After a long and glorious thanksgiving weekend of too much food, sports TV and the perfect amount of family, I took a few hours today to relax and watch a movie called The Place Beyond The Pines.
The well-written film deals with a few intense characters, as the plot revolves around the idea of vicious cycles repeating themselves in life – through patterned, family behaviours and different generations.
Oddly enough, the Senators are currently playing right into the vicious cycles and stereotypes that everyone spews about them; a young, undisciplined crew with a lack of real on-ice leadership.
I should also preface this article by saying that I try, on all accounts, to be one of the most positive sports writers out there.
It pains me, therefore, to write the following about a team that I cheer for and love on every level.
Ottawa Senators – THE CURRENT CYCLE
Losing a close one to San Jose on Saturday night, the Kanata Kids were lucky to only end that game with a final score of 3-2. The Sharks put 53 shots on net (including 17 on one power play, of which 8 hit the net) and Lehner looked sharp enough to take over the starting job.
Although the Sharks pumped the net, the Sens played fast and physical against a team that has been dominating the NHL so far.
But once again, stupid penalties and poor puck-play in their own end allowed the Sharks to skate circles around them and edge them out.
The game last night in Anaheim, however, looked a little different than the one in San Jose – in the sense that the Sens looked flat and lost. They looked like a team who has already given up on the season and decided that they are non-playoff club.
Craig Anderson only spent 4:06 on the ice, as MacLean pulled him in the first period, after the Ducks hounded the net and put 9 shots on net and scored twice in that time span.
And again – another 56 shots too many penalties later (including another 5-on-3 in the first period), the Sens were forced to play catch-up all game, and even a sweet Bobby Ryan goal from a glassy Kyle Turris feed couldn’t help them to get back into the game.
I like that MacLean pulled Andy that because it showed that he, too, is pissed about how his team is playing right now, and that he wasn’t going to let the starting goalie face a shooting gallery if the team was going to do nothing about it.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINE
With the Jack Adams-winning coach behind the bench, I would say that in the current state of affairs, no one’s job is safe.
When someone is awarded the captaincy of a team, it is a huge honour (the highest, in fact) and a showing of faith by the administration that the younger players on the team can respond well to that leader, and that he can keep his team in check and lead them into battle.
It’s a chance to step beyond the pine, and get to that next level and place of elite showmanship and hockey character.
That’s a tall order when your captain is almost invisible on the ice.
I’m not going to mince words, here – Spezza has played terrible so far this season. Sure, he had a nice goal against Toronto and a sweet power play feed to Bobby Ryan against San Jose, but beyond that – he has been a ghost.
When he’s been on the ice, he hasn’t been touching the puck, and when he does touch the puck, he hasn’t been doing what he did a few years ago as a leader and a 34 goal scorer – he’s been doing what he did when he first came into the league; Forcing offensive plays that aren’t there and turning the puck over.
I’m not ready to read the riot act quite yet, as 1-2-2 is not horrific, but something needs to change.
Spezza needs to get mad and light a fire under his team (and not punch other players in the back of the head and take roughing penalties when the game is still close).
He needs to find a way to break his own vicious cycles and to find that next level and take the team with him. I know he can do it and I love him when he’s on – but if there was ever a time when he needed to be on, it’s now.
THE GOOD WITH THE BAD
The Sens are a feisty, scrappy and (yes) pesky team – and although I don’t recognize them right now, I have no doubt that they will make it through this tough start to the season.
Along with the exceptionally lousy play, they have also had their share of bad luck (just ask Denis Potvin what he thinks about some of the penalty calls against the Sens so far).
But they will not be a winning team if they want to play a wide-open style of hockey, like the Sharks and the Ducks. Sure, they have speed and they have talent – but they don’t have the depth of those skill sets within their team like other teams do. 90% of the speed and talent is coming from a base of younger, less experienced players.
If this team has any chance, The Ticker Tape Point Parade must continue and the Sens need to play ‘Moneyball’ hockey.
They need to win games like they did when Kaspars Daugavins scored a flimsy, cheap trickler, shootout goal against Lundqvist.
They need to win like they did when Pageau started turning people’s heads.
They need to barely win games. They need to force OT. They need to hit. They need to find ways to get Condra, Greening and Smith in front of the net and denting the twine for doorstep-garbage goals that give the opposing goalies fits.
But most of all, and more than ever – they need their captain to step up and show them how to win and to lead them to that special place.
Ottawa Senators play one more game on the road against Phoenix (Oct 15 at 10:00 PM EST) and then they play their home opener against New Jersey on October 17.
(Follow me on twitter for more Ottawa Senators Insight – @therealmattshow)