The Ottawa Senators can't complain about their secondary scorers after a 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, but they've got to be wondering what it will take for the big guns to get their points consistently. Mike Fisher's getting his points well enough, but solid play isn't translating into goals for the newly-assembled line of Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and Jesse Winchester. Until those guys--particularly the first two--get their points regularly, the Senators are going to have a hard time winning more than they lose. Tonight, Alex Picard and Jarkko Ruutu scored goals to carry their share of the load, but Martin Brodeur and the Devils' defence kept any other Senators from earning Ottawa any points in the standings.
Sens heroes: Erik Karlsson, Jonathan Cheechoo
Without a doubt, Karlsson had his strongest game as an NHLer tonight, and Bryan Murray must feel a little vindicated for putting his faith in Karlsson as a full-time, big-time pro. Although he was culpable of some weak front-of-the-net coverage on the game-winning goal, he looked assertive, poised, calm, and more than capable for the most part tonight. He had his best scoring chance of the season when he stole the puck and generated himself a breakaway, showing that despite the fact that he couldn't get a shot, he'll be a heck of an asset when playing four-on-four. He's improving every game, and looking very much the powerplay quarterback he came into the season expected to be.
It's also reassuring to see that Cheechoo has maintained the strong game he found while the Senators were on their western road swing. He will likely be of minimal use on the powerplay unless he's with some mega-stars, but he's playing well as a third-liner, with an assist tonight. It's not the role Cheechoo played while he was putting up trophy-winning numbers with San Jose, but his work ethic has helped him get into it.
Sens killers: Martin Brodeur, Jamie Langenbrunner
Brodeur is always a Sens killer, and it was no different tonight. He stopped 27 of 29 shots, only really being beaten by Jarkko Ruutu (Alex Picard's goal was an absolute fluke), and I can hardly imagine how much his defencemen love playing in front of a goalie who controls his rebounds so well.
Langenbrunner, too, seems to have a certain something when he plays against the Senators, with 25P (13G, 12A) in 32 career GP against the Senators (Friday night included)--far better per-game numbers than his career pace would lead you to expect.
Sens zeros: Filip Kuba
In watching Kuba for a year and a half, you see something: Some games, he's the monster who scores four points, but other games, he's the monstrosity who can't keep his check to save his life, and gets lit up as a result. Credit where credit is due, Kuba had two shots (both on the powerplay) tonight, and was credited with two hits, but he was awful defensively. He blew his check on Jay Pandolfo's goal, finished -3 on the night, and just looked weak, tired, and uninspired. It's unfortunate that an otherwise strong game by his defensive partner, Erik Karlsson, was tarnished by a similar -3 count because of weak play by Kuba.
Credit goes to: Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek
For the second game in a row, Kovalev looked like he was working hard and generating chances tonight. He had good puck possession (what else is new), but unlike some other games, he seemed willing to charge off the boards instead of just stickhandling along the dasher boards. The only thing that kept him out of the Heroes category, in the end, was likely the fact that Ottawa was again 0-for-6 on the powerplay. One of Kovalev's chief responsibilities is to make the PP lethal, and--whether because he doesn't know his teammates well enough, hasn't been given enough freedom or control, or some other reason--he hasn't done that yet.
Michalek had another strong game, but he's got to get on the scoresheet one of these days. Five shots on net in 18:39 and a couple of hits, to boot, but his cold streak has to be nearing absolute zero. He'll have to start pushing the mercury back up soon if Ottawa's going to keep pace with the conference leaders.
Defensive stalwarts: Matt Carkner and Alex Picard
Somehow, these two were +2 on the night, and each had a point (an assist for Carkner, a goal for Picard) with 18:19 and 15:21 TOI, respectively. I don't know what it is about the Picarkner Effect, but it's working in favour of both of these guys. They've had one bad game (and it was abysmal), but for the most part they've just been solid contributors for the team.
Unfortunate reality: Missed scoring chances
Whether it be Jonathan Cheechoo sliding the puck just past the front of the net, Mike Fisher taking a second too long with an open net, or Milan Michalek fumbling the puck with Martin Brodeur miles out of his net, the Senators had some very good chances to score that just didn't finish up. Ottawa outshot the Devils 29-22, and probably had a similar advantage in bona fide scoring chances, but the Senators couldn't finish while New Jersey took advantage of each chance they got.
How does he do it: Alex Picard
I don't know how, but Picard just keeps getting his points. For the second night in a row, he throw an innocent-looking shot at the net, and it finds its way in. One thing it shows to his defensive partners: Shooting is never a bad idea, if you can hit the net. When Picard came over in the Andrej Meszaros trade, I remember hearing good things about his slapshot from the point, but it's his wrist shot that's reaped the rewards. It reminds me of Wade Redden's ability, when he was on his game (and not a $6.5M healthy scratch), to wrist shots on the net and make them count. With the goal, Picard's got 14P (4G, 10A) in 29GP on the year.
Look forward to: Not Martin
It's been reported that Mike Brodeur might finally get to see some NHL action tomorrow night against the Minnesota Wild, and tonight Brian Elliott didn't do anything in particular to make it seem like a bad idea. Don't get me wrong, Elliott wasn't bad (the Devils' fourth goal wasn't bad, it was mostly unlucky), but he wasn't amazing. He was just good. So I wouldn't be surprised if Not Martin finally gets his shot.
Worst stat of the night: 0-for-6 on the powerplay
Just plan terrible. But the Senators can't say they didn't have their chances, and the Devils' effective penalty kill units--led, of course, by Martin Brodeur--took away most chances Ottawa had. The Senators had nine powerplay shots, including a number of good chances and drives from the point, but couldn't make any of them count.
Second-worst stat of the night: Chris Kelly 1-for-7 in faceoffs
Not much to say about it, except that it's amazing Kelly's line, along with Jonathan Cheechoo and Jarkko Ruutu, got as many chances as they had tonight given that their centreman hardly ever got them the puck. Kelly made a great pass for Ruutu's goal, but he's got to work on his faceoffs. Fourteen percent for a defensive specialist is just not good enough.