Sunday, April 23, 2006

Senators lose to Lightning

Some quirks about the Ottawa — Tampa Bay series:

These teams are fast. They're fast, and they're quick.

Ottawa's defense doesn't know what it means to, "take the man".

These teams are otherwise, well coached and smart.

It was seven and a half minutes into the third before that period's first icing call. That in a period without penalties.

Thus far, there have been zero off-side calls. Zero. The Leafs can't play for two minutes without going offside. Both teams, especially Tampa as they pay attention at both blue lines, work the line. Defensively, they make sure they clear the puck. Offensively, they time their passes and shoot-ins to lead the skaters. I've never seen a Leaf game without an off-side for this long. (Technically, I don't think that's true. I vaguely remember a game with about ten minutes of uninterrupted play. It was probably about 25 years ago.)

Both teams have creative players. Martin St. Louis' goal to give Tampa the lead in the third was a lovely goal except that competent defense would have prevented the play from developing. There was jumble of players at the Tampa blue line. St. Louis, from a standing start, took the puck and raced to the Ottawa end. Some other player gets the puck and pushes over the line. A real defenceman would have skated him in to the boards but Ottawa's didn't. St. Louis whipped around the net and came out at the left side of the crease – again, inside the defence – and hammered the puck into the net.

Thirteen minutes in, there was finally an off-side. I don't know the rules but the Ottawa goalie made a pass from a few feet above the goal line, across the ice where it was taken a foot into the Tampa Bay zone. The skaters feet were on-side. I don't know what makes that an off-side. Maybe a three line pass is forbidden.

Both the stickhandling and skating skill of these players far exceed that of the Leafs. St. Louis seems to pay absolutely no attention to where he is and several times, in tight quarters, he, while looking the other way, cut his turns with his skates probably no more than an inch from the boards. Figure skaters don't have that level of awareness.

Bob Cole booted one. For an entire play, he neglected to mention that the Ottawa goalie was on the bench. On the next play, he stated that the goalie would be on the bench for sure.

Tampa has an interesting style. Even when Ottawa was really applying the pressure, the goalie was not required to stand on his head to maintain the lead. Part of their play, and this applies also to Ottawa, is that their players are taking into account where other players are. They time things and understand how valuable it is to disrupt a pass or shot. Consequently, they break up a lot of promising plays before the goalie is needed.

Anyways, Lightning win 4-3 in a really fun game. The only thing missing was some stand-on-your-head goaltending.

p.s. Over the course of the third period, there were two icings and one off-side. Oh yeah, and three hits.


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