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A Close One in Columbus

Posted By Mika Oehling On Jan 1 2011 @ 12:36 pm In Ottawa Senators | No Comments

You know how parents will always tell you that if you work hard enough, you will get what you deserve? This didn’t work out well for the Ottawa Senators last night, who rallied back from a 3 goal deficit to tie up the game, only to lose it in overtime. ┬áIt’s a familiar story now for Ottawa, who just can’t buy a break these days. Plagued by injuries, constantly called for penalties that are sometimes borderline, goaltender issues with a perennially injured Pascal Leclaire, and contending with egos has made Ottawa’s season an ugly mishmash- and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon.

Last night’s game had all the hallmarks of other bad games this season: a star player out with an injury (Spezza with his arm in a sling), line shuffling as a result, calling up minor league players to fill out the bench, (particularly that gap behind Elliott), racking up penalty minutes and a whole lot of nothing on the power plays. The difference is that they didn’t give up- Alfredsson, Fisher and Foligno all rallied for points and Winchester and Neil both played an aggressive game. The team managed to come back and it was anybody’s game heading into overtime.

Anybody except for Kovalev, who will probably cry if he reads these words. Which is just fine, because that would be a good indication of his true character. Clouston for some strange reason decided that Kovalev should be on the same line as Chris Kelly and Milan Michalek. On the surface, this seems like a good idea- take two of the hardest working men on the bench and pair them up with a superstar and see what comes out- hopefully, the grinders will give a little edge to the superstar’s finesse and the end result will be beautiful highlight reel goals- right?

Wrong on this one and we could have told Cory this beforehand. This line is just a bad idea. Kovalev is dead weight on this line. As a superstar, he’s only happy when he’s playing with other superstars. Kelly and Michalek play like workhorses. They’re not afraid to get into the dirty zones and work for it. That’s what makes the Ruutu-Kelly-Neil line so dynamic. Kovalev only wants to play on the top line and get the best ice time and he will probably continue to be frustrated and underwhelm every time that he steps out on the ice.

His sloppy play also cost the game. The bad turnover in overtime gave Voracek a golden opportunity to put the game away and he capitalized. So not only did Kovalev have nothing to do with Ottawa’s comeback in this game, he was also the one who let the game go. After his little tiff with Clouston which gave the Ottawa media a field day and a few trips to the press box, it’s clear to everyone now that Kovalev has bad investment written all over him. Another victim of big contractitus. For those unfamiliar with this term, this is a common phenomenon in Ottawa where a player will suffer from being on the receiving end of a large long term contract which plays almost entirely in their favour and makes their removal from the team virtually impossible and the long term side effect is mediocre play.

Noticeably absent on the night as well were Karlsson and Gonchar, who have both been playing dynamic games this season, but they virtually disappeared on the ice. Erik Karlsson tends to streak, going from red hot to ghost-like and there’s no way to knowing which one you’re going to get. He can be brilliant and he can also be surprisingly absent-minded. It’s hopeful that experience will work out these kinks and make him more consistent. Gonchar on the other hand, seems to be showing signs of age. While he’s still smart on the ice, he doesn’t seem to pop like he did back in his Pittsburgh days when he was a constant thorn in Ottawa’s side during the playoffs.

To end 2010, Ottawa suffered a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s hope that this new decade starts off on the right foot with a win over Toronto. That would be a post-holiday treat.

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