November 7, 2007
Senators peaking early onBut can they continue their run throughout the year?
By DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media
Early schmerly. The 2007-08 Senators are starting to make people ignore calendars and bare fingers and talk about the 1976-77 Canadiens.
Coach John Paddock did it a couple of weeks ago -- connecting his team to the edition of the Habs that compiled a 60-8-12 regular-season record then went 12-2 in the playoffs to win the Cup -- when someone asked him if he was concerned the high-flying Senators were peaking too soon.
"I don't think there's any such thing," said the coach. "Just play right, and that's an attitude, a mental thing.
"Like the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1970s, when they lost eight games all year. I think they peaked all year. They were the best players, that's why they won, but if you're the best players and you do things right, when do you peak? You always play good."
And then there was yesterday morning and the TV reporter who asked Leafs coach Paul Maurice about comparisons between his opponent that night and those Guy Lafleur-led Habs.
After pointing out that he was only nine years old back then, Maurice made it clear he likes to hear of such lofty talk about the Senators.
"I think here, in this market, you should continue to heap that kind of expectation on them," he said mischievously. "And if they don't reach it or achieve it, somebody should have to answer for that."
With their victory over Toronto a few hours later, the Senators officially produced the best start in NHL history, having now accumulated 26 points in the first 14 games of the season.
But, of course, they have more than a little work to do before they can be mentioned in the same breath as the 1976-77 Habs.
Starts and stops: Talk about ruining the end of a movie while people are still settling into their seats -- last night's game was more or less decided when Chris Phillips scored 2:59 into it. The Senators are now 23-1-4 on nights the "Big Rig" has popped one in the last seven years, 32-4-4 when he has scored in his career ... When you're hot, you're hot, eh Marty Gerber? It appeared the Ottawa goalie stopped at least three rapid-fire chances in succession with his left pad off Matt Stajan -- while having absolutely no clue where the puck was and looking the other way ... The Senators are getting some bad bounces too, though. During the morning skate, Ron Low was blindsided by a player who accidentally crashed into the assistant coach. Low's head bounced off the ice, and he was sent to the hospital. Proving his is a tough nut to crack, he was back on the job, in the booth, come game time.
Between periods: Boo, hiss to both coaches for keeping Brian McGrattan and Wade Belak out of the game. It's November, for gawdsakes. You've got to give the bloodthirsty Ottawa and Toronto fans what they want to see ... Robb Wells, aka Ricky of Trailer Park Boys fame, was in attendance and confessed to being "intoxicated" when Kathy The Hostess With The Mostess asked him to read an upcoming concert lineup on the videoboard. Mission accomplished, he rewarded himself with a pull on his beer. Kathy obviously isn't a fan of the show as she introduced him as Bubbles ... Gerber, who has become the Senators' No. 1 goalie whether the team calls him that or not, stoned some guy called Jiri Tlusty on a clear-cut, second-period breakaway.
Things that make you go hmm...: The NHL's plus-minus leader, Phillips had a good follow-up to his quote in Chris Stevenson's column yesterday. If you missed it, someone had suggested that Phillips was on pace to finish the season with a better-than plus-80 rating, to which he replied: "One year I was on pace for 164 goals. That didn't work out, either." In expanding on that yesterday, Phillips said, after scoring two goals in the first game that year, he finished the season with three. "Guess that's one of those things that makes you go hmm...," said Phillips. He was right ... Sportsnet's Ian Mendes was positioned between the two benches for in-game interviews and some brilliant insight. However, he was not as fortunate as tough-guy-turned-TV reporter Rob Ray was the night he sat in a similar spot and caught every word of a verbal brawl between Bryan Murray and Lindy Ruff. His loss. Mendes did have a front-row seat for a shoving match that threatened to turn into a ful-scale brawl with less than a minute to go.
Last change: You're trailing 4-1 in a typically intense game with a rival and you have a golden opportunity to demolish a member of the opposition with an open-ice hit. Do you pull up? Probably not, right. Somebody should tell Leafs D Pavel Kubina ... Still can't get used to a penalty being called for lifting a guy's stick and stealing the puck from him, as Mike Fisher did to Nik Antropov in the first. That's not hooking. That's lifting ... Of course, an Ottawa penalty was only giving the Senators another chance to score short- handed. With Toronto on the power play, at various times, Alexander Steen tried to send Chris Kelly in on a breakaway, Dean McAmmond set up Daniel Alfredsson for a 2-on-1 goal a few penalties after not seeing the captain for what would have been a shorthanded breakaway, and Kelly was stoned on yet another 2-on-1.