PUCK DROP: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
ALFIE's ARMADA: SIlver Seven Sens
It's like looking in a mirror, only not....
Tonight, two teams that love to score, can't stop anyone from scoring, can't really kill a penalty, and are capable of just some hilarious if not forearm-cut inducing goaltending will hit the stage in that other nation's capital tonight. Somehow, I don't sniff a shutout either way.
For the Hawks, the defensive thumb-in-ass routine we saw in the first period on Wednesday and the mommy-wake-me-when-it's-over conservativeness of the 3rd period will be far more severely punished tonight than it was then, and they gave up four goals to the Leafs. The Sens come armed with something more than just one line, and are a far more confident a cohesive bunch than that blue and white clad throng that just washed up and then washed away here.
The big story with Ottawa these days is Erik Karlsson, and rightly so. Any blue-liner that's going to make a serious run at 80 points in one season is worth discussing. The Norris talk is a bit over the top, because as Lubomir Visknovsky found out last year and Mike Green before that, if you don't kill penalties and don't really play defense that much at even-strength, you're not walking off with any hardware. Especially if Lidstrom isn't in a wheelchair. But anyway, Karlsson is a real special when leading the attack from the back, and the Hawks shouldn't let him get any free reign to get his head up. Make him really work behind his own net and such.
That's not all. Jason Spezza could make a run at his career high in points after some middling, injury-filled years. With Toews still counting the blue birdies, Quenneville will do everything he can to get Bolland out there against him. But Bolland hasn't been The Club this year that he has in the past, and the fantastically mustached Paul MacLean will hardly be able to contain a giggle when sending Spezza out against Kane if Q persists in keeping Kane ahead of Sharp there for reasons that disappear into the mist with the gorillas.
Milan Michalek was on fire earlier in the year, but has cooled a bit recently. Daniel Alfredsson is Swedish for Teemu Selanne, though not quite to the same degree. Kyle Turris, since finally getting his wish and being shipped out of Phoenix with all of his toys out of the pram has been excellent and there are a couple other weapons here who can hurt you.
Robin Lehner, right off a shutout of Boston, will almost certainly get the start because Alex Auld is a Muppet Show. Lehner is probably the goalie of the future for the Sens, but the future is not now, and one shutout does not a stud make. Or at least I hope so.
But oh this defense. To go along with Karlsson's one-way tendencies is Sergei Gonchar who gave up on figuring out his own zone when I was still afraid of girls in middle school. I mean I'm still afraid of girls now but in a different way. You get the point. Filip Kuba can be lead-footed, and Chris Phillips got old in a hurry after last season's repeated calls from McClure and myself to make him a Hawk. Jared Cowen has a big future ahead of him but is very prone to Leddy-like mistakes, and adding Matt Gilroy to a struggling defense is fixing a faulty car engine by pouring Coca Cola into it. There are chances and goals to be found here.
But nothing is ever easy with this Hawks team, especially without its Captain Marvel. Ray Emery gets the start after being solid enough in his rescue effort against Toronto. But we've seen enough of Emery to know where the landmines are, and if the Senators can get him moving side-to-side....well, you know.
I'd make sure you're well supplied for this one, because it is going to be back and forth with those that have wagered on the over enjoying it immensely. With the Sharks biffing one on home ice to Buffalo last night, a win for the Hawks would open up a four point gap on them and possibly a seven point one on the trap door. A long way to go, but that will at least sound nice before the Central Division gauntlet of Scum and Scum Jr. that awaits after this one.