End of the Week Thoughts

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As a John Muckler draft pick who was selected in the ninth round, 291st overall, the odds that Brian Elliott would ever develop into a useful commodity at the NHL level were long. (Ed. note: I really can’t emphasize the point that he was a Muckler pick enough.) It’s because of these circumstances that it’s refreshing to see a homegrown product who has overcome adversity and considerable media scrutiny to help stabilize the Senators goaltending situation during this time of need.

With Glasscal Leclaire on the sidelines, Elliott was named last week’s NHL First Star. With two more wins this week, he has now strung together six consecutive victories and has allowed only 6 goals on 170 shots – good enough for a 0.965 save percentage. If Brian can muster up another successful start on Hockey Day in Canada against the Canadiens, it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll have an opportunity to receive another NHL Star distinction.

Despite the League recognizing Elliott’s strong play of late, perhaps the biggest gauge of Elliott’s success is the fact that two days after dropping this quote,

The play of the Senators’ goalies is a bit overrated. Yeah, they’re making saves. The kind of saves they’re supposed to make. Tell me when, during the winning streak, did you watch Brian Elliott or Mike Brodeur make a stop and say, “Wow!” Me, not once. I think the team plays pretty solid in front of them, and when the Senators get some scoring and even adequate goaltending, they’re pretty tough to beat.

Don Brennan unconventionally pulled a 180-degree turn and fellated Elliott’s play in Pittsburgh last night. Hell, Elliott was even Pierre McGuire’s got in on the love-in by naming Elliott his monster of the game last night. With the way Pierre has gone out of his way to drop trou on Elliott’s rebound control for the last year and a half, who would have seen that coming?

Things are going so well for Brian that the only legitimate gripe that can be made against Elliott right now is the fact that he has a barbed wire decal adorning the bottom portion of his mask. I thought this fad died in the 1990′s when Pamela Anderson starred in that horrendous Barbed Wire flick. Seriously though, the only socially acceptable use of the barbed wire graphic should be reserved for women whose profession involves walking down a flight of stairs as an emcee tells a group of men to give it up for Trinity!

I digress. Bryan Murray’s in an intriguing situation right now: The status quo — sans Leclaire — is getting the job done and the Senators are pressed against the salary cap ceiling. A number of credible outlets are reporting that he’d like to add a piece like Ray Whitney but obviously such a move would require some kind of roster casualty to offset any additional salary. I don’t envision the Senators would bury Cheechoo’s contract in the minors to placate the team’s cap situation. So I wonder, would Bryan Murray be willing to listen to offers for Pascal Leclaire? (As an aside, Jonathan Willis, the writer of The Score’s Hockey or Die! blog, has written a piece detailing how the Oilers goaltending has been adversely affected in the absence of Nikolai Khabibulin. Maybe there’s a match to be made.)

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Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are?

Patrick Kane used to be the only thing that Buffalo citizens had to pay attention to in their rear view mirrors. With Ottawa’s latest winning streak, they’re now only 5 points back of the Northeast Division leading Sabres. Granted, Buffalo does have three games in hand but they also have to play Ottawa three more times this season. In homage to Mark Christopher packing it in, eff Buffalo.

No More Olympic Games For Alfie?

James Gordon was bang on when he wrote that it’s hard to think of a player as productive and durable as the Ottawa Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson hanging up the blades for good, but he confirmed Thursday the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will be his last trip to the Games.

Not only is it hard to fathom,  it’s uber-depressing to read about. With The Euge’s optimism rubbing off on everyone in the Hockey Capital, and the team’s winning streak in tact, no Senators fan wants to listen to the Captain forecast when his hockey career’s internal clock will wind down.

Volchenkov Love

Washington needs a physical defenceman and Volchenkov’s Russian. Great fit right? According to the Rock the Red website that’s devoted to its coverage of the Capitals, Volchenkov’s the guy that George McPhee should be targetting…

One area the Caps have not been able to shore up is adding a pure Defensive player, one who is effective in puck-movement, blocking, hitting, and speed. Sure, Washington’s roster seems bottomless, but it is filled with youth (Karl Alzner, Tyler Sloan), penalty prone members (Shaone Morrison, Mike Green), and little offensive upside (John Erskine). While there are several viable options available on the market, some would not be a long term option due to age (Scott Niedermayer, the return of Sergei Gonchar), overpaying for offensive abilities that are already filled by Green and Brian Pothier (Cam Barker, Dion Phaneuf), or would not be a visible upgrade (Andrew Ference, Chris Campoli). That being said if I were able to suggest a player to McPhee it would have to be Anton Volchenkov, who carries a pretty price tag for his hitting and shot-blocking abilities, but is worth every penny. At 27, the current Senator would fit in nicely as a long-term stay-at-home defenceman for the Capitals. Although The Capitals might have to pinch some pennies to make Volchenkov’s potential bidding-war friendly salary fit, they would have more room next season as Pothier, Morrisonn, and Jose Theodore are all defensive unrestricted free agents, and have the potential to come off the books.

It’s always fun to watch an out of town fanbase collectively wave their boners in air clamouring for a Volchenkov trade without contemplating what it would actually take to acquire such a key cog for a Senators team that now has a 91.7-percent chance of making the postseason. Pony up McPhee!

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