Saturday, April 12, 2008

Early thoughts on Penguins-Senators

A (somewhat) neutral view of the Sens/Pens series from a hockey fan living in Ottawa...

Congratulations to Martin Lapointe on becoming the first Senators trade deadline pickup in histoty to have an impact on a playoff game.

I'm a big believer that you can learn a lot about a player by the way they celebrate goals. With exception of Ovechkin, players who jump around like little kids usually aren't much to worry about. On the other hand, players who act like they're not especially surprised or impressed about a goal are usually the most dangerous guys out there -- they expect to score. Think back to Doug Gilmour's nonchalant arm raise celebration.

With that in mind, Evgeni Malkin should terrify Senators fans right now. Twice he's set up Sykora goals with perfect cross-ice feeds. And twice he hasn't reacted to the goal at all. He just pops out his mouth guard, skates over to pat his teammates on the head, and then leaves. No smile, no stick in the air, nothing. All business.

Malkin looks like a guy who believes he's only in week one of a two-month tournament. He could be right.

Kevin Lee at Hockeybuzz is reporting that "There is a strong chance that Daniel Alfredsson could dress for Game 3 in Ottawa on Monday night". Wait, I thought he was out for two weeks! What a remarkable and shocking recovery! Who could have possibily predicted such a thing?

Anton Volchenkov gets full point for taking a slapshot in the face and returning to play the next game. However, he still has a way to go to match Danny Markov in that department. Markov once took a shot in the face against the Senators and managed to trash-talk the Ottawa bench on the way off the ice.

The lesson, as always: Danny Markov is freaking insane.

By the way, now that Volchenkov is back in the lineup, do Sens fans (and Mike Fisher) still think that a guy wearing a full cage isn't allowed to throw a body check? Just checking.

It appears that Chris Neil has officially entered the "Matthew Barnaby" phase of his tough guy career: overrated, utterly harmless, but non-threatening enough that the media will sing his praises over even the smallest contribution.

After the Senators were embarassed by Gary Roberts in game one, Sens fans were hoping that somebody would respond. Taking a page out of his playbook from the aftermath of the Eaves/Tucker fight, Neil decided to do what he does best: make sure the camera catches him giving a stern pre-faceoff lecture, then do nothing else the rest of the game. No big hits, no fights, one fluke assist on a banked in goal, and a seat in the penalty box on the Penguins opening powerplay goal. And the talking heads loved every minute of it.

Believe it or not, I like Chris Neil. I always felt bad for him during his early years under Jacques Martin, who emasculated him to the point that its a miracle he stayed in the league. Who can forget the pathetic sight of Neil being challened by Tie Domi, and having to look to the Sens bench for permission to fight (with Martin sternly shaking his head "no", like a parent denying his teenager use of the family car). The fact that Neil didn't hang himself after that scene shows he has more character than most of his teammates. He seems like a solid kid and he's become a decent player.

But at some point, he's going to need to decide if he's an enforcer or a pest. An intimidator, or an agitator. You can't be both. You can't wave to the home crowd after every fight like a heavyweight, and then turtle against also-rans like Chris Dingman.

And if you're the toughest guy in the lineup of a team that's getting run out of the building, then cuddling with Sidney Crosby and whispering in Gary Roberts ear won't get the job done.

Prediction for the rest of the way: the Sens refuse to go quietly with a solid win in game three, lose a heart-breaker in game four, and the series wraps up back in Pittsburgh in game five.

1 comment:

  1. i enjoyed this post, man. good shit. you're right about malkin, he seems a man on a mission. and that's fine and dandy for me, cuz i've got him in my playoff pool.

    "Congratulations to Martin Lapointe on becoming the first Senators trade deadline pickup in histoty to have an impact on a playoff game."

    dude, that's golden.

    re: danny markov. miss that dude like crazy. hope he's back in the blue and white next season.

    and while you do have some decent words for chris neil, i still have serious issues with that guy. he's a douche. and did he ever look like he was going to cry when malone scored that 4th goal on friday night. loved every second of it.

    go pens.