driving the net. This goal also ended Martin Brodeur's night, as he did not start the third period.
So sorry, buddy: Speaking of Spezza, he was originally credited with the second goal before it was changed to Milan Michalek. There was also question about the third goal, as it was credited to Filip Kuba for a time before becoming Spezza's goal. He probably won't get any sympathy from Cheechoo or Mike Fisher, who have both had goals not just changed, but rubbed out upon video review, in the past two games.
Here's a stat: Combined, Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek, and Jonathan Cheechoo have 36 goals. Dany Heatley has 30. Including assists, those three have 74 points. Heatley has 56. GM Bryan Murray wasn't able to replace Heatley's production with one person, but he may have done all right for himself into creating some depth and moving Ottawa's identity away from a one-line team.
Here's a shot chart:
Look at how many Devils shots came from the outside. That tells the story.
Shocking: Speaking of the story, here's what Devils coach Jacques Lemaire had to say:
"In our plays tonight, we were very predictable. I felt that offensively we were very easy to play against. All of our plays, there was hesitation on the pass: look at the guy, wait a second and then you make the pass. Well, everyone knows the puck's going there. Against a team that can create a lot and is good with the puck, you can't play that way."
A Lemaire-coached team predictable? NO!
No Zeroes? No Killers? They had a shutout, so no. If you must, let's call out Anton Volchenkov for not scoring in his return. This kind of unacceptable effort will almost certainly get him traded.
I'm a big boy now!
Next game is Thursday at Pittsburgh. This is what is known as a slobberknocker, folks. A win will put the Senators within three points of Pittsburgh for the fourth seed and potentally within three of Buffalo (the Sabres play the Devils tomorrow night in Buffalo) for the division lead.