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Defense First

Posted By Mika Oehling On Mar 20 2012 @ 10:22 pm In Ottawa Senators | No Comments

It’s as glamourous and fun to watch as it sounds: defense first. It’s no secret that the New Jersey Devils favour a completely dynamic-free game of defensive responsibility which is something like watching your father write cheques to the utility company all night long. It was enough for New Jersey to take down the Ottawa Senators 1-0 in a frustrating game at home, a night after their line brawl with rival team the New York Rangers.

There was a slight hope that there may be some drama to this game given the full out mash up of the night before. As a precautionary measure, Ottawa even played their tough guy Konopka, who spoke to the media about his role. But it turned out to be just a tease, as the Ottawa-New Jersey tilt turned into a tightly played snoozer. Ottawa got no time or space in the zone and the Devils tightly jammed it up, pretty much using the entire team to defend in front of back up goaltender Johan Hedberg.

Hedberg played far from a stellar night with many juicy rebounds in the first two periods, but Ottawa failed to capitalize because of the tight defense in front. The Devils play a tight game under normal circumstances, but even more so in front of Hedberg and it shows on the scoreboard. With Ottawa’s poor record on power plays, penalties probably wouldn’t have helped much- but taking them wasn’t a good alternative.

The Ottawa faithful gave the refs an earful and with good reason. Two of the third period calls were borderline at best and just plain off at worst. Ben Bishop took a rare penalty for playing the puck with the trapezoid, but replays shows no contact was made. Zack Smith also took a boarding call on a little corner tap on Ponikarovsky, which looked more like he slipped, rather than was pushed, into the corner at an awkward angle.

There was one golden opportunity that Ottawa missed in the first period when Condra was dumped in the boards on a breakaway and got a chance at a penalty shot. He missed and that miss turned out to be detrimental as Ottawa went down by the lone goal scored by Kovalchuk, his 400th of his NHL career.

It was a tough night for Ben Bishop, who played a solid enough game, racking up as many saves as his counterpart Hedberg. Despite that fact, he still takes a loss after a lone goal from sniper Kovalchuk, almost committed an error in the second period due to a miscommunication with his D-men, his penalty and then a full body plant by Parise in the third. A lot to take, even for a big guy like him, in a single game.

Ottawa has 9 games to go in the season and is just holding on to its 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. This game could come back to haunt them if they face New Jersey in the first round. Ottawa has to work its cycle game and special teams, or else it won’t have a chance- even if they barely back into the playoffs.

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