San Jose Sharks- 5, Ottawa Senators- 2,
Let’s get this out of the way – last night’s Senators-Sharks game didn’t feature any (Heatley) dramatics that will keep office water coolers busy all morning. That said, the game featured some pretty entertaining hockey and I found it particularly interesting to see how the Ottawa Senators played against the NHL’s top team.
A quick glance at the final score might suggest the Sharks easily won, however, the score could have been a lot different had a Chris Kelly tip gone in or if Jason Spezza buried a nice cross-ice pass. Excuses aside, the Senators played a decent road game, but it was clear they were out of their element versus the San Jose Sharks.
So without further delay, here’s last night’s Classy, Non-Classy, and Could-Have-Been-Classier moments.
It feels like Milan Michalek is the Classy point of every Ottawa Senators game and last night was no different. I really liked Michalek’s neutral zone speed throughout the game. The San Jose Sharks did a good job of clogging the neutral zone and Michalek’s speed helped push back the Sharks defense to open room for the Sens as they broke out of their zone. (which says a lot considering how much trouble the Senators defense were having with standard breakout passes). Both of Michalek’s goals were the result of smart, go to the net plays Senators fans have become accustomed to. A great effort from Michalek in his first return to the Shark Tank.
An honourable mention goes to the quality of hockey played between the Senators and Sharks. While the game wasn’t a typical “emotional game” that featured unnecessary fights, lots of pushing and shoving after whistles, etc… the game featured solid hockey at a pretty fast pace.
The Ottawa Senators defense were playing way out of their element last night. Kudos to Cory Clouston and the coaching staff for realizing the need to change styles in order to compete with the aggressive Sharks, but it wasn’t pretty. At one point or another, every Senators defenseman made costly giveaways that lead to the Sharks first 4 goals. A number of 2-on-1′s were given up early in the game as a result of defensemen being overly aggressive in the offensive zone. On top of that, it was apparent the Senators defense were having a hard time breaking out of their own end. Many routine passes became turnovers (Alex Picard and Matt Carkner come to mind), which turned into quality scoring chances for San Jose and probably nervous moments for Clouston.
There were two area’s of Ottawa’s game that I felt could have been classier. Firstly, Ottawa took 3 straight penalties in the first half of the game – 2 of which being lazy ones (too many men and delay of game-puck over the glass). The Senators were playing with fire and eventually got burned just after the Carkner delay of game penalty ended.
Secondly, I was frustrated with how many Ottawa Senators shots missed the net, either wide or high. Clearly the Senators identified high shots as a weakness for Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss, but cross-ice shots fired wide often result in quick breakouts for opposing clubs. San Jose’s speed certainly caught Ottawa’s defense off guard a few times and let’s face it, Ottawa doesn’t have the quickest defense to begin with.
Special Dany Heatley Review
I can’t believe I’m actually doing this, but given the level of interest in this game, I’ll provide a quick Dany Heatley summary. Heatley ended the game with 2 assists, a +1 rating, and 8 shots registered (although he probably attempted 12-15 shots). Heatley had some quality scoring chances and showed a bit of extra jump to his game. Oh, and he did have a few “stick in the air one-timer moments” Senators fans know all too well. Overall, a good game for Heatley. He’s probably glad to have that game out of the way.
The Senators continue their road trip to Los Angeles to play the Kings on Thursday night in what should be another good test for Ottawa. The Kings have struggled lately, despite a win Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks. Chris Neil could suit up for the team although it’s not certain at this point. Anton Volchenkov made his return to the Senators line up last night, but wasn’t nearly as effective as he was a few weeks ago. I expect him to be better on Thursday. Chris Campoli was a healthy scratch to make room for Volchenkov.
Stay classy, Milan Michalek… and Dany Heatley.