There’s not much to say about tonight’s game other than:
There’s not much to say about tonight’s game other than:
I’m not usually one to point fingers at the officials at any given time in a playoff series. The game is chaotic, and the officiating reflects a dynamic environment–which is a polite way of saying that the officiating is usually pretty terrible for everyone. Until the time the league gets its head out of its ass and seriously considers implementing a coach’s challenge or tells officials they are empowered and encouraged to review more than just goals, we’re going to end up with missed penalties or a flagrantly disproportionate number of calls. Ottawa’s been the beneficiary before, including Zibanejad’s borderline kicked-in goal against Montreal in the first round. That could have gone either way.
Generally, I accept this. It’s as if at random times during the game they release a live panther onto the ice, and it could maul anyone. Penalties are handed out with frustratingly opaque logic. Trying to fix it is tantamount to trying to fix a fundamental randomness in the universe. I’d rather buckle up and enjoy the ride, hoping that my favorite team comes out on top.
Up until now, I have also accepted some truth to the notion that the more penalized team is more penalized because they’re usually the less skilled / slower team and thus are more likely to find themselves resorting to clutching and grabbing, interference, or roughing in order to level the playing field. After the first round win in Montreal, it must have been especially clear that Ottawa’s game against skilled teams is to play on the edge. Ottawa is living firmly in that grey zone, the place where teams with generational skill and league max salaries don’t have to go.
Last night I thought to myself that Ottawa’s game plan has become exceedingly clear to both the Pens and the officials. The Pens have the skill to just wait everything out; they might lose the odd game, but they don’t need to get creative to win a series. Their veterans are being patient, and Cooke is going about his business. It’s almost as if they’re already thinking about Boston. Meanwhile, Ottawa has to get its hands dirty to have a chance in this series, and the officials know it. We’re getting sun burnt by their spotlight right now. But is that really an excuse?
Ottawa is the most penalized team in the 2013 playoffs, having found themselves shorthanded 40 times in just nine games, or 4.44 per game. Last year’s most penalized team in the playoffs was the New Jersey Devils, with 82 penalties in 24 games. That’s 3.42 penalties per game, a full penalty less. In 2010-2011 it was Vancouver with 3.96 per game. Philadelphia was the most penalized the two years before that, but they weren’t even close. I had to go all the way back to 2007-2008 to find another team as penalized as Ottawa this year–Detroit had 98 in 22, or 4.45 penalties per game that year. Before that was Anaheim, with a staggering 5.76 per game. There are other teams with slightly higher penalties-per-game averages (Nashville in 2006-2007), but their early exits couldn’t be blamed on penalties (Nashville had a 93.3% PK that year and lost in the first round in five.)
(note: for this I’m looking at “times shorthanded” on nhl.com, not necessarily total penalty minutes.)
What does this mean? Well, surprisingly, far from the most penalized teams being the worst / most overmatched, in recent years the most penalized teams have gone the furthest or won it all. New Jersey, Vancouver and Philly made the Finals. Detroit and Anaheim won the Cup. This seems to imply that being very penalized in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily lead to an unfair loss, or that these teams were so good that they could overcome the excessive burden of being on the PK so much.
For Ottawa, maybe this means we can’t blame penalties for our losses, either because they don’t impact the game that much or because we’re legitimately not as good as the contending teams of years past, who could take those penalties in stride.
You could point to penalties last night, but they don’t tell the whole story. In what amounts to a must-win game, on home ice, with all of the momentum on their side, Ottawa takes a minor penalty 1:12 in. This was blatant interference by Sergei Gonchar, one of the team’s key veterans, who found himself out of position and took the body on James Neal rather than give him a lane to the net. Far from that being Gonchar’s biggest sin in a game where he finished -4, Michalek actually scored shorthanded on the ensuing PK. Gonchar’s lack of toughness was a much bigger problem, and was particularly evident on Dupuis’ shorthanded goal, when Gonchar had him in front of the net and Dupuis’ easily got his shot away anyway. I don’t know if Gonchar was trying to avoid a penalty, but if so, that fear burnt him and the team.
Later, players like Smith, Greening, Zibanejad and Neil, whose games involve at least an element of physical toughness and agitation, could be seen obviously pulling back, not taking the body, trying to play the Penguins at their own game. At this point they have no idea if playing tough means going back to the penalty box. And instead of being unafraid of that and sticking to their game plan, Ottawa has been thoroughly thrown off; if Ottawa has any hope of getting back in this series, they need to get back to their I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude. If it means taking a penalty, then so be it.
The officials didn’t give this game to the Pens–Ottawa was up 2-1 and gave the Pens a breakaway one minute into the second period, then Anderson coughed up a brutal rebound 40 seconds later, and just like that, Ottawa is in the hole again. They never recovered. Tellingly, the Senators didn’t receive a penalty in the second period; when they had to tie it up, the officials let them play. Ottawa is getting killed in this series because the bottom has fallen out on their unreal goaltending; their Norris trophy defenceman is clearly not 100%; they’re playing against a team with $13MM more salary than them, with generational talent; and in what amounts to the most important game of their season–and possibly Alfie’s last ever in Ottawa–they didn’t show up.
“This is Kung Fu not foot dancing!”
I once upon a time had this phrase screamed at me on a regular basis by a firm but fair Chinese man who could literally kill you several ways with his bare hands. (Don’t let the yelling dissuade you btw, I highly recommend you take up Kung Fu. It gets you in terrific shape and they teach you how to severely injure a human attacker in countless ways. Keep fit and have fun and learn to maim!) What was I talking about? Oh yeah, don’t try to rob me if you like your elbow not broken, baby cousin.
I mean…I want to yell at you for a second, “This is sporting games not fairy tales!” What I mean by that is, I, like you, have followed the Ottawa Senators through their playoff journeys since 1996-97. You, fetching reader, know that these nearly two decades of post season play have been filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. I’ve found it important to appreciate those highs when they happen. A lot of them have been happening this year. A lot.
There was an article on The Ottawa Senators Chirping Page recently about playoff memories that really I enjoyed. I feel very similar to Chirpston (assuming that’s the editor’s name) in that we’re not even two rounds in and have been already been given so many new memories that no one can ever take away no matter what happens.
Am I saying I don’t believe that the Senators can take this thing to the promised land? What? No, or course I’m not saying that. If you read these things…oh wait…k, since this is the first time you’ve read our website here’s this: WELCOME! and also this: I go into each frigging game hoping Ottawa will win. I’m merely saying this has been pretty special so far.
It’s reminded me of how Ottawa’s first playoff win over the Devils in 97-98 means more to me than when they won the President’s Trophy and went to the conference final in 02-03. Or how Alfie’s goal to lift the team to the Cup Final has greater significance than anything that happened in all five games of that Final series combined.
Do I want to see Alfie get handed the GD cup this year? More than anything…but in true Alfie fashion so far he’s the one giving us all the memories. I’ve said it many times but again: We are witnessing the dawn of a new era of Senators playoff hockey and it could not feel more exciting.
And now I want to talk about the dangers of using Q tips…OH SHIT THE GAME!
Contery Placed Firmly on Back
I think having Jason Spezza’s back back really did wonders for this line up. First off, can we talk about how gracefully this guy plays? Such grace! I really missed that, the grace. Aside from not quite having the steam to backcheck effectively, Spezza looked pretty damn good for a guy who hasn’t played since January and was dropped into Conference Semi-Final pace.
Perhaps the biggest contribution Spezza makes is bumping Kyle Turris down to the second line. After watching a (short) season of him in Spezza’s shoes it’s pretty evident that Turris’ home is on the second trio. No lack of rispeck for Turris’ family meant here. Dude led the team in points and helped them make the post season for the second straight year but it’s as clear as something that’s clear that Turris thrives when he doesn’t have to play on the top line game after game. Pittsburgh is a weird example though as they have two first line centres but I digress: WELCOME BACK JASON SPEZZA.
Pretty good to see Spezz take a hard hit and not head straight for the dressing room. Well, well stay well soon we want you to remain welllllll!
Speaking of being well
Chris Neil will not miss tonight’s game after getting knocked out of game 3 with what looked like a pretty nasty shoulder injury.
Neil is a very divisive player in Ottawa. I for one think he’s at his best in the playoffs. He hasn’t remained in the league for 10 seasons and dressed in nearly 100 playoff games because he’s bad at his job. With 21 hits so far this series my only hope is he’s not being too much of a hero and is healthy enough to continue to throw them because that’s what he does. There are some that think hits are an irrelevant stat. That’s fine that you don’t pay close attention to hockey. No judgements. I KIIIIIIIID!!! But for real, against a team as old or as structurally sound as Pittsburgh, you have to wear them down and open them up. Sure, he doesn’t have hands. I get it. His job isn’t that. His job is to get the opposition off balance and create space for those who do IMLOOKINGATYOUJAKOBSILFVERBERGORWHOEVZ to get in a position to use their hands. Yes, Neil takes penalties. It’s the price of his game. When a goalie screws up the price is a goal against, when Neil screws up he takes a penalty.
You: Where you going with this one?
Me: Uhh, right!
If Neil can’t lay those hits tonight I don’t know how he helps the team. We’re going to have a guy who can skate fast, not really bury chances and…take penalties. I’m going to be watching him closely tonight.
In the words of our own Steven: “Tomas Vokoun: NOT. THAT. GOOD.”
Have you ever drank beers and watched a game with Steven? C’est le meilleur.
Anyway, as I pointed out before the series even started. I’m not going to pretend a guy who looks like Phil Collins (tbh) and was Washington’s 3rd string goalie a little over a year ago is some kind of world beater because he came in to relieve the totally inconsistent Marc Andre Fleury and beat the Islanders twice playing behind the Eastern Conference Champs. No. Vokoun is a very good NHL goalie. Like all goalies he has his weak points and in the last two games you’re really seeing Ottawa expose his weak glove side and inability to control rebounds. This series is proving the Greening Theory. You drive hard on this guy, youre going to see results eventually. Get tough, go glove and even this series.
You’re Not Even Working Anyway, Just Keep Reading…
Great to see bounce back games from Karlsson, Anderson, and a sweet, sweet set up from Michalek. Bounce back games aren’t everything though. Ottawa is still in a very desperate situation here. They lose this one on home ice and they are seriously on the ropes. Let’s hope MacLean can continue to work that Fortress SBP magic tonight. As amazing as that game 3 victory was it’s now in the sweet, sweet playoff memories satchel and a loss tonight would mean Ottawa having to win every game after this one. No one wants to see the team have to get that pesky.
Enjoy the game, you lovers!
GO SENS GO!!!!!!
For those of us who have been watching the Ottawa Senators play for years, you can sense something different in the air. There’s a greater sense of pride over this team, and it’s not just the unexpected playoff appearances, the emergence of a superstar defenseman, or the affable identity Paul MacLean has brought to the team. It’s the fact that for maybe the first time ever, we don’t give a damn what other markets think of us.
Go back to the early to mid-2000s: Ottawa had a veritable All-Star team, replete with two Norris-worthy defencemen, scoring leaders all over the lineup, and solid if unspectacular goaltending. Jacques Martin coached what had been a league-wide joke to regular season credibility. And every year in the playoffs Ottawa ran headlong into a team that was, supposedly, less skilled, and were manhandled. There was a sense back then that this wasn’t just bad puck luck–Ottawa’s stars were off their game.
How did that happen? Well, playing what amounts to all road games thanks to your barn being filled with Toronto fans and media with Leaf-colored glasses might contribute some small bit. But more to the point, it was that Ottawa was trying to win at a large market game. We could beat up on lesser teams when the games didn’t matter, but when the eyes of the country turned to us we were shrinking violets. We didn’t just want to beat the Leafs–we wanted to be loved by Leafs fans.
What we didn’t realize back then, and seem to realize now, is that even if Ottawa won back-to-back-to-back-to-back Cups, we’ll never have the respect or the credibility enjoyed by large markets. You didn’t think they could hate you now, did you? But they hate you.
The larger numbers in those markets feed revenue; that revenue feeds media. That media feeds the perception of credibility. The desire to be liked leads to everyone and their brother following the cool kids’ team. That’s how you end up with newspaper stories like this one: the gutsy, hard-working, underdog Senators, the sole remaining Canadian team in the playoffs after big budget busts like Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver choke hard, don’t even get a little bit of love. They get a reminder that they will never, ever be seen as credible in the eyes of the large markets. (Never mind that the article simultaneously acknowledges that Toronto is seen as smug while smugly deriding it’s smaller cousin by saying the city–that’s right, not the team, but the city itself–is a city envied by nobody.)
That’s why the #pesky moniker means so much. The subtext here isn’t that we’re annoying (though we are, thanks). It’s that we acknowledge that Ottawa isn’t the romantic choice for generations of people whose fathers grew up following one of the original six franchises. I’d wager there are more people in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver rooting for the Pens in this series. And you know what? It’s time we embrace that. We shouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s time for Ottawa to fully embrace, and feed off of, its status as a hated franchise. It’s not just the sort of team Leafs fans, and possible Sabres fans, can hate–we want all of the league’s hate. We can take it. We’ll feed off of it. It’ll make the victories that much sweeter.
As these Sens have shown, it doesn’t matter if we’re down a goal and down a man with less than a minute to go–they’ll eat your hate.
Hi there and how are you on this glorious day?
Before I start, I would like to apologize for the lack of a JDP for game one. As a working mother with a drinking and drug problem sometimes it can be difficult to find the time in a day and/or see the keyboard straight enough to be “always with updates”. Today is a new day and I promise promise promise I wont let going to court get in the way of being there for orange slice duty at your next soccer baseball game ever again.
And now a take that you get to hear for the 30th time thanks to the 3 day gap between games!
I thought there were a lot of positives that came out of that last game despite what the score indicates. One of the biggest positives was that even though the Sens looked pretty overwhelmed at first and gave up a goal very early that they responded by tying it up on a dirt rascal greaser by Colin Greening. Not only is this the type of goal you want to see your team be able to score against a squad as good as the Penguins but the fact that it wasn’t scored by someone known for their offensive flair was also encouraging. Dirt rascal goals.
Another thing I noticed is that despite going pointless in game one, Erik Karlsson is really starting to get back to his 19 shots per game groove back. I find it very, very hard to criticize Karlsson because most players would have just shut it down for the season so to even see him playing half like himself is something I am still wrapping my head around. The fact that MacLean plays him 27-30 minutes and that Karlsson is able to do it blows my mind. No matter how deep the Sens can go this post season the dazzling King K skating we’ve come to know and love is just not going to be there so it was great to see EK just hammering shot after shot from the blueline. They weren’t all hitting the net but hey what am I going to say? Shoot less?
I thought Conacher and Pageau were looking great and Mika had a couple of close calls. For all the talk about the Sens having stage fright these guys did not really look like rookies in my opinion and that bodes very well for the Sens.
Jared Cowen looked pretty rough out there. You know what though? I think he’s the type of player that will learn from his bad game and take it to them tonight. Sure, the optics were terrible when he fanned on that pass and then looked weak on Malkin on the subsequent goal. Good news: I have a feeling Jerry is going to put Malkin on his ass next time they meet in front of the net.
MacLean Says “Yes [you may grudgingly return to the lineup]” to the Latendresse!!!
Can we each and every last one of us agree that you do not want to get in Paul MacLean’s bad books? You could say the players do it to themselves to an extent but damn MacLean is not afraid to bench someone indefinitely. Remember The Ballad of Bobby Butler? A little depth returned to the lineup and MacLean all but shutdown Jim O’Brien and Peter Regin for the year. Paulrus obviously did not like what he saw out of Latendresse against Montreal and benched him for the next four games. BY THE WAY HE HAD A GOAL IN THAT SERIES. PMac means jolly-BUSINESS.
I dont want to seem like I’m overdoing it here…or actually this is the internet whatever…
Now that Latendresse is getting that second chance that he otherwise probably wouldn’t if Spezza was put back in the line up or if Matt Kassian didnt skate like a gingerbread man (Ed. Note: ?) this is positively a pivotal moment in his career. The guy was healthy scratched for the remainder of the series against his former club because for not showing enough fire and for getting sonned by the smaller Ryan White. This does not look good on your resume going into the off season. And he cant really fall back on his regular season play either. He was good. He impressed me, a doubter, at times but the fact is he was Andre Benoit good. Andre Benoit is an overage AHL call up defenseman. Lats is a former 25+ goal top six forward. I think he has to make some noise and pad up those stats for the sake of his career. I know he’s only 25 but nobody’s looking for a top 6 forward in decline who cant play in the playoffs. Actually, Scott Gomez is playing right now…dont stop believin….hahaha seriously do not fuck this up dude. Be superthug tough in front of that net. So yeah…uhh…unleash the Guyet!
Andre Benoit also draws into the line up in place of the banged up Eric Gryba. Not too much to say here. As much as it sucks to see the Sens go a man down I’m not about to pretend that Gryba was some irreplaceable rock on D. He’s performed well for a rookie called up from the AHL but so has Benoit. In fact I welcome Benoit’s offensive ability what with Patrick Wiercioch on the IR. Again, I cant say that Latendresse is an offensive upgrade without giving the same accolade to a defenseman who matched his point total in only 6 more games.
Swapping Kassian for Latendresse and Benoit for Gryba gives Ottawa an undeniably more offensively capable line up for tonight and considering they only managed one goal on 36 shots. It’s up to them to make the most of it and just pepper Vokun with shots and stay all UP in his kitchen OR WHO KNOWS WHAT KIND OF FOOD PREP AREA.
Craig Anderson who is still a frigging great goaltender gets the start.
Who to watch for:
I think Nikita Filatov is going to finish that 3D puzzle he’s been picking away at tonight. Should be interesting to see how that shakes out.
GO SENS GO!!!
Pre game hype up jam:
I’ve got to post something just because I’ve had a post about being empathetic to Leafs fans on the front page for like a week and I’m over it. (Okay, one last word on it: if you haven’t read Tyler Dellow’s amazing post on the probability of seeing a game like that again, go do that now.)
MacLean for Jack!
Unsurprisingly, Piddy Macaroon got his second consecutive Jack Adams award nomination today. I think we can all agree it’s well-deserved, considering the combination of low payroll and injuries he had to deal with. But one has to wonder at what point the expectations game catches up with him.
As we all know, the Jack Adams is awarded to either the coach who is perceived to have done the most with the least, or the coach who wins so handily in this parity-filled league that the team’s success just has to be his doing, right? In the battle of the paupers, MacLean and Boudreau go head to head–as if neither of them have anything to work with. All MacLean had was Vezina caliber goaltending and Boudreau had relative unknowns like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
This angle is a bit of a joke. If it’s expectations we’re talking about, why not Capuano for getting the Islanders into the dance, or Todd Richards for having Columbus playing competitively all season long? Or even Hitchcock again? He has a good team, but that’s one of the lowest payrolls in the league and Blues were a regular season powerhouse yet again.
In any case, it’s probably going to be hard for the jury (or whatever ramshackle assembly of arena workers and carnies they have vote on this thing) to ignore Chicago’s record-setting start to the season. I mean, good is good, but the record books sort of elevate a person’s case beyond reproach.
And hey: Michel Therrien wasn’t nominated! Yeah, fuck that guy!
Oh yeah, the playoffs
Sigh…the Pens are pretty good. Didn’t like much of what I saw from the Sens this week, but they had their chances. It’s going to be a really fine line all series long. Ottawa has to play with grit and toughness, getting right up in the Pens’ wheelhouse. But at the same time, if you give a team like that power plays, they’re going to eat you alive. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t see Ottawa getting this team off their game through peskiness, given all the veterans they have in their lineup. Which brings us back to that old mainstay…Help us, Craig Anderson. You’re our only hope.
Anyone watch that LA – San Jose game last night? Obviously I’m hoping the Senators win two or three Cups this year, but if it’s not them, LA has the look of a team who could repeat. Just fantastic depth on that team, and their system is relentless. Perfect combination of hard work and skill-based puck possession. You can see how it pretty much wouldn’t work at all without Doughty (so glad we’ve got one of those on our team), but beyond him, I can’t think of a more serviceable and intimidating group of tough defensive defensemen than Regehr, Scuderi, and Mitchell. None of them has to be The Guy, but together it’s just a wall. Get past them, and you get Jonathan Quick. And, as the Sharks learned last night, even if you get up on them by a couple of goals, they have the kind of tenacious and skilled players in Brown, Kopitar, Carter, Richards, and Stoll that they can absolutely claw back. I’m also still blown away that a GM as incompetent as Sutter could be such a good coach. The Kings are the complete package.
So yeah, I watched that Boston-Toronto game last night. A lot of people did. Not just hockey fans, but people I know who never watch hockey. My mother called me during that third period, right after Bergeron’s tying goal, to ask why this was such a big deal. Apparently, even with her limited access to social media, her computer was blowing up. I had text messages from people I haven’t spoken to in months. I spent about three hours just reading Twitter. Last night was an event. It doesn’t matter where your allegiances lie. Sometimes you just have to recognize when something is important to a lot of people.
And this was an event not just because of the already much-bandied fact that no team had ever come back from a three goal deficit in the third period in the history of the playoffs. To me the takeaway is that I sometimes forget that that team is not a team like our team. Our team, like most teams, is tied to our city, is tied to local pride, is tied to community, and is tied to our desire to distinguish ourselves from that team. But that team…they’re about people’s fathers, you know? Other than maybe a few of the other original six teams, they’re different. Not special. Not better. But different.
As I read Twitter last night, I saw the sort of stunned reaction as events unfolded turn to something resembling empathy. Can you imagine if that happened to us? How would that feel? About twenty minutes later that empathy transformed, predictably, into gleeful schadenfreude, then, weirdly, into blame: Toronto fans deserve this, somehow. Because some dude made a shitty sign; because they’re mean to us at our home games; because they cheered for Anaheim in the Final; because they’re everywhere.
I don’t know–maybe they do deserve this. But I’m reading the various blogs and recaps this morning and I don’t feel like rubbing it in. This is a team that missed the playoffs for eight years, were killed over the Kessel trade, and now, when they finally make the playoffs, raise hopes to insane levels only to open the door to the most crushing, excruciating letdown any sports fan could ever feel. Maybe that’s just sports, and we should dog pile on because, yeah, they’d probably do the same to us.
But I have to admit: it might have been fun to see something resembling success in the biggest hockey market in the world.
Ottawa is my team, and Toronto is always going to be Enemy Number One, at least until we actually beat them in the playoffs and exorcise those demons a little bit. But this morning I’m feeling a bit of empathy here. They played a good series. A gutsy series. They won two games in a row to force a game seven against Boston, and then dominated in Boston for 45 minutes against a team that has owned the entire division’s ass all season long, including ours. There will be plenty of time to shove the meltdown in their fans’ faces later. But for now, at least, I want to say: good series, guys. You’ll bounce back.