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A Close One

Posted By Mika Oehling On Jan 26 2011 @ 10:25 am In Ottawa Senators | No Comments

The Ottawa Senators had another close one last night against Buffalo, stretching the game out to overtime, but still losing 3-2 in the end. As Chris Kelly stated in his post-game interview, it was the same old story for Ottawa, where they put in a solid effort and a last minute rally, only to fall up short.

He couldn’t have said it better, as this has clearly been the pattern for some time and Kelly has been Ottawa’s most consistent forward all season. Always putting in a good effort, which is more than can be said for others on the team, it’s no surprise that Kelly tells it exactly as it is.

Post-game interviews and off-ice drama trumped this game, which was a more or less lacklustre affair with little scoring and most of the time spent in the neutral zone. In one word, the game itself was pedestrian. With the exception of an accidental tip off the glass which resulted in a puck landing square in Kovalev’s face, leaving him with an ugly shiner.

While Kovalev has been prone to diva rants while dressed in furs which has done nothing to help his poor numbers on the season, I have to admit that he finally came up in my esteem. Kovalev actually returned to the ice and played with his eye almost swollen shut, finally looking like that strong Viking warrior that his long haircut would indicate. While not nearly as romantic, you have to give the man points for playing battered and bruised- like a true hockey player.

It was a big night for Ottawa native Byron who picked up his first NHL goal in the game for Buffalo’s first point. It was quickly followd by a shot from Hecht. It looked like the Sabres were going to coast to the end of the game before Gonchar let one go and tied up the game late in the third.

Now this goal was another example of off-ice drama overshadowing the game itself. When Gonchar’s goal went in, Nick Foligno, who was jostling for position in front of the net, lost his balance and fell on Ryan Miller. Lindy Ruff was livid and was letting the refs know. Miller also looked upset in his post-game interview, even walking away from the media, saying that the league was trying to make things safer for goalies and he clearly felt let down. Which leads to the debate about the whole goaltender interference call.

This is another sore point for the NHL. The rules were made with the best of intentions of protecting goaltenders so that players wouldn’t start madly charging the net. But so far this season, the calls have been sporadic and strange. Some of them are bad; players are obviously not charging the goaltender and good goals are getting waved off. Some of the calls that should be made are not made at all. This makes the rule very hard to respect.

Other goaltenders are clearly taking advantage of the new protection, and trying to call players for taps and trips. It’s getting really tiring to see Luoungo, Brodeur and now Miller, talking up refs and trying to get their attention for every little thing. Their reputations are generally used to protect them, but now, the goaltenders may be taking this a little too far.

Did Foligno interfere with Miller’s ability to make a save on Gonchar’s shot? Well, he fell on him, so clearly, he did. On the other hand, there’s no way to say that Miller would have been able to stop that bullet of a shot even without Foligno sitting on his head. Was there an intention to interfere? It looks like Nick fell, so it would be safe to say no on this one. So how do we call it?

Charging the net is smart, aggressive play. Levelling the goaltender is not. But accidents happen all of the time in the game and the lines are getting very blurry in terms of what you can and can’t do to win games. I’m all for protecting players, but there’s clearly abuse on this rule.

It will be nice to have the All-Star break. Everyone will have a few days off to hang out with their families and hopefully come back to the game rested, and back on side with Cory. Sometimes getting away gives you perspective- and a fresh pair of eyes would be a welcome thing in Ottawa.

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