This is becoming an unfortunate trend, but here's to hoping it comes to an end with the pre-season. Three games, three losses, three goals-for. Friday's 2-1 loss to the Canadiens, though, was at least an exciting game--for the most part. Ottawa came out hard for the first period and took the lead on the powerplay, but Montreal scored late in the second and then again late in the third to take the decision.
It looked like it was going to be a dominant showing for the Senators early on. First shifts of the game, with Jason Spezza centring Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek and then Peter Regin with Chris Neil and Ilya Zubov gave Ottawa no fewer than four decent scoring chances, and the hard work was rewarded with a powerplay on which Michalek scored to give Ottawa the lead. But the parade to the penalty box and a whole lot of fights made it hard for either team to build momentum, and it cost the Senators the game.
As individuals, the Senators had a strong game. That top line of Spezza, Michalek, and Alfredsson was particularly strong, and might be a great way for Cory Clouston to start games. Everything you've heard about Michalek's speed is good, and I think it rubbed off on Spezza. The centreman must have worked on his speed over the off-season, but I think one aspect of his game is to reflect the style of those he plays with; when Spezza plays with a speed demon like Michalek, he's in on the rush all the time, but when he was with someone like Dany Heatley last season, he looked downright slow at times. I think it's going to bring out a whole new aspect to his game. As for Alfredsson, he certainly didn't look like a 37-year-old player out there.
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Regin and Zubov both had very strong games, and they're not going to make any decisions easy for Clouston and Bryan Murray. I'd say Regin has the edge of the two, because of his more rounded game, but Zubov had at least one good scoring chance against the Habs. If I could give the Russian winger one piece of advice, it would be to think more quickly; he seems to wait to long to shoot, when he shoots, and he might want to think about throwing in a deke once or twice. Still, he looked good out there.
On defence, Alex Picard didn't look comfortable. Chris Campoli didn't wow me. I didn't particularly notice Jared Cowen, even though he played over 14 minutes. Matt Carkner's no hack when fighting, but he doesn't have the speed for NHL defending. It was pretty evident that Ottawa's top three defencemen weren't in the lineup against Montreal, even though Montreal still only managed 30 shots.
Each Sens' tender allowed one goal, but both still looked strong. Pascal Leclaire--whose pads, I must say, look pretty sweet--stopped 16 of 17 shots through the first two periods, and Robin Lehner played great in the third. He stopped 12 of 13, and really just continues to impress Sens' fans and brass. There was a discussion on the Team's pre-game show about the possibility of him out-playing all of Andy Chiodo, Mike Brodeur, and Chris Holt to be an 18-year-old pro in Binghamton. Seems unlikely, considering the nightmarish contract situation it would breed and the fact that Sault Ste. Marie might be a better place for him, but you've got to give Lehner credit for what he's done so far.
Onto the fighting. Sure, pre-season games don't mean anything, but with so many enforcers and borderline tough-guys looking to make an impression, at least we get to see plenty of fights. Five more on Friday night, and Montreal's Eric Neilson was the busiest--three fights, two game misconducts, and 37 minutes in total penalties. More impressive is the fact that he probably gets the decision in fights against both Jeremy Yablonski (who got cut open when he fell to the ice) and Neil, and didn't even drop his gloves when Cody Bass jumped him (he was plenty pissed about getting the fighting major despite not fighting, and he'd tell you as much). Ottawa's best fighter was Carkner, who got in two of them, both in the third period, laying a beating on both Alex Henry and Andrew Conboy. In games against tough teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carkner might be a better bet to enforce than Yablonski, simply because he's a stronger skater--but Yabo's got the heavyweight rep, so I say we bring them both in.
All in all, probably the best game so far, but still a loss. Tomorrow a few more guys will get into the lineup, and we'll see if anyone else finds chemistry. With all this talk about 'options' at forward, though, these guys sure aren't scoring very much.
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