Your Round 1 Playoff Preview: Being Concise is for Losers

"A burger appeared to me in a dream last night.", explains Carey Price as his teammates start to visibly lose interest.

“A burger appeared to me in a dream last night.”, explains Carey Price as his teammates start to visibly lose interest in the story.

There’s lots to say about what the Sens have achieved this season, and I plan on saying most of it later (hopefully much later), but if you will allow me a single moment of reflection, I’d like to start by talking about this:

At first glance, that stat might seem a little surprising. After all, the NHL has been around for quite a few years[citation needed] and 14 points is only 7 wins. #Actually, 14 points might as well be from here to Mars. 14 points was the difference between playoffs in the Western Conference and the 4th overall pick last year. 14 points is a +40 goal differential. 14 points isn’t what separates the contenders from the pretenders, it’s what separates the contenders from those who shouldn’t even bother. What’s really going to blow your mind is the fact that at the time the Senators were 14 points out of the playoffs, they were 19 points back of Pittsburgh WHO THEY EVENTUALLY PASSED. I could talk about this for hours, but I guess the takeaway is this: anything is possible when you don’t lose for two full months. Ask your doctor if winning is right for you.

By far the weirdest thing about this whole “improbable run to make the playoffs” thing is the knowledge that we’ve already seen the most absurd thing the Senators are going to do this year. Where can they possibly go from here? Come back from 0-3 down to win a series? Whatever, that’s already happened 4 times in NHL history. What if they win the Cup? No big deal, someone wins the Cup every year. It’s like opening a magic act by pulling a rabbit out of a hat you’ve sawed in half while unicycling across a tightrope blindfolded: no matter how impressive it is when you pull the seven of clubs out of a volunteer’s ear later in the show, its impact is going to be slightly reduced due to what preceded it. Like it or not, you’re being graded on a curve from the moment you stick that unicycle dismount as a flock of doves flies into the rafters.

With all that being said, I plan on enjoying the hell out of whatever’s next. The phrase “house money” gets thrown around a lot these days, but all that really means is that Sens fans no longer have any right to complain. And thank God for that! Frankly, complaining was the only thing we had going for us for a while.

So pour yourself a Talisker, put the needle on your favourite Steely Dan vinyl (It’s Aja. Self-explanatory.), and take a seat. I’m here to tell you everything you need to know. Some of what I’m about to tell you may veer dangerously close to “analysis”, but just hold my hand and we will get through this. Together.

In the (United in) Red Corner: The Ottawa Senators

It took about 60 games, two coaches, and some injuries that were not blessings in disguise so much as blessings in a broken pair of Groucho Marx novelty glasses, but the Ottawa Senators finally know who they are and what they are doing. To wit:

The Forwards

Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris have become such strong two-way 1st liners that it’s starting to raise serious questions about whether or not Randy Carlyle and Dave Tippet know what they’re talking about. But like I always say: one man’s entitled high draft pick is another man’s backbone of the team for years to come. (Related: I can haz Taylor Hall? Call me, Edmonton!) In other news, Mark Stone simply does whatever the hell he wants regardless of what the other team has to say about it.

It’s no secret that Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, Bobby Ryan, and Milan Michalek have been inconsistent this year. Lately Mike Hoffman’s been spending time exploring his dual nature as The Only Team-Leading Scorer Who Regularly Spends Time on the 4th Line™ and Emergency 2nd Line Nitrous Boost. Mika Zibanejad had two huge slumps at the beginning and the end of the year, but outside of the first and last 10 games of the season, Mika had 41 points in 61 games. Also he’s turning 22 on Saturday, so put down that mixing board and please buy DJ Z-BAD a goal for his birthday. If you can, also pick one up for Bobby Ryan who has scored on only 1 of his last 58 shots. This is a trend that I will generously describe as “outside Bobby’s established pattern of behaviour”. If he’d scored on a career average 12.9% of his shots this year instead of just 8.1%, he’d have 28 goals, 64 points, and we’d be talking about what a great Bobby Ryan Year Bobby Ryan just had instead of pondering how important having non-injured hands is to the act of shooting the puck. Sens fans to Bobby Ryan: There’s no “I” in “team”, but there’s a “U” in “slump”. Milan Michalek started slow but was really starting to cook before becoming the first player in NHL history to have an upper body injury in his knee. It looks like he’ll be back in time for Game 1, but who knows how long it will take him to get back to where he was. Basically as we go into this series, Ottawa’s second line is like a box of chocolates: they’re an unimaginative and lazy gift for people you don’t really care about that much. The good news is that even if the offense isn’t there, the 2nd line generally doesn’t get rolled possession-wise and can be trusted in all situations so it could be worse! *Hands out T-shirts with “The 2nd Line: Even when they’re bad they’re ok!” written on them*

Erik Condra, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Curtis Lazar have been the Sens’ best possession forwards for the past month. They are the greatest thing since cats’ pajamas made out of sliced bread. Fun bar game: between Condra, Pageau, and Lazar, which one do you want to adopt, which one do want your parents to adopt as your new brother, and which one do you want to time travel into the past to become your father while saving your mother from a homicidal robot? Discuss among yourselves. You’ll be there for hours. (Lazar son, Condra brother, Pageau dad btw.)

Zack Smith, David Legwand, and Alex Chiasson make up The All Disappointment Line. David Legwand wasn’t brought in to be a 4th liner, Alex Chiasson might not even be here after this summer, and Zack Smith’s new scruffy look can’t hold a candle to what Mike Hoffman’s got going on these days. However, if I may unsheathe this old #ACTUALLY that has been passed down in my family for generations, I’d like to make an observation: as much as Sens fans were expecting and hoping for more out of Legwand and Chiasson, 27 and 26 points is #ACTUALLY fairly decent production for a couple of 4th liners. Although Zack Smith may not have a long term spot on this team, he still looks like an NHL player, unlike some other Neils I could Greening. To recap: the Sens’ 4th line centre is the same guy who led the Red Wings in points last year, and not, for instance, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jacob De La Rose, or Brandon Prust. This ok with me. (More on that in a minute.)

The Defense

In terms of defense pairings Karlsson and Methot will drive the play, Gryba and Borowiecki will drive me to drink, and Ceci and Wiercioch will take care of the rest. Nothing new there. There have been rumblings on The Twitters that Erik Karlsson is playing hurt. Given that he hasn’t practiced in quite some time, I think it’s reasonable to assume that he’s a bit banged up, and by “banged up” I mean “still playing 30 minutes a night”. How hurt is he really? No idea1, but you gotta hear both sides. (Unlikely, given that playoff injury information is more closely guarded than nuclear launch codes.) On the other hand, the last time Ottawa played Montreal in the playoffs EK absolutely ran show against the Habs (5GP, 6P, +5) on one leg. This time around, I’m going to say Karlsson’s going to be in even better shape on account of not having had surgery in the past two months.

The Goaltending

Much could be made of Ottawa’s decision to continue to start rookie Andrew Hammond, but I can’t say I’m that worried about it. Hammond’s already been starting some big games over the past 2 months, and the pressure has formed him into a giant burger shaped diamond. Even if he finally crashes back to earth, the Sens will turn to Veteran Good Goaltender Craig Anderson, and that will be that. Also, Robin Lehner is a goaltending prospect with the Ottawa Senators organization.

Ok, enough about the Ottawa Senators. What about the team about which I don’t know what I’m talking?

Know Thine Enemy: The Montreal Canadiens

Hot take: Some of the players on the Montreal Canadiens are good. Max Pacioretty gets a lot of shots, a lot of goals, and a lot of points. P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov combined for 110 points this year. Brendan Gallagher put up 47 points this year, has been Montreal’s best possession forward since December, and he’s only 22. Tomas Plekanec looks like Bobby Bottleservice. Carey Price has been en fuego for the past two seasons, will certainly win the Vezina Trophy this year, and should probably win the Hart. I think Ottawa’s going to have their hands full with Montreal’s top 6 and the Subban-Markov pairing, just has been the case for everyone else all year.

Luckily, the rest of Montreal’s team borders on disappointing. Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin have been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play. PA Parenteau and Devante Smith-Pelly were supposed to be the missing pieces that pushed the Habs over the top, but they can’t even touch David Legwand or Chris Neil numbers. Speaking of “David Legwand numbers”, guess what Lars Eller has! Dale Weise is tied for 4th on the team with a +/- of +21, but is rocking a cool 105.3% PDO and also looks like Ori from The Hobbit. Once you get past Montreal’s top 8 or 9 players, there’s a long list of guys that make you go “Oh, we can definitely beat THOSE guys”. Speaking of segues, did you know Sergei Gonchar is on Montreal now? If you hold your ear up to his contract, you can hear The Circle of Life playing.

In conclusion, the Habs, while not unformidable, are precisely two lines deep, and Max Pacioretty’s recent head injury will only further exacerbate that problem if he can’t fake a doctor’s note between now and puck drop. Division winner? More like DERISION winner!2

Pithy Observations of Questionable Importance

1. The Ottawa Senators have spent the 2nd least amount of time down 2 or more goals in this year.

2. Montreal’s had one of the better penalty kills since Paul Maclean was fired.

3. Brendan Gallagher and Dale Weise have the best penalty differential on the Montreal Canadiens which is SO ANNOYING BECAUSE I HATE THEM AND THEIR DUMB FACES.

4. Carey Price hasn’t been great against Ottawa recently.

5. Ottawa had 1093 PIMs in 2013-14, but only 841 PIMs in 2014-15. That’s four games worth of time Ottawa didn’t spend in the box this year.

The Wisdom

Ottawa’s depth is their biggest advantage in this series and there are lots of ways for Dave Cameron to exploit this fact. He could sacrifice Lazar-Condra-Pageau to the Habs’ top line to free up other matchups, or he could just roll 4 lines and dare Michel Therrien to try to keep up. Either way, I don’t expect Montreal to dominate play for long stretches of time.

The wild card here is, of course, Carey Price. Now I realize I just spent 1700 words to get to the revolutionary analysis of “goaltending is important”, but seriously: if Carey Price stands on his head, it won’t matter how bad Bryan Flynn is. In fact, that’s how we got here to begin with.

The good news is that even if Carey Price does Carey Price things, I don’t expect the Senators to panic. The one lesson they’ve learned over the past two months is that when they trust the system, good things happen. They’ve won every which way to get into the playoffs. They’ve won from 3 goals behind, they’ve won in a shootout from 4 goals ahead, they’ve gone on the road and played “perfect road games”, and they’ve blown out teams at home. They’ve seen it all, and I don’t expect them to panic just because someone tells them that now the games matter even more. Winning tends to instill confidence, and this is a good time of year to be confident.

And now A Serious Thing:

With the tragic passing of Mark Reeds today, life that happens off the ice (i.e. most of it) has been thrown into sharp relief. Over and over, Bryan Murray has talked about what a tight knit group of players the Senators are this year. It can’t be easy to process the loss of a person with whom you worked daily, a person who taught you to be better at your craft, a person who you’d seen and who’d encouraged you not 10 days ago, but goddamn if this doesn’t seem like the sort of group that’s just gonna go out there and play their hearts out for a guy that was clearly well-loved by everyone in the organization. I can’t emotionally handle more inspiring hashtags at this point, so just do the damn thing, Ottawa. #LetsWinItAll #DoItForBryan

Prediction: Sens in 6. Carey Price is a goalie, not a miracle worker. Get at me, haters!

1. Thx 4 reading.

2. If you would like to high five me, I will be posting up in the Rideau Centre from 1:30 to 3 PM this Saturday, April 18. Please contact the website for more details.

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Totally surreal

Back when the season started, did anyone imagine in a million years the following image being something that appeared in reality?

Untitled

That’s the front page of the Ottawa Senators website. It features a picture of a 27 year old undrafted goaltender with terrible AHL numbers. That’s right: Andrew Hammond is now the central draw and face of a franchise for a team with a Norris winner and candidate again this year as its captain and a couple of Calder candidates tearing it up shift after shift.

It’s a surreal season, and not just for us. Ask LA Kings fans this morning how they feel. Ask Winnipeg fans, and Calgary fans, how they feel. Teams that aren’t supposed to win are winning, teams that are supposed to casually dominate are falling apart, and at the center of it all is a small market team with the lowest payroll in the league shutting out the Presidents Trophy winners to cap off one of the most unprecedented winning periods in decades.

For Boston, you have to wonder how widespread the changes will be if everything doesn’t go just their way over the next couple of days. It feels like Ottawa has been chasing them for months, winning and winning only to see Boston picking up just as many points. Finally, in the final days of the season, their time is running out. (Not to be morbid, but could we see the return of Peter Chiarelli to Ottawa?)

Seems like everything is coming together for Ottawa at just the right time, but it bears mentioning again that there are many factors to Ottawa’s success. Obviously there’s Hammond’s play, but also possession black holes Chris Phillips and Chris Neil haven’t played in weeks. Young players are being trusted with key minutes – how much money does that Lazar – Pageau – Condra line make compared to the Rangers line they matched up against last night? Patrick Wiercioch is finally out of the doghouse for being the kind of player everyone knows that he is.

And though it doesn’t seem to be talked about enough, Dave Cameron might be the second Jack Adams winning coach for Ottawa in the last two seasons. A team simply doesn’t turn around like this without at least a few votes going the coach’s way.

The incredible thing here is the real possibility that Ottawa could meet the Canadiens in the first round – a dream match up for this team. What seemed totally impossible only a couple of months ago – playoff success – is within reach.

Ottawa’s surreal, dreamlike season keeps getting dreamier.

Beat the fucking Flyers. Go Sens.

Ottawa Senators Off-Ice Power Rankings – April 2015

I’m not gonna lie to you, folks – the Senators’ social media was pretty thin gruel this month. Is it time to retire the power rankings? The paper-thin conceit upon which we’ve always relied is that when social media lets us observe our favorite Senators in their natural environments – the golf course, the boat show, the bottomless scampi basket – it lets us understand them more as hockey players, and maybe even understand ourselves in the process. But what happens when the players start turning the tap off? When tweets become less and less frequent, Instagram accounts go private, and the real action ends up being lost in the ether of Snapchat? Do I need to get a cellular telephone now?

I mean, are they on to us? On the ice, this past month was probably the most successful the Senators have ever had, and yet in the past, those sorts of good times usually translated into at least a few players tweeting blurry pictures involving a stretch Hummer, coconut Skyy, and a guy who looks suspiciously like Gordon Lightfoot. Not this month, though. Have we disrupted a delicate ecosystem by observing it too closely? Have we breached the Prime Directive? Does anyone remember laughter?

So is it time to shut this operation down? Convince me otherwise, guys. Convince me that there’s still some profligacy and a lack of self-awareness in the world, as long as we look closely enough. Convince me, one more time, that the only thing keeping us all from living our best lives . . . is us.

1) Erik Karlsson (last month: 1)

Why not enjoy the beautiful #lambo #huracan on this nice day.

A photo posted by Erik Karlsson (@erikkarlsson65) on



Whatever, that’s like, the cheap Lambo.

2) Partying with dogs (last month: NR)

Let’s dial down our expectations a little, maybe. We all have dogs. How have our favorite Senators recently been partying with dogs? Let’s find out.

8 great years with this hound, hopefully 8 more #apollo

A photo posted by Clarke (@cmacarthur16) on



Okay, this doesn’t look like much of a party, although in this guy’s defense, he does have a concussion (the man, not the dog). MacArthur is more excited than Apollo here, perhaps because he’s looking forward to his morning garbage can full of cereal in the background.

Also not much of a party, because it’s not clear Mike Hoffman’s bulldog is fully on-board with his particular brand of amorousness. It’s not exactly discomfort; it’s more of a perfunctory expression, like when you’re still mad about the fight over the credit card statement earlier but he’s making a big show of kissing you in front of everyone at the dinner party that you couldn’t cancel. Come on, Hoffman. Don’t put her on the spot like that, especially when you’re only moralizing about her Visa charges because you bought those new Callaways with cash. That’s right, she saw them, hidden in the garage behind the snow tires. So stop being such a jerk and just back off for a couple days.

Huge birthday shoutout goes out to Zeus. #TBT to DJing with your good friend @zibanejad93 last summer. #1

A video posted by Cody Ceci (@codyceci) on



Okay, it looks like this is as turnt as we’re going to get this month, and it still involves a large man tenderly kissing a small dog, in this case right after mastering the seamless “just turn everything off for three seconds” beatmatch. Forget it, let’s move on.

3) David Legwand (last month: NR)

Kickin it with Leggy on the bird. Thanks @monstercanada for the headphones! #dna

A photo posted by Mike Hoffman (@mhoffy68) on



Maybe we need to consider less usual suspects, so let’s consider David Legwand. David Legwand doesn’t participate in social media, probably because he’s old enough to remember polio. We can see how this decision sets him apart from Mike Hoffman, a man nine years his junior, in this Hoffman selfie – there’s no scarf, no product placement, no carefully styled hair . . . just a man, going about his business, probably reading Field and Stream.

It’s nice to find a throwback every now and then, isn’t it? To know that some people stay true to themselves rather than chase every little trend? Remember when K-cars were everywhere and ugly? The worst, right? But how awesome is it in 2015, the rare time you see a working K-car still on the road, its driver hanging a cigarette out the window in the middle of February? “I bet that guy parties,” you say. That K-car is David Legwand in this picture.

4) Andrew Hammond (last month: 6)

Hey, you can be 15-1-1, but that doesn’t mean the big sponsorships start rolling in right away. This tweet is great because it gives us an athlete who could not be more popular right now plugging a company that could not have less juice. It’s like seeing Harrison Ford shilling for invisible Japanese beer, or getting Erik Karlsson in your web commercial after you let him sit in your rented Lambo.

5) Bobby Ryan (last month: 5)

Yup, even the alleged swagger from our #1 this month turned out just to be product placement. Karlsson didn’t bother to hashtag the company, though. That’s juice. Less juice? When you make $7M a year but have to hang around an H&R Block in full gear hugging strangers, and Lazar still comes off more likeable than you, because of course he does. How many takes do you think they filmed for this commercial? Two?

6) Kyle Turris (last month: NR)

Karlsson and Ryan’s cheesy commercials remind us how low-budget, how milk-and-water, how ordinary the Senators were this month. So hang on, because now we’re entering the “Stars: They’re More or Less Similar to Us!” chunk of these rankings.

turrisHere’s the Senators’ #1 centre in his role as celebrity pitchman for his city’s fancy new department store. Pretty cool, right? Sure, until he starts making clarifying remarks about NCC road closures. How Ottawa is that?

7) Patrick Wiercioch (last month: NR)

Then there’s his buddy Patrick, making his first tweet in seven months, but only because he lost his wife in that same department store. Patrick! It happens! Maybe do some browsing while you’re there? Maybe buy some slim-leg trousers that don’t look like you could use the cuffs to sail a Bermuda-rigged sloop?

8) Cody Ceci (last month: NR)

hat

Okay, this guy wins.

9) Following the rules (last month: NR)

Fine, I can accept that the Senators clearly didn’t do anything exciting last month, but at least they won the games, right? And at least they didn’t lecture us about how we were celebrating those victories inappropriately, right? Wait, they did? Well that tears it.

Look, burger-throwing is silly, but it’s a relatively harmless and definitely short-term bit of fun, not to mention one of the only Senators fan rituals I can think of that actually developed organically following a variety of ham-fisted attempts by the team. The same team, by the way, that was more than happy to promote said burger-throwing by playing up some now-iconic moments. But then somebody pointed out that some moron also threw a Filet-O-Fish, and everyone agreed that was gross, so all the fun had to stop immediately. You know how the conversation went, too:

“The fans are going to think we’re typical, no-fun Ottawa if we tell them to stop throwing burgers. How do we sell this?”

“Get Karlsson to do a video. He’s cool.”

“You’re right, he took some pictures in a rented Lambo the other day. Good idea. But who does the French?”

“Chiasson?”

“Can’t, he’s serving a double-minor for high-sticking right now.”

” . . . it’s 10:15 in the morning.”

“Weird, right?”

“Okay, Pageau?”

“Who?”

“Ah, let’s just get Methot.”

“Perfect, those guys have great chemistry. I’m sure neither will look completely embarrassed telling fans how to celebrate responsibly now that the team’s finally put together a few wins after underachieving for most of the year. Alright, margaritas?”

“Again, 10:15 in the morning.”

10) Mark Stone (last month: NR)

Is Mark Stone in a state of urinary urgency the appropriate note to end on? Sure, what the hell – see you next month! Maybe.

NOT RANKED: Eugene Melnyk; when knitting looks more realistic than your bobblehead; #wood.

Roundtable of Death: Life Comes At You Fast Edition

"Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing."

“Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing.”

In which Luke, Varada, James, Chet, and Steph discuss the ways in which losing is not preferable to winning.

Luke says:

“For when the One Great Twitter comes
To mark against your name,
They write – not that you won or lost
But how you made your lineup decisions.”
Grantland Rice (Mostly)

Friends, do you remember last week? It seems so long ago and yet I remember it as if it were only last week. Following six full weeks of sustained and improbable excellence, Ottawa had finally climbed the mountain to find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time since November, and Sens fans had a belief in the supernatural power of beef rarely seen in Western culture. It was heady times. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I guess you had to be there.

Since that time a number (again, that number is “zero”) of Tuesdays ago, the Sens lost their talismanic journeyman goaltender to an ankle injury, allowed 4 goals in under 20 minutes to the Toronto Maple Leafs (who are terrible and should be celebrated only for their unwavering ability to consistently ice a team of 20 players who are either, by definition, professional hockey players or Zack Sill), and had their hearts ripped out by a 40+ year old legend who surprisingly wasn’t Daniel Alfredsson this time. Also, the Bruins, with whom the Sens are fighting for the last playoff spot in the East/14th overall draft pick, took 5 of an available 6 points, and now the Sens are 3 points out with a game in hand. Again.

Basically this is the sort of thing that could just as easily happen in the middle of November as at the end of March, but if I may put on my “Amateur Psychologist” novelty t-shirt for a minute, I’ll make an educated guess that what happened didn’t gall most Sens fans so much as how it happened. Turns out experiencing a lifetime of torment at the hands of the Leafs isn’t one of those things you eventually get used to and learn to accept. However, while I’m not going to argue that the Sens have played well in their last three games, I am going to make like MC Escher and provide some weird perspective. To wit:

1. After going a quarter of a season without playing a true stinker, the Senators coming out flatter than a plate of piss against the Rangers had a certain air of inevitability to it.

2. The frustration of Ottawa blowing a two goal lead to a Tyler Bozak hat trick belies the fact that it was such a Black Swan Event as to be literally unprecedented.

3a. If Dave Cameron’s answer is “Colin Greening on the second line”, I have serious reservations about the phrasing of the question.

3b. On the other hand, putting in two fresh guys on the second half of a back-to-back isn’t entirely illogical.

3c. On a third hand which has suddenly sprouted from my chest, Dave Cameron doesn’t actually play so there are only so many ways he can affect the game.

3d. Speaking of players who played, Jared Cowen #actually played pretty ok.

3e. For all the hand-wringing regarding Mike Hoffman’s place in the lineup, he still had more ice time on Sunday than any forward except Mark Stone and Erik Condra. Sure 6:30 of that was time spent on the powerplay, but at least Mike Hoffman is now getting hella time on the powerplay.

3f. I don’t begrudge Dave Cameron making lineup decisions based on nebulous psychological reasons like “trying to give the team a spark” or needing to “change things up a bit”. As no less than Ian Mendes pointed out, it’s tough not to argue that something had to give after the preceding two gong shows. I see this idea on Twitter a lot that coaching should really as simple as sending out your best players and that any other coaching adjustments are a sign of overthinking things and that psychology is overrated. I’d be willing to accept this idea a lot more if it weren’t for the fact that a number of the most successful coaches in sports are especially noted as much for their motivational ability as for their skills as tacticians and teachers. If you want to tell people that coaching the Bulls was as easy as sending out Michael Jordan at the same time as Scottie Pippin, be my guest, but also be prepared to accept my serene dismissal of that opinion. Dave Cameron’s been hitting every note correctly for six weeks straight while trying to drag this team into the playoffs. He missed one yesterday, but the task he’s been set is analogous to playing Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto as the guest soloist filling in for Yefim Bronfman. Even the pros think that ossia cadenza is a real tricky bastard to get right every time. Selah.

The Wisdom
The reality here is that despite the negativity in our souls, very little has changed. Ottawa still needs to win games. Boston losing games still helps a lot. The Sens need to go 4-2-1 in their remaining 7 games to make 95 points. 94 points has never been insufficient to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. If the Senators reach 95 points and still miss the playoffs (because reasons), I’ll be bitter only at the inherent injustice of it all, not at a team who will have done enough by any reasonable definition except the one that counts. I’m gonna focus on the process (winning), not the results (playoffs).

Varada Says:

There’s something to be said about the fact that it took an agonizingly long period of time – about three weeks – and an unprecedented winning streak for Ottawa to claw its way into a playoff spot, and then it took all of three days to fall basically out of contention. With every win it seemed like our playoff probability increased by, what, 3%? Then, two losses later, it’s plunged from the lofty 70%+s that sent us, Viking-like, to the tops of our coffee tables, roaring in the faces of loved ones and sending the ottoman tumbling chaotically from its feet to its side, to the 20-whatever% that has me standing in the driveway and looking up at the moon and saying softly, so softly, “Beyond those mountains lie madness.”

I said this on Twitter, and now I say it again on this actual, legitimate website: It’s weird when you have hobbies that don’t make you feel good. And with this win streak followed by this losing streak, the Senators have become a hobby on par with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It was so, so good for a while. Then you could see through time for a while. Then the depression and angriness set in.

So I guess Ottawa could go on another ridiculous run, but with games against Tampa and Detroit and shit, it’s hard to see it happening. Their special sauce has turned. There are so many positives to take from this magical, nigh-Matrix-like run. But we tasted the nectar of the gods and had that gourd pulled away from our luscious lips at the last moment BY THE FUCKING TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS seriously we all knew that was going to happen.

As for line combos, I feel like it’s a matter of not really having any other interface with which to criticize a team. It’s no coincidence that line combos are basically the only thing coaches ever get criticized for. But I have to admit, Greening is on some NEXT LEVEL cursed existence thing here. If you had told me that with only a few games left in the season Colin Greening would have one empty net goal…and that’s it…I’d tell you that you were being an hysterical mouthbreather.

Sent from a mobile phone

James Says:

I’m not here to be a complete apologist for any and all weird coaching decisions but for me, if the team is really struggling for a couple of games I’ve just come to expect some line up shuffling. Like Luke said, in-game, there’s really only so much a coach can do to provide a spark outside player assignment. There’s an argument to be made (and a good one) that players need consistency to break out of a funk. Troo, troo. Also, on the other side, if a player you count on is not performing or looking lethargic, the concept of giving them a temporary demotion in favour of someone who doesn’t get much of a shot or who might have more legs and could potentially give you the level of play that you’re looking for, isn’t exactly mind blowing either.

The other thing, when shit drastically hits the skids like now, I have such a hard time assuming that because guys are in the line up consistently that they are all 100% healthy. I mean, we are 75 games deep in the season. Also, Andrew Hammond seen limping out of arena, has to start game two days later and heyyyyyy cant move side to side very well…I think more than a few of us were shocked. He can’t start the next game, magically Craig Anderson who hasn’t even been backing him up much is good to start. Probably not. The team’s also been without Milan Michalek who, like him or not, was absolutely flying during the run. I’m saying, I personally think these injuries have hurt things more than some line shuffling.

As to what happens next, well, in a post-sweeping the Kings, Sharks and Ducks on the road paradigm, I’m officially on “I have no fucking idea” status for the rest of the season (thx 4 reading). That’s also the reason why even the height of the Sens crazy streak I was looking at it long-game, as such a positive for next season. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up or don’t “believe” or whatever. The Sens do the impossible? Guess how long Ima cherish that: Guess. The rest of my sad, li’l lyfe. If not, I’ve seen it before. In all my years on the force, workin’ the beat, I’ve seen a lot of odds defying, Cinderella teams and I’ve seen a lot of 4 line, relentless killbot factories and guess which of those two I’ve seen more of succeed. Guess. K.

Consistency through the season gets you into a position where you don’t have to do things like run the table for like 2 months to squeak into a wild card spot. You just, you know, qualify. You know like we did back in Covered Wagon Tymes.

A healthy, signed Marc Methot, a couple 20 goal rookies who look like the belong in the top 6, Zibanejad surpassing expectations, a coach who despite a couple of clunkers looks like he’s shifted the teams playing style to the more uptempo brand they looked like they were built for…oh and living proof the team is better off without Phillips and Neil. Sorry, but if this streak proved one thing it’s that a changing of the guard is looking more than clear. Those are the things that make me believe the Sens can be in the playoff conversation for more than a few weeks but maybe a whole season going forward.

Chet Says:

Like with baking a cake, putting on your socks and shoes, or plotting the perfect murder, the order in which you do things matters. If the Senators’ last three losses had happened in early February, when we were all closing down the bar with one more karaoke version of “Tanke Schoen”, and NOW they were on a 17-2-2 run? We’d all be high as gin-soaked kites. And yet where would we be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Or say the Senators took that 17-2-2 run and spread it out over the course of the year, rather than the last month and a half. For just one more win a week, *Sarah MacLachlan music starts, sad-looking dogs shuffle in* YOU can help have a consistent hockey squad that people are still vaguely unsatisfied with, using terms like “bubble team,” and “tweeners”, and “disappointment, just like when my son flunked out of clown school.” Clown school is harder than you think, though. And where would we still be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Yes, it’s nice to be consistent sometimes. But what makes for a better story – doing the speed limit on the highway all the way to where you’re going, or taking a few crazy-ass detours, outrunning a couple cops, seeing some weird backwoods stuff you can’t unsee, partying with a bear, trying pies you’ve never even HEARD of… and still making it to where you’re going just in time? Because one of those is consistent, and one of those is memorable. And if you’re gonna ultimately finish the year three points out again, which would you prefer?​

We all know the Senators aren’t as good as their last six weeks, but they aren’t as bad as the last three games, either. I have no clue what’s they’re going to do in their last seven games and neither do you. We can’t predict when a team will suddenly go on some inexplicable hot streak or cold streak, only that hockey players try to have memories like goldfish for a reason, so that last night’s game doesn’t affect tomorrow’s. Does it always work? Of course not. But does losing to the Leafs and Panthers mean they’re going to lose to the Red Wings and Lightning? This year, I wouldn’t bet on it. Seven games left, three points out, with a game in hand, let’s see what happens.

*looks at tomorrow night’s lines*

Oh.

Steph Says:

So how’s everyone’s hangover? I’m assuming you all got blackout drunk to forget the nightmare that was this weekend in Sens hockey. I honestly can’t fault them for the Rangers loss, but the Leafs game should have been a guaranteed 2 points instead of the shaky mess that it was. Tyler Bozak got a career high 4 points. Bozak. Career high. Help. And I mean the rest of the schedule is also not amazing, even if the teams that clinched or are almost guaranteed a playoff spot all rest their top players. I stupidly checked how the Sens have fared against the teams in their remaining schedule and it’s not good (getting less than half the total possible points against those teams kind of ‘not good’). But as much as I loved Hammond, we can’t lay all the praise on him for Sorta Saving the Sens (trademark pending) and all the blame on Anderson for Fucking Up Everything (sad trademark pending). I have to assume this sudden downturn is mostly attributable to end of season fatigue-like they played 15 games in 29 days in March and got 22 of a possible 30 points type of fatigue. That’s pretty incredible but it makes me tired just writing it.

Should some lines have not played nearly as much as they were? YES, FUCK YES, WHY, CAMERON, WHY? And maybe I’ve been having night terrors about Colin Greening, maybe I haven’t. Plus there have been some injuries (Michalek) and some players presumably pretending to not be injured (Hammond) too that people kinda seem to be ignoring in favour putting the blame on easy (read: also deserving) targets like Cameron and Anderson. I’d love for the Sens to get into the playoffs, but if the price to be paid is 4 players recovering from injuries for half the following season, maybe no thank u. Really, a lot of the things responsible for the Sens sudden slowing can be attributed to fatigue, which isn’t very optimistic for the remaining games, but obviously I’mma still be optimistic because why the fuck not, optimism never hurts. Like these other humans said, it’s a lot more of the same-Sens have pretty bad odds of winning these games, but, you know, COULD. Longview: it was two shitty games that happened at a bad time, but playoffs are not out of the picture. The Bruins are not irredeemably ahead. Shit could happen. Good shit, I mean, not like the shit that happened this weekend which we will never speak of again. Anyway, even with all the things I just wrote, I think the Sens will get the same sort of manic sprint-to-the-end energy that every student going into exams knows, and totally NOT get run out of the playoffs in the first round (and that wasn’t even sarcasm). ​