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Success means timely delivery from all lines

by John Kreiser

Ottawa's top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley
and Jason Spezza had been virtually the Senators'
only source of offense during their seven-game slide
It’s very hard to win when only one line is producing offensively, even when that line is as good as Ottawa’s “Pizza Line” of Jason Spezza between Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson. The Senators’ seven-game slide after they got off to the hottest start in the League is due in large part to the lack of scoring from their other three lines.

Ottawa scored 22 goals during the 0-4-3 slide that ended with a 5-4 victory in Florida Wednesday night. Of those goals, the big line accounted for 12 -- five by Heatley, four by Alfredsson and three by Spezza. They combined for 32 points, with Alfredsson putting up 12, Spezza 11 and Heatley nine.

The defense also produced some offense, scoring seven goals and adding 11 assists. But the rest of the forwards didn’t help much. Eight forwards dressed for all seven games during the slump -- and combined for just three goals and 11 points. Two of the goals came in one game (a 3-2 shootout loss on Nov. 28 against the Islanders) by one player (Andrej Meszaros) -- meaning that in the other six games, the other three lines produced a total of one goal.

Not coincidentally, the Senators ended their slide in a game that saw the other lines finally produce. The second, third and fourth lines generated four of the five goals, more than they had produced in the previous seven games combined. No. 2 center Mike Fisher scored a goal -- his first offensive production in nine games -- and another center, Randy Robitaille, who had just one assist in his previous 13 games, scored twice.

Streaky Starts -- Buffalo is riding a roller coaster when it comes to getting the first goal. Before Thursday, the Sabres had scored first in their previous eight games. Prior to that, they had allowed the first goal in 14 consecutive games, just three short of the league record of 17 set by the expansion Washington Capitals in 1974-75.

The Sabres’ success in getting the first goal has coincided with their recovery after a poor start. They were 5-8-1 during the 14-game streak in which they allowed the first goal, and then went 6-2 in the eight games in which they scored first.

One area in which the Sabres have struggled this season is their play away from HSBC Arena. After leading the NHL with 25 road wins in 2006-07, Buffalo is just 4-8-1 away from home this season.

Slow Starts -- The New York Islanders might want to work on getting off to a faster start at home. Last Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Atlanta at the Nassau Coliseum marked the third time this season the Isles have been scored on in the opening minute at home, and the fifth time the opposition has taken a 1-0 lead within the first four minutes. The Islanders have not scored a goal within the first six minutes of any home game and have been outscored 13-5 in the first period of their 15 home games. Despite that, they are 9-5-1 at the Coliseum.

Home Cooking -- Patrick Kane is living up to his billing as the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s Entry Draft, and he’s a big reason the Chicago Blackhawks are off to a fast start. But Kane has been two different players, depending where he’s playing. At the United Center, Kane is a terror, scoring 21 points in 14 games, a pace that could win a scoring title if projected over an 82-game season. But on the road, Kane has struggled -- he has just one goal and six points in 13 games.

Kane’s production is one reason the Hawks are on track for a solid improvement at home. Chicago is 8-6-0 this season -- not fabulous, but much better for a team that was 17-20-4 at home in 2006-07 and 16-19-6 in 2005-06.

Stop That Shot -- It’s been a good season so far for goaltenders that have had to stop penalty shots. Through the season’s first nine weeks, goalies have stopped 17 of the 20 penalty shots that have been taken, an .850 percentage that is far better than any they’ve managed for at least the last decade. Goalies have stopped the last 13 penalty shots since Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier scored against the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist Oct. 29 at New York. Five goaltenders -- Martin Biron, Cam Ward, John Grahame, Evgeni Nabokov and Mikael Tellqvist -- all have stopped two penalty shots without allowing a goal; Carolina’s Ward and Grahame have stopped a league-high four.

Third-Period Blues -- One reason the Florida Panthers continue to struggle is their defensive problems in the third period. Florida has allowed a league-high 37 goals in its 28 games -- nearly as many as the 43 the Panthers have allowed in the first two periods combined. Florida has outscored the opposition by two goals (45-43) in the first two periods, but has been outscored by 12 (25-37) in the third.

In contrast, the Minnesota Wild have allowed just 18 goals in the third period, tied for the fewest in the NHL -- but only have scored 18. There have been fewer goals scored by both teams in the third period of Minnesota’s 27 games than by Florida’s opponents alone in the Panthers’ 28 contests.



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