Spezza might have Art form

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

It's not something easily explained. It's called chemistry because we don't have a better term for it.

Right now, the picture of it is the Senators' line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Brandon Bochenski.

Their three names topped the NHL's pre-season scoring race yesterday. Spezza with three goals and 10 assists.

Heatley with three goals and eight assists.

Bochenski with five goals and four assists.

That's 11 goals, 22 assists and 33 points in five games between them and a tidy combined +19 in the plus-minus category.

Their mastery in the pre-season has poolies everywhere asking themselves: "Can Spezza win the scoring title? Can Heatley win the Maurice Richard Trophy?" and, of course, "Who the hell is Bochenski?"

REIGNING AHL CHAMP

This a big weekend for the poolies as a lot of drafts will be taken care of. Yeah, some picks will be made, too.

As always, we try to help you faithful Sun readers in any way we can, so we consulted with Spezza himself about the prospects for the trio this season.

Spezza was the AHL's scoring champ last season, his first scoring title, if you can believe it.

He racked up points in the OHL, but often came up short in the scoring race after missing a couple of weeks for the world junior championships.

"That was the first (scoring title) I won last year," he said. "Hopefully, not the last."

He skated somewhat gingerly around the topic of his chances of winning the NHL scoring title yesterday.

"I'm on a top team. I like to score goals. I like to make plays. I play with great players. You never want to talk about something like that, but you never want to rule it out, either," said the 22-year-old. "It's something where I want to be the best player I can be every night so if that means getting close to something like that, so be it.

"The way our team is, it's tough (for opponents). If you cover one line, the other line burns you. Being on a strong team like that, it's tough to contain all the guys. You get more chances."

It really is something watching this line at work. Sure, Spezza and Bochenski had success last year playing together in the AHL. But Heatley has dropped in there and been a wonderful fit with Spezza, too.

He has helped Spezza by putting him in a position to do more by doing less.

They work the give-and-go beautifully, using their positioning, speed and ability to read each other to work their way by opponents in the neutral zone.

"I'm trying to find him, he's trying to find me," said Spezza. "I've probably taken a little of the 1-on-1 stuff out of my game now. I don't have to beat as many guys in the neutral zone as I would have in the past. We're skating at the same speed and our timing is pretty good coming through the neutral zone."

Then you have the 23-year-old Bochenski, who scored 34 goals last year with Binghamton. He's 6-foot-1 and 197 lbs. and looks like he's no stranger to the weightroom.

He's got a great release (and he's not afraid to use it. He leads the Senators with 18 shots in five games.)

He was picked 223rd overall in 2001 and the knock on him was his skating, but he has made -- pardon the pun -- great strides the last couple of years.

His skating picked up last year and Senators coach Bryan Murray said he figures it's another 10% better this year.

"Bo finds the seams really well," said Spezza. "He makes really good plays at the (blue) lines. He's good at getting the puck out, good at taking the rims (around the boards). He does a lot of the little things that make you successful."

Three very different players who mesh nicely.

Why?

"It's part everything," said Spezza. "It's part work ethic, it's part (new) rules, it's part getting a chance to play, it's part D-men moving the puck to us very well and we're getting open ice."

MURRAY'S BEST MOVE

Murray isn't taking a lot of credit for what looks like his best move as coach so far.

"I saw it happen in the AHL last year. Brandon played with Jason. It was a logical move to make. All we do is look at what we know," he said. "You put people in positions where you hope they will be successful. In this case, we knew two guys were NHL players and the third guy has stepped up and probably been a surprise. It's kind of a feel good thing."

Yup.

Smart guy, that Murray.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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