Set aside for the moment the fact that Mika Zibanejad isn’t on the roster, and wasn’t the first call-up (Derek Grant was) despite the fact that a majority of fans seem to want him freed from the Binghamton Senators.
The fact is, the lineup choices for the game on Saturday afternoon are still puzzling me, and for the second time in a matter of a couple of weeks I am going to second-guess the Jack Adams winner behind the Ottawa bench, and his utilization of the players that were at this disposal.
I am referring in particular to the decision to dress both Eric Gryba and Matt Kassian in the same game, against a team built on speed like the Edmonton Oilers. I have been on the record in the past that I do not find Gryba to be the liability that many fans and fellow bloggers seem to, but he has his place. And I don’t necessarily think that it is alongside the also not-so-fleet-of-foot Chris Phillips against a quick team like the Oilers. I realize it is after the fact, but I would have liked the speed and offensive presence of Joe Corvo out there to take some of the power play minutes that Phillips logged, since the Big Rig is inconsistent on the PP and in an area of the game where the Senators are struggling, giving a boost to the play with the man advantage is of paramount importance. Despite the fact that Gruba did catch Taylor Hall at one point, he had a tough time keeping up.
As for Kassian, his lack of footspeed was evident, and with the speedy Jean-Gabriel Pageau sitting in the press box, it made me wonder why Kassian was in at all. He played 3:09 in total, and contributed 3 hits. Again, Kassian has his place against certain teams, but with Mike Brown and Luke Gazdic in the lineup as the resident Oilers’ “tough guys” there certainly wasn’t a need for the lumbering heavyweight. Face it, Kassian can’t keep up with the speedier teams, or even the middle of the pack teams. His presence should be required for maybe 15-20 games, and if the Senators feel they need someone in that role, that is what they pay for. Pageau could have skated with the Oilers, even if he was playing on the wing, and could have been a sparkplug to step in for a shift or two when, for example, Bobby Ryan had to leave the game for a spell, or to spark up the power play. Grant came in and did his job, playing almost 2 of his 6 minutes on the PK, and going 57% in the faceoff circle. But a more balanced, 4 line attack could have been deployed by the Senators with Pageau in the lineup instead of Kassian.
Putting both Kassian and Gryba in the lineup at the same time, and sitting out two of the faster, more agile players on the roster (despite some obvious drawbacks to their game) at a time when the club was struggling to get the offense going and control the puck is puzzling. The team looked slow, and limited the options in different situations.
While Paul MacLean seemed happy with the club’s 5-on-5 play, I didn’t see it. Yes, they outshot an opponent for the first time, but they made Devan Dubnyk look good in a first period that should have been even at worst, but Ottawa found themselves down 2-0.
I;m not saying the result would have been any different with Corvo and Pageau in the lineup, but I certainly would have like the options that they provide.