Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

10 questions about the Senators—answered

In the comments to the last post, Scott said:

“Anyway, this series is really interesting to me as a Sens fan. If you read the hockey blogs and chat boards, there's absolutely no middle ground here. The Ducks fans are convinced the Senators are a significantly inferior team, while the Eastern Conference and Sens devotees are seriously asking whether Anaheim can even win one game in this series. I've never seen such a difference of opinion on a playoff series.”
And at least from my perspective, he’s right. I’ve spent this entire season pretty oblivious of what is going on in the eastern conference, as it really has been irrelevant thus far to the Ducks’ playoff chances, and I imagine a lot of the same is happening on the eastern front.

To help combat this mutual ignorance, Ben from Sens Army contacted me to do a little cross-interviewing, so fans from either side can learn a bit more about what the opposition’s team is all about. Basically, I created 10 questions I had about the Senators for Ben to answer for me, and he is creating a set of questions about the Ducks (haven’t gotten it yet, though).

Anyway, for Duck fans, here’s Ben to help us Better Understand the Senators.

(Sleek) 1. The "Spalfredheat" line, as you have called them (Spezza - Alfredsson - Heatley) has of course been tearing up the playoff scoring charts. Which member of that line, in your estimation, has been most valuable? Or maybe alternatively, which would you least like to see injured by an outraged Pronger?

(Ben) There is very little doubt that Daniel Alfredsson has been the team’s MVP during these playoffs. He leads the team in scoring and netted the series-winning goal against the Sabres. Each guy has a role: Spezza (the Spez dispenser) is all about assists, Heatley loves the one-timers sits by the goal line waiting for a tap-in, Alfredsson has been hitting people alot lately (on the ice!) and does both of the above quite well. I’m not going to answer that last part for fear it might come true.

2. Talk to me a bit about Ray Emery, as I'm pretty sketchy on the guy. Compare him to a more famous goaltender, and tell me what his real strength in the net is.

If I had to compare him to a goalie, I would say Patrick Roy - I know that’s high praise and it might sound like boasting, but they’re both big (kinda slow) goalies who seem to be in the right place at the right time. Rayzor has been solid for the sens, maybe that’s all they’ve needed so far. If he’s tested by the Ducks, he definitely has the skill to shine.

3. I am really impressed by the caliber of teams that Ottawa has been knocking out--Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Buffalo were among the best teams in the league since Christmas. (Incidentally, so were Minnesota, Vancouver, and Detroit). Which series would you say was the toughest of the three, or maybe which series would you least like to see the Sens play again? Which team was closest to beating the Sens?

The team that was closest to beating the sens were the Sabres. After one loss the city had some anxiety, we were aware of how deadly the Sabres are, and so was the team apparently. The sens beat them by pulling through some tough times with mental toughness. If they had to play a team again, I would say Pittsburgh because of Crosby – that guy’s good.

4. I can name all six (or seven) Ottawa defensemen, but I don't really know how they are played very well. Give me the defensive pairings and a little bit about their particular role. Also, which defensemen play the power play and which kill penalties?

#1 - Phillips-Volchenkov – You might say ‘who?’, but these guys have been our shut-down pair for the playoffs. They played against Crosby, Gomez and Briere, ultimately beating them all.

#2 – Corvo-Preissing – These guys were picked up in the off season to give the sens some puck-movement and offense from the point. They’ve done just that. Watch for Corvo darting up the ice on powerplays. He’s fast.

#3 – Redden-Meszaros – These guys have struggled to find their roles on the team this year. Some people put them at #2, but I personally think they’re our shakiest pairing. Despite what I think of them there was a streak of 7 or 8 games where they weren’t on the ice for an opposition goal.

5. Based on what you know or have heard about the Ducks, what weakness are you excited about the Sens exploiting? Where do you think the Senators have the biggest edge in this series?

I’ve only heard good things about the Ducks, though today I read that they take some dumb penalties. The Senators’ power play has been smoking lately and the PK has been everything a coach could ask for. If the sens want to win, they must dominate on special teams.

6. Based on what you know or have heard about the Ducks, what strength scares you the most? Where do you think the Ducks have the biggest edge in this series?

Pronger and Giguere are the only players that I can’t write-off. Giggy can be terrific, though I did see the third period of game 6 against Detroit, and that gave me some hope. Pronger is a monster on the ice, perhaps second only to Chara in pure physical force and I would keep my head up if I were the Sens forwards. One aspect that doesn’t scare me? Ducks’ offense. We’ve got the top 3 scorers in the playoffs and you’ve only got one player in the top ten... and he’s plays defense, and he’s Pronger, who I already watch out for.

7. Talk to me about Bryan Murray the coach. Specifically, how rigorous is he at line-matching? Does Ottawa often change forwards immediately after faceoffs?

Murray’s done a good job of keeping Phillips-Volchekov against the other teams’ top lines, I expect that to continue. As far as forwards, it’s get Spezza-Heatley-Alfie out there whenever we get the opportunity to score, and roll the other 3 get some chances and body check as much as possible.

8. I don't think this is probably going to happen, but what if Sammy Pahlsson and his checkers are able to shut down the "Spalfredheat" line? Who on the Senators is next-likely to score for the team?

The Sens have got a ton of what you might call ‘role players’ who can be either goal-scorers or body checkers. Look for Mike Fisher, Chris Neil, and Dean McAmmond to step up if the top line doesn’t produce.

9. Random question--but if you could have one former Senator back for this series (one who left within the last year or so), who would it be and why? I think I'm asking a "Chara or Havlat" question, but if you have another guy in mind that works too.

Chara and Havlat each have their niches, and my initial response was Chara – he’s such a presence on the ice. But we had them both last year and were beaten out in the second round, so I’m going to skip them and say Brian Pothier, he was a free agent who left last summer – he got 12 minutes a game with the sens, and now playing in Washington he gets 20+ minutes per game. He was a gem with the right attitude that the sens could put to good use today.

10. Who's the best "unsung hero" story on the Sens this season or postseason? Who's doing a lot of things right and not getting enough ink for it?

Chris Kelly (#22). I’m a huge supporter of what he does. I call him the heart and soul of the team because he’s the complete team player. All he does is kill penalties – seriously. With the sens only allowing 2 PP goals against the Sabres (both were 5 on 3), he’s gotta be doing something right. In fact, he’s doing everything right.

So there you have it, 10 questions and 10 answers, content untouched. Feel free, Senators fans, to clarify anything you see here, or Duck fans, to ask anything I might have forgotten. I'll make sure and post my answers to Ben's questions once they become available.


DC In YOW said...

Good job Ben.

Also, which defensemen play the power play and which kill penalties?

Corvo and Redden are PP1, Meszaros and Preissing are PP2. Phillips and Volchenkov are PK1 and PK2 with Schubert dropping back to D when one of them is in the box. Fish Comrie and Schaefer are PP2.

Re Chris Kelly, he is also the guy who ended up replacing Spezza after both Spezza and Fisher went down with a knee injuries. He did a great job for about a dozen games which was the beginning of the Sens turning it around after a disastrous start. I hope Santa gets him some cement-free gloves next Xmas.

dbushik said...

I geuss part of the whole premise of this post is something that has always kind of had me scratching my head. Why are there more Kings fans and Ducks fans and Sens fans than there are NHL or just plain hockey fans?

I've been a Kings fan for approaching 20 years, and since day one it occured to me that in order to understand the Kings I had to understand the league as a whole. I mean, they play hockey and draw from a pool of talent. If I don't take the time to understand the game itself and the pool of talent (all the players, not just those wearing my teams jerseys), how on earth could I put anything into perspective?

I realize of course that for many fans (and many people in general on a wide range of subjects) perspective doesn't matter, but don't really want to get into the even longer discussion of how our society got so darn dumbed down...

Anyway, that always just kind of puzzled me. Even being a Kings fan, I'm a fan of hockey and the NHL first before the particular team. Okay, just me rambling...

On a side note, there so far has been very little made of Murray's previous stint in Ducks management.

Seems like the media is constantly trying to make stories out of nothing (What??!?! You say Brett Hull put his foot in his mouth or said something nearly indefensible??!!?!??! Never would have seen that coming...HOLD THE PRESSES!!!!), especially in Canada, and they don't bother to mention this guy dissed the Quacks to take a step down and coach?

Unknown said...

they don't bother to mention this guy dissed the Quacks to take a step down and coach?

Sounds like Pronger and his media conspiracy theories...

I don't know how to link to tsn.ca's broadband section, but one of their top videos (titled "At Long Last") is a profile of Bryan Murray. They even interview his 87 year old mother!

Earl Sleek said...

dbushik, I can only speak for myself, but for me this ignorance is purely an eastern conference / western conference split. I watch a ton of western team games, and generally will only watch the east once in a while. Why is that?

a) scheduling: thanks to the new schedule, we get only 10 games that we have to play against the east. I would much rather watch teams that will be regular opponents than those that will we'll see twice over a three-year span.

b) playoff seeding: Sure it's nice to get points from the east, but we're not in direct competition with any of those teams. When San Jose wins 5 straight games, you bet your ass I am paying attention to that. When New Jersey wins 5 straight games, it doesn't change our place in the standings one bit.

c) playoff structure: only one team from the west each year plays playoff games against an eastern foe, and this year, sure enough, it was the Ducks. For most western teams, though, knowing a bunch about the east is knowledge that will never get used.

I never had to run this sort of feature in the earlier rounds, as I have watched a fair share of Minnesota games, Vancouver games, and Detroit games. For me, this post made sense at this juncture because as a Ducks blogger, I have more pressing divisions to follow than the Northeast, whom we got to play zero times this year.

Don't know if that satisfies you, but I don't regret what I've been following this year. If the NHL by its structure has separated itself into two distinct universes, then I am bound to follow the one that matters to my team.

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, I woudn't say that Murray dissed the Ducks. I thought that he wanted to move toward coaching and it was a pretty mutually-accepted parting.

I have no issue with his going eastward, anyway.

Unknown said...

No offense to anyone who doesn't care for basketball, but the Murray situation isn't even like the Jerry West affair, who when he left as GM of ther Lakers, only got as far east as Memphis (also a western conference team like the Lakers).

The similarity is that both were instrumental in building their respective franchises, and were sent on their way with best wishes and thanks for everything they had done; and the difference is that while Burke has been a capable replacement, Kupchak hasn't had the same success. At. All.

DC In YOW said...

The only Western Conf. games I tend to watch are the ones that have the Red Wings at home.

My reason for not watching other WC teams are far more pedestrian. I can't stay awake that late anymore...... 8^)

Murray is also from a little town just outside of Ottawa. Much of his immediate family still lives here.

Earl Sleek said...

Besides, dbushik, how well as an enlightened Kings fan would you have done answering these 10 questions? Should I be coming to you for eastern advice instead?

Mike Chen said...

Sleek, why is this so civil with Ben? Shouldn't there be some sort of name calling about fan bases and heritage to incite a flame war?

Or maybe this comment will incite a flame war about inciting a flame war.

dbushik said...

Well, I'd be all for making the change in scheduling to see every team play in every building every year.

Also, wasn't trying to make any indictment about the post, just yammering on about how that always seemed odd to me. I don't have all day to sit at home and watch eastern games starting before I get off work either, but with the internets and the google and such it seems pretty easy to keep up on who's who in the NHL.

Well easy enough so that, for example, back when Luongo was on the block and Kings fans were getting their hopes up, I was not expecting to see as many people saying, "I'm not familiar with this guy" as it seems there were.

I mean, hey, it's interesting and informative hearing people talk about the teams as you are doing here, so don't get me wrong.

I do have to say though that if you haven't been paying attention to the east through the POs, you have missed some spectacular hockey. Especially the previous OTT series(es).

And as for the Murray thing, I wasn't trying to say there was actual acrimony there, but noting how the press tends to make stories out of nowhere, yet haven't heard a word on this one.

dbushik said...

Actually, I probably could have answered the questions myself, but I've always had a special place in my heart for OTT. Mainly just because they aren't TOR. Much like the angst Kings fans would feel if the Quacks walk away with one before LA does, so is there a relationship between OTT and TOR.

1) Alfie could have his nickname changed to Connie soon. There's lots of good storie here considering the way Canucks have in the past knocked Euro players as softies (especially the Swedes) yet they have four of six of their teams captained by them (especially the Swedes).

2) I'd probably compare him to Ranford or maybe Beezer late in his career. These guys are good (more than good enough) and big. However, they aren't so much the determining factor of their teams success. They can be the goat for sure, but they aren't there to be the hero, just to be good enough. Maybe Garth Snow on one of his good playing days? There's a lot of qualifiers on that one, but somewhat thinking about his willingness to fight.

3) MIN was the only team I felt the Ducks were going to have issues with (and they folded pretty quickly). VAN was a cake walk, and although DET proved to me to be suprisingly more trouble than I expected for the Ducks (especially afetr they lost Schneider), once SJ went down I knew ANA was going to the finals. But back to OTT, clearly the Sabres. BUF got behind in that series early, but it could have gone either way. I mean, it got to be regular for Miller to play a strong, solid game, and be shaking his head in disgust as he skated off the ice. And getting the hear what Ruff is going to say after games is only better when it's against a guy like Laviolette or Tortorella.

4) Volchenkov is a guy I've admired from afar for a few years. Like Markov on the 'Wings, the guy is a warrior, even if a quite one (like Norstrom in some ways). It's nice to see Phillips get some recognition and finally come into his own completely, but he's kind of overrated right now. Good, but like Phanuef last year, do we really have to keep talking about it? Corvo I have first hand knowledge with being a former King and Preissing I'm pretty familiar with from his SJ days. Redden has been suprisingly under dominant. Mesaros is the one guy I'm not real familiar with. Trying to make my response short at this point or would go into more...

5) Special teams. The Ducks are a tough team and take penalties, and haven't seemed to take the reality well at times. Also, OTT is a suprisingly tough team also. Not sure ANA has faced a team willing to hit back and be as nasty as they are...who can also play with skill.

6) Overall team play, toughness, and top three defenders.

7) Okay, this one I don't know much about, but really don't pay as much attention to match-ups as I should. Usually thinking about match-ups after the fact to expalin why what happened happened. I'm lacking here.

8) I'd say Comrie. He's been a "role-player" for the Sens, but he came into this league as a top line offensive center and has shown at times he can be that. Also guys like Neil and Fisher come to mind.

9) I'd go with Havlat because I always saw the potential this guy had to be dominant offensively. Probably doesn't work cap wise, but if could have anyone back...

10) I'd go with Comrie and Neil for opposite reasons. Comrie is a skill guy who showed this PO he can do the dirty work, and Neil over the regular season showed he do more than punch people in the face (you know, like skating and shooting and stuff).

Okay, so just indulging my own ego here, but you did ask... ;)

OTT and PIT and BUF were actually teams I was trying to make special points of paying attention to this season.

Anonymous said...

who is going to fight geogre parros? lol jk not that important
if ray emery fought js how would it go down?
will motkzo take off his helmet to reveal he is paul kariya and misses the ducks?
which player is most like travis moen?
which player will recieve the high sticking penalty for cutting selanne?
will this OTT top line not preform?

Ben said...

I believe our civil conversation combats much of the East/West ignorance that has been described. If you want real insight on a team you can't scream at them when they're trying to talk.

Alexander Dubcek said...

Way to represent, dbushnik.

I'd just add based on incomplete but not wholly ignorant knowledge of both teams that the real key to the series is whether the Sens can stifle Anaheim's offense. The knock on Anaheim has been that they're susceptible to strong defensive clubs, which the Sens are, given their depth on defense and track record in the postseason.

The Ducks haven't really been tested in this regard through the first three rounds, since Minnesota and Vancouver basically rolled over and Detroit's blueline was shorthanded the whole series without Schneider and Kronwall, forcing AARP poster geezer Chris Chelios to log close to thirty minutes a night in something other than a shuffleboard tournament.

I guess another way to think of this is, what kind of series favors which team? I can easily see the Sens thriving in a high-scoring, run-and-gun, wide-open offensive game. It's a bit difficult to see that sort of matchup favoring the Ducks, since that's not playing quite so much to their strength on the blueline. But, the interesting question is what happens if it becames a tight-checking, low-scoring sort of affair? Anaheim is certainly in good shape, but Ottawa seems to have the ponies to make a run in it, with the way their d-men and Emery have played. I think the wide-open series gives the Sens a distinct edge, but I also think Ottawa can hang in a lower-scoring affair.

Anonymous said...

Ben and Earl,

Great idea, great questions, and great answers. Yes, I'm greatful.

Just what the Duck fan doctor ordered!


Earl Sleek said...

Good answers dbushik. You know, even looking at your answers and Ben's answers side-by-side, this is a pretty cool feature, even if I was already familiar with the opposition. It's cool to hear what the opposition fan has to say about the opposition team.

Sleek, why is this so civil with Ben? Shouldn't there be some sort of name calling about fan bases and heritage to incite a flame war?

Oh, we'll probably get there, but nobody's lost anything to anybody yet. It's such a up-in-the-air series, also, that probably we shouldn't start the name-calling until we can see whether our team can back it up.

Gareth said...

who is going to fight geogre parros?
If it comes to it, Brian McGratton, although Neil can hold his own.

if ray emery fought js how would it go down?
Go have a look at Emery fighting the Sabres Biron in February of this year and then taking on Peters 10 seconds afterwards, pay close attention to the big shit-eating grin on his face. JS would be destroyed.

will motkzo take off his helmet to reveal he is paul kariya and misses the ducks?
Can't help you here.

which player is most like travis moen?
Can't help you here either

which player will recieve the high sticking penalty for cutting selanne?
Vermette or Heatley

will this OTT top line not preform?
Not likely. Alfie has decided to play hockey this year and Heatley and Spezza are following along.

Great post by the way!

THM said...

gareth mentions McGratton who I don't think will be seeing any ice in this series. The Eastern Conference games have seen almost no fighting. There have been some nasty hits, some rough stuff, etc, but no real glove-dropping affiars. It's, strangely, been quite refreshing. As was said on the Team 1200 this morning, fighting gets you into the playoffs, but doesn't help you win.

Has this - absence of fighting - been the case in the Western Conference?

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, fewer fights in the playoffs for sure, though some of that comes from our opponents (I believe Detroit had the fewest fighting majors in the league for the regular season).

But hold those Duck question thoughts--I've answered my questions from Ben late last night (Better Understand the Ducks, so to speak), so they should be posted sometime today.

Not sure yet if I'm going to post them here or just link over to Sens Army. I may have been a little on the long-winded side on a few questions (ah, late night thinking).

Doogie2K said...

It's hard to play a guy like McGrattan when (a) he doesn't bring much to the lineup besides fisticuffs, unlike Chris Neil, who's become stunningly useful over the last year or two, and (b) teams are paralyzed of taking a bad instigator penalty during the playoffs, because who wants to end their season on that? You want to know where the fighting went, there's your answer. You don't think someone would've made something of a few of these hits from behind 15 years ago? Hell, the playoffs are where some of the more memorable brawls occurred (Montreal-Quebec '84 leaps to mind).

DC In YOW said...

Didn't some hack named Thornton jump someone (Markov?) from behind in the Wings series? I think it was game 3 but I'm too lazy to look it up.

That was the only thing that resembled a "fight" I have seen in the playoffs.


1) Excellent premise for a post. We have watched both teams all year and feel they are probably the two best clubs.
2) Even then it was illustrative to read what fans of each team think of their players/their roles, etc. Look forward to the Duck's response