First off, I apologize for my blogging absence the last 6 days but we are in the midst of re-launching the site with a new look. Couple that with the amount of work we put into your trade deadline show, time has been very short.
At some point tomorrow, you will all see our new look and I know everyone will like what they see.
Now onto the Battle of Ontario as it had plenty of talk prior too and after the game last night but it still was a listless affair compared to the battles of the past. With Martin Gerber not getting the start in goal against his former mates, with the one possible story line with two non-playoffs teams out the window all was fairly quiet leading up to last night's game.
The Sens controlled the play in the first period with the better chances but it was Toronto that had the lead heading into the first intermission.Â Jason Blake had a super game and definitely led the way for the Leafs.
It was Ottawa striking twice in the final five minutes of the middle frame as the captain Daniel Alfredsson blasted a beauty by Curtis Joseph and then it was Dany Heatley tipping a point shot from Anton Volchenkov to give the Sens a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.Â
In the dying minutes of the game, Leafs head coach Ron Wilson called for a stick measurement on the Sens Jason Spezza.Â Spezza even knew he had an illegal stick as he broke his stick and tried throwing into the Sens bench as the officials starting making their way over to him.Â Sure enough, Spezza's reaction confirmed what Wilson knew, he was playing with an illegal stick.Â There are two ways to look at this scenario.Â One, Wilson was doing whatever it took to help his team tie the game and give themÂ a chance to win it.Â That is what a coach is supposed to do.Â Anyone who has ever coached at any level will tell you that the coach owes it to his players to do anything possible within the rules to give his team a chance to win.Â An illegal stick is an old rule but bottome line isÂ it's in the rule book.Â Some might call it a bush league move but Spezza was the guilty party on this night.Â I don't care who you are on any team…….you don't put your team in a position to lose a game because of pure ignorance and selfishness.Â But that is what many fans have come to know when it comes to Spezza.Â With a little over two minutes to go in the game, Spezza never should have been playing with a stick he knew was illegal.Â Listening to him plead ignorance after the game is just another reason for fans in the city to realize he is all about himself.Â We all saw him try to get rid of his stick when he knew the situation that was unfolding.Â Putting your team in this type of position is inexcuseable and Spezza at this stage of his career should know better.Â The guy needs to grow up once and for all.Â Lucky for him, the Leafs didn't score and that this was a meaningless game.Â But yet again, Spezza was the ultimate floater all game long.Â Many people who we sat with in a suite mentioned this same aspect about Spezza's game.Â It's a shame that a player with Spezza's talent refuses to be a little more consistent with his game.
Quick notes – Christoph Schubert played on the blueline for the first time in a long time in place of Filip Kuba who had the flu.Â Once again, Schubert failed to hit the net all night long, 3 missed shots on goal and he was completely out of position on the Leafs only goal of the night.Â Brian Lee definitely doesn't have the confidence of his teammates but most importantly his defense partner.Â Again, many of us in the suite couldn't get over how many times Chris Phillips came all the over to Lee's side of the ice to bail him out.Â Lee is far from ready for the NHL yet he is given the opportunity to play with Phillips.Â Give Brendan Bell that chance.Â Bell was paired with Schubert and didn't get nearly the minutes Lee got.Â Quite sad on Cory Clouston's part!Â Brian Elliott has been solid in his last few outings and might be returning to the form that saw him get off to a fast start after being recalled from Binghamton a few months ago.Â I wonder if acquiring Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets has him pushing a little harder knowing that there will be quite the battle next season in training camp?
A quick look back at the week was in Sens Land – The loss to the Calgary Flames on homeice a week agoÂ was to be expected but it was the manner in which Ottawa lost.Â Their was no team commitment and once again far too many passengers for a team that has players trying to earn a contract or roster spot for next season.Â Ottawa rebounded nicely in their win over the Edmonton Oilers in which they played with a purpose.Â The Sens controlled the game from start to finish in a 4-2 win.Â The Sens continued their winning ways on homeice with a resounding 6-3 win over Buffalo.Â The Sabres had no business being in this one as they scored all three goals on the powerplay.Â
With regards to the trade deadline, Sens GM Bryan Murray came up a big winner in trading Antoine Vermette, a popular player both on and off the ice.Â In trading Vermette, he acquired a potential number one goalie in Pascal Leclaire and even grabbed a second round draft pick.Â Vermette was not part of the solution here in Ottawa after getting numerous chances to succeed asÂ a top six forward.Â Unfortunately, he never achieved his offensive potential that many thought he could when he was drafted by the Sens.
The one area in which Murray failed the team was in not trading Chris Neil.Â Murray thought their was a bigger market for a guy who is playing on two bad knees.Â Neil isn't worth the 2.5 million that he and his agent are seeking.Â When Burrows signs for 2 million per year for 4 years in Vancouver, Neil will be lucky to get 1.5 million as Burrows is a far better player at this point in their careers.Â Murray should have taken what he could get for Neil as he will most likely lose Neil this summer.Â Why pay Neil 1.5 to 1.8 million when you have Cody Bass making a third of that salary and can do the same job, plus is younger, much faster and can play special teams.Â Personally it is no-brainer and Murray will most likely lose Neil for nothing after telling the fanbase that he didn't want to lose anyone for nothing in the summer, unlike previous general managers that had done so.Â
Back after the game tomorrow night with a postgame blog.
If anyone wants to reach me, please do so by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Written by Kevin Lee
Kevin has had an extensive career as a sports writer and radio show host for almost 10 years. Kevin has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA College Football and Basketball. From covering the BCS Championship Game to the Final Four and the Stanley Cup Finals, he has done it all. He has been featured on numerous sports radio stations in Canada and the United States and often a weekly guest on numerous XM and Sirius Satellite radio shows. He has also had his work featured on FoxSports.com.