Thursday, February 21, 2008

Game Day: The dull, dark, plodding days of February are almost behind us

Dear God February hockey is tedious. The ritual anxiety and fidgeting leading up to the trade deadline has set in, the novelty of a new season and new faces has long worn off, and if you're an Ottawa fan, your team is coasting through a rudderless stretch of games, uncertain whether all the pieces have yet to fall into place for another playoff run or whether everything necessary is at hand, just the head coach can't seem to follow the assembly instructions. Even the GM can't be bothered to watch or comment on the games. Also, depending on where you live, you're either under about five feet of snow or having your retinas seared out by the first glimpse of sunshine in about nine months.

The Sens have averaged 3.00 goals for per game in February, below their season average of 3.35. Goals against, perhaps the most troubling stat of the season, have also been higher than the 23rd in the league average of 2.90, at 3.25 for the eight games this month. Ray Emery will get the start tonight, Coach Paddock having abandoned the futile win-and-you're-in strategy after Emery's last loss to the Devils. A climbdown for sure, and while many fans have roasted him for bad player management, he can hardly be blamed for the injuries to Heatley and Alfredsson or the fact that the team is yet again shuffling between two number two goalies (blame Sweater Man for that travesty).

I'll go with a 4-2 Sens win over the visiting Blue Jackets (Stillman, Vermette, Heatley, Fisher). The line of Vermette/Kelly/Stillman continues to gel and hopefully either keeps them off the trading block or keeps their stock value high enough to land a big name on Tuesday.

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