Kuba not exactly a big hit

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

In between booing him, there was a hard and loud moment in time Saturday night when Ottawa fans were reminded why they liked Zdeno Chara so much.

The Big Man is a pain to play against.

"I wanted to try and stand up to it," Senators rookie Jesse Winchester said of a glass-rattling hit from the Bruins' 6-foot-9, 255-lb. defenceman that left him collecting his bearings and with a black left eye. "Obviously, he's pretty big and strong, and he made me look like a little child. But it comes with the territory. It happens. I've been hit hard before, I'll get hit hard again. I watched it (on replay). I saw the puck go in the corner when I dumped it in, I thought, 'I've got to go get it.' I saw him. I knew the angle it was, that I was going to get hit. I like to make contact first and I tried to do that with him, instead of just hug the boards and he just ran me right over.

"I just got smoked."

Indeed, there is only one Zdeno Chara. Nobody in the league has the combination of talent, toughness and size that is carried by the 31-year-old Slovak. Allowing him to walk as a free agent while they re-signed Wade Redden remains one of the biggest mistakes the Senators ever made.

Not for a second did Senators GM Bryan Murray believe he was getting a reasonable facsimile of Chara when he obtained Filip Kuba in the Andrej Meszaros trade before training camp. But they do have their similarities. They are from neighbouring countries. They are the same age. They play the same position.

And they're both tall.

A glaring difference is the way they play the game. One is so physical, the other is so not.

Through five games, Kuba has made an impact. He has no goals, but at least one assist in every game. His seven in total had him tied for second in scoring among all NHL defencemen heading into last night's action.

VOLCHENKOV LEADS

He's also the Senators' top workhorse, by a lot. Kuba has averaged 25:05. Second on the team in ice time is Anton Volchenkov at 21:40.

But where the 6-foot-5, 225-lb. Kuba comes up glaringly short is in the hits department.

After more than 250 minutes of ice time, he has recorded just one.

Yes, one.

Volchenkov leads the Senators in hits with 17. Second last on the team with two is Shean Donovan, but he has averaged just 5:46 of ice time per game.

The biggest Ottawa blueliner since Chara -- the largest Senator on the current roster -- has delivered just a single bodycheck.

Who knows, it may even have been an accident.

Would this be an issue if Senators coach Craig Hartsburg had not called his team out for being "too soft" last weekend? Yeah probably.

But even more so because Hartsburg did and the Senators are.

Both Murray and Hartsburg are determined to make this team a hard one to play against.

Against the B's, they were a bunch of marshmallows.

For years, NHLers have complained about the league's stats takers in regards to face-off wins, giveaways and takeaways.

Are they missing hits, too?

"It's been like that for a long time," Kuba said yesterday. "About being credited with just one hit? Are the stats takers missing some things?

Is that a misleading stat for you? Have you had more than one?

"I don't know," Kuba said. "I'm not a guy that kind of runs around counting his hits."

Can you be a physical player at times?

"You obviously have to want to be," he said. "You want to really just take a player with your body into the boards. But I'm not a guy that's going to run somebody through the glass."

No, he's not Zdeno Chara, or even a reasonable facsimile. What Kuba is, it appears, is a minute eater who can produce some points.

But also a big waste of size.


Photos