Monday, December 1, 2008

November Player of the Month

After another losing month, there are not many players who can lay claim to having particularly positive November. Alex Picard made excellent strides after being paired with Filip Kuba and switching to the left side; Daniel Alfredsson recorded 11 points and was a +6 on a team that has been absolutely dire at even strength. But other than those two, the only decent performance rests at Alex Auld, the surprise starting goaltender whom the Senators can thank for a good dozen points in the standings.

In the month of November, Auld recorded a not-so-sparkling 4-4-3 record, however the struggling win column belies his stellar performances in providing the few wins Ottawa did have. Through 11 games in the month, Auld put up a 1.94 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Most impressive, he only allowed the opening goal of the game on three occasions, giving Ottawa the opportunity to establish a lead almost every night.

Auld provided the Senators with reliable, consistent goaltending, allowing the team to establish confidence from the blueline out. No longer did defensemen flail all over the ice like dead fish, attempting to block each and every shot for fear that a shot on net would result in a sure goal. Auld's reliability allowed Hartsburg's defensive system to flourish, with defensemen playing smart positional hockey instead of panicking in an effort to minimise goaltender exposure. Unfortunately, the offense failed to flourish in the same manner as the defense, with the Senators providing one goal or less in 6 of the 12 games (including a 2-1 loss to Carolina which featured Martin Gerber in nets), and two goals or less on 10 of 12 nights.

Among goaltenders who have played 10 games or more, Alex Auld currently ranks 7th in save percentage, even though his team allows the 8th most shots per game. He ranks 4th in goals against average.

If the Senators had been able to provide offense, it wouldn't have been surprising to see them finish the month with 4 or 5 more victories; as it stood, the few it earned were by the hand of Alex Auld. And for that reason, he deserves player of the month honours.