|Shawn Thornton: Senators ‘not sneaking up on anyone anymore’||01.31.12 at 12:38 pm ET|
The standings are deceiving. The Bruins are running away with the Northeast division.
While the Senators (27-19-6, 60 points) currently sit just four points behind the B’s (31-14-2, 65 points), Ottawa has played 52 games this season to Boston’s 47. That means the time to worry about losing the division won’t be coming soon, but it doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t be mindful of the only other team in their division that’s currently in line for a playoff spot.
The Senators should enter Tuesday night’s game with a full head of steam. No, they haven’t played well of late (see below), but they should be on a hockey high after hosting the All-Star game this weekend. They weren’t expected to compete as well as they have this season, but they’ve certainly gotten the Bruins’ attention.
“[They’re] a hard-working team that’s pretty well coached with a goalie that’s fairly hot this year,” Shawn Thornton said following the Bruins’ morning skate. “I played with him in the minors, and when he’s on, he’s on. They’re definitely not sneaking up on anybody anymore. ‘¦ It will be a good game for us coming out of the break.”
While Thornton is right in saying the Senators have registered on Boston’s radar, he may have been a little generous with his praise of goaltender Craig Anderson. One thing that has remained constant this season has been the Senators’ porous work in their own end. Ottawa is 27th in goals against with an average of three goals allowed per game, and though Anderson has been a workhorse for them (he has started 19 consecutive games and will be between the pipes for his 20th straight on Tuesday), he is currently rocking a 2.90 goals-against average, which is 37th in the league.
Though the Senators might be coming into Boston on a high following the weekend’s festivities, they, like the Bruins, are looking to make up for a rough stretch prior to the break. While the Bruins went 3-3-1 over their last seven games, the Senators went 3-4-0, including dropping three straight games on the west coast going into the break.
Still, if the Bruins don’t wake up from their pre-break slumber, they’ll have trouble on their hands Tuesday night. Jason Spezza has 50 points on the season (20 goals, 30 assists), while 21-year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson has 47 points (tops among NHL blueliners). The Senators average 2.9 goals per game, which is eighth in the league.
“They’re a really good team,” Brad Marchand said of Ottawa. “They have a lot of skill over there, and a lot of young guys who are working really hard. Those are always tough teams to play against, and they’re playing really good hockey right now.”
|Spezza could doom Bruins in draft||06.08.10 at 3:20 pm ET|
With just over two weeks to go until the NHL Draft, it has become a logical line of thinking to believe the Bruins would be quite risky to assume Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall will be available with the second overall pick. While either Hall or Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin would be a blessing to the offense, there is no doubt that the Bruins could use a well-rounded winger more than they could use a center. The Edmonton Oilers, who hold the top pick in the draft, have needs all over the ice and will ultimately do what what they feel upgrades their team the most.
Here’s where the irony hits: This draft features the best offensive 1-2 punch since 2001, a class that starred left wing Ilya Kovalchuk and center Jason Spezza. Kovalchuk went first to the Atlanta Thrashers, Spezza went second to the Senators and each embarked upon their careers as NHL All-Stars. If the parallels aren’t apparent yet, recent chatter suggests it could be one of the ’01 stars that messes things up for the Bruins this month.
Spezza, whose contract will see a no-trade clause kick in on July 1, has reportedly grown frustrated with the Ottawa and may want out. While talk that he may have requested a trade could be nothing more than speculation, many have begun guessing where the center could call home next season. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, who Bruins fans should have bookmarked by now for a Hall of Fame Edmonton writer’s take on this draft, sees a potential gameplan for the Oiler’s offseason that “might solve the Taylor vs. Tyler debate.”
“Draft winger Taylor Hall on June 25 with their No. 1 pick at the NHL entry draft, pass on centre Tyler Seguin and trade for Spezza later.
The Senators would almost assuredly take the same three players that were on the table for winger Dany Heatley last summer ‘ Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid ‘ in exchange for Spezza, who would become the Oilers’ much-needed first-line centre.”
There you have it. Both teams could afford to due that trade, as Matheson stacks the cap numbers against one another and calls the deal a “virtual wash.” The Oilers would see offensive improvement and have a top line that would be among the best in the NHL, while the Bruins would be improved with Seguin, but would enter the 2010-2011 season without a 30-plus-goal-scoring winger — again.
So what should the Bruins do? If Oilers GM Steve Tambellini targets Spezza, an offer of Blake Wheeler and the second pick isn’t exactly going to change his mind. In fact, if Edmonton can get both Spezza and Hall, the Oilers might even prefer that combo to a deal that included the second and 15th overall picks, which the Bruins likely wouldn’t want to do anyway.
The Bruins may have their hands tied. There is no logic in a wing-deprived team trading a wing or a top pick to move up one spot and one can’t assume the Oilers would even be interested in what the Bruins have to say. SensChirp is reporting the Bruins have interest in Spezza themselves and that the second pick “could be in play” but I would take that with an entire mound of salt. The reality is the team may just have to do two things: Hope Spezza is dealt elsewhere so the Oilers have a bigger shot of taking Seguin and convince themselves that potentially landing the Plymouth center is better than giving up a king’s ransom to secure Hall. For now, all anyone else can do is wait.