James Day Preview: James 4, Judgement Night™

Game 3

Hi,

So…welcome to this website.

First a song:

We’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of fun /
but now the time has come …to wiiiiiiiiin /
If this old clown is found dead in his bed tomorrow /
I’ll be in heaven… STILL WRITING THIS BLOOOOG.

It rhymes and everything!

Now a quote:

“This has been such an amazing ride to the playoffs, that no matter what happens I will be happy.” – Me, person, a couple of weeks ago.

Ah, I was so young and idealistic back then. Maybe it was the lost year away from post season play but I have been reminded how crushing post-season losses are. Uncle, you guys, uncle. I get it! I remember now. A li’l dose of vitamin W would be great…I don’t know…how about..sayyyyy 2NITE?

We’re getting Pageau’ed out there!

So that’s what it feels like to have some nobody coming out of the woodwork and lighting your team up. Worse when the MF looks like Terry from FUBAR.

Ugh.

We need to get some beauties on the score sheet and by beauties I mean beautiful young ladies comme ca:

Speaking of the Score Sheet, That last game tho: 

I’ma come CLEAN that last game is all on the forwards. Say what you will about Terry’s OT winner on Andy but a team that finished the season with five 20 goal scorers needs to put more than one biscuit on the board.
Sure, Carey Price is playing very well but he was not the difference that game. The difference was the Habs defenders keeping Ottawa’s attackers to the outside forcing them to the corner where they kept looking for the pass in front that simply was not there. Again and again. I don’t know about you, Eddie, but It was driving me bananas.

This rant brought to you by Uncle Clarkey’s Li’l Garbage Snipes. Li’l Garbage Snipes Official Goal of Game 3 and hopefully game 4, available at fine outlets like a foot in front of the net!:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014030113-262-h&site=senators

Ottawa has everything to lose tonight. In the words of on again-off again WTYKY contributor Babycakes, “Be aggressive.”

Deathworld shit.

Speaking of being aggressive: The biggest piece of news for tonight is that Zack Smith will draw into the lineup in place of David Legwand. It’s hard to have much to say about this other than that I hope he can use his physicality to create some room for 27 goal scorer and fellow 4th liner Mike Hoffman to do his thing. After watching Ottawa lose 2-1 in overtime, I am among those puzzled as to why a player with as much scoring touch as The Hoff is not getting a few more looks on the line he excelled on with Ryan and Ziba. Good as he’s been, Michalek seems like he would be great in the bottom six considering how awesome he is defensively. Maybe a goal tonight could get Hoffman a promotion…………….?…………….I have no idea……………………………?????????????????????…thx 4 reading…………?

It’s just been confirmed, Andy is getting the start in net. Magical as Hammond’s run was, I think this is the right call. Anderson was unreal in Game 3 and the 2-1 score is very flattering when you take into account that 49 shots were surrendered … wow, does that sound like the beginning of the season or what?
Side Note: Time is a flat circle.

There’s so little info up for grabs during the playoffs that it makes writing game previews fun and easy.

Smooth Jimmy’s Lock of the Week: Feels like a Lazar goal night.

Please get this W boys, you deserve it.
Go Sens Go!

“Let’s go get a defenceman! Has anyone thought of that? Oh, literally everyone?”

Looking at how close this series has been against the Habs – every game won by one goal, two in OT, Sens holding the lead for longer than Montreal – I can’t help but think of how the results might have bent ever-so-slightly in Ottawa’s favor if they’d been able to rely on a bottom pairing of defencemen other than Gryba or Borowiekci.

I’m not trying to jump up and down on anyone after the fact – they’ve been dependable warriors for this team throughout the miracle run to the playoffs – but the fact remains that after two straight months of playoff-like hockey, it looks like some of the younger, less skilled d-corps are wilting.

Add to that a lack of size and experience, and it’s only natural to wonder “what if?” Chris Phillips’ decline has been well documented. Jared Cowen has faded out of existence, going all the way from franchise darling to distant memory. Patrick Wiercioch, possession mustang though he is, is soft as hell. Cody Ceci is still very young, and it’s shown at times. And Erik Karlsson is playing every single important moment of the game. That’s a lot of risk tied up in basically Karlsson and Methot. Having at least one other NHL caliber vet to rely on might have made all the different heading into tonight’s “what the hell (shrugging emoticon)” fourth game.

The free agent market, unfortunately, doesn’t offer up much. But there are a couple of dependable, workhorse guys who log 20+ minutes on their teams now. If Ottawa signed, and then insulated, a Zybnek Michalek or Francois Beauchemin, I could see them spreading out some of the risk in the lineup. I’m not saying these guys are the answer – older and increasingly injured as they are – but just that they could turn in a solid 17+ minutes, providing opportunity for favorable zone starts for the puck movers.

If Murray, or his follower, really wanted to swing for the fences, they could get into the running for Johnny Oduya, which, to me, would seem somewhat similar to Tampa going out and spending for Anton Stralman to be a second-pairing guy. Or they could break the bank on a do-everything, Christian Ehrhoff type. Then there’s Andrej Meszaros, who was overshadowed this year because he played on a terrible Buffalo team, but he’s been known to play big minutes and put up points if the stars align.

If Ottawa is swept tonight there will be a lot of questions, some of which will have nothing to do with the defence. Where have Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman been, for example? But the fact remains that outside of Erik Karlsson and Methot’s reliable unspectacular play, the defence has had its challenges. It won’t take much to improve, but it’s becoming clear that it will take something.

James Day Preview PLAYOFF EDITION: James 2, Sens at Habs

Game 2

Where else can one start other than…

No Matter How You Look At it, Away From the Play, PK Subban Delivered a Malicious Two Handed Slash to Mark Stone’s Fucking Wrist
OR
GottaHearBothSidesGate

Whether you’re a man or a woman or who knows what spice, there comes a time in every man’s life when she/he/zhe has to man up and BE A MAN. Part of being a man, is shrugging off a two handed hack to your bare wrist like nothing happened. You do it every day at your job. I do it every day here at the body painting studio I intern at. In a man’s (man’s man’s) world, there’s no place for any of this writhing in pain, “waah, waah my wrist has been fractured I am going to miss a large portion of the game because I’m ACTING” type acting. Now, a key part of acting is voluntarily leaving one of the most important games of your career for extended periods of time to fool the referees and opposition into THINKING you’re hurt. Now that Mark Stone might miss time or the rest of this series? Well, from the mouth of an expert:

“The plan worked. We’ve got them right where we want them now that Mark Stone may not be able to play well or at all.”
                                                                   – James Lipton, Inside the Actor’s Studio

Look, this all boils down to one harsh reality: The HERstorical tradition that is Playoff Brand™ Hockey. Every spring when we don our visorless helmets and sit on our futons to eat chips and drink beer in front of a television, we bravely put ourselves at risk. We know what we’re getting into and the players do too. They should know that when you LACE “M” UP that you do so with the knowledge that your opponent can and will flagrantly break the rules of the game and maliciously try to injure you. IT’S CALLED THE PLAYOFFS. Why would we want to watch the sport at its best when we can see it at its ugliest? Let’s injure the best players out of the way so we can finally get more of that David Legwand vs. Brian Flynn battle that we the fans so crave.

So I’m with the HNIC garbage panel. Mark Stone shouldn’t have gotten his wrist in the way of that stick and let justice be done though the heavens fall in his upcoming disciplinary hearing for his FAKE CT scan at some EURO hospital. Stone’s shady history certainly will not do him any favours.

The fallout of this, of course, is that Chris Neil could draw into the line up should Stone be too high on painkillers to play. It’s no secret that many of our contributors at WTYKY don’t think Neil is the player he used to be. Frankly, he’s got his work cut out for him jumping back into the line up against a speedy team after missing about 8 weeks, and into playoff hockey no less. I will say this though, it’s not like I’m rooting against the guy. This is the kind of situation where Ottawa needs him to be the best damn Chris Neil he can be. Ye olde Chris Neil that actually drew penalties and chipped in the grimiest of goals. He needs to do the running around hitting and distracting so the rest of the team can focus. Playoffs are where he can be his best. With his future in Ottawa in question this could potentially be a bit of a swan song for him. Love him or hate him, he was built for playoff hockey.

Lazar-Pageau-Condra Line Continues To Buzz All Game Long…HEYYY You Know Who Else I’d Like to See Buzz All Game Long? THE OTHER LINES.

I mean, you gotta hear both sides when all three of Ottawa’s goals came from –Markov-  Michalek, Turris and Zibanejad but am I alone in thinking that if the top had 6 played near the level of 27-44-22 on Wednesday that the Sens would have totally smothered the Habs?
I love having enough depth at forward that our 3rd line is a secret weapon but ehhh, top six, not exactly a bunch of chuds either. It was encouraging to see the ALLEGEDLY perfectly healthy Bobby Ryan who cant seem to be able to shoot anymore because he’s ALLEGEDLY perfectly healthy, adjusting and using his size to get all up in Carey Prix’s world. In my opinion, despite finishing with no points, he was a huge part of both Turris’ and Zibanejad’s goals.

Speaking of Goals…There Were a Lot of Those Last Game
Glad to see the lack of hand wringing over Hammond finishing with an uncharacteristic loss in Game 1. He did not look tremendous on a couple of goals but overall didn’t really seem shaky considering he was playing in the fucking AHL a couple of months ago.
Behind the Scenes Story: On Wednesday after a nice save I looked over at Varada *holds for 10 minutes of applause* and said, “Can you believe we’re watching Andrew Hammond as the undisputed starter in a playoff series?…Also, are you going to finish the rest of that tall can?” What a wild ride this continues to be.
Epilogue: He indeed finished the tall can.
Truth be told, Carey Price let in the biggest stinker of the game and it’s not as if he suddenly stinks (though that would be incredibly handy like it was in 2013). I think Hammond will also be fine. If he can play even just a bit a bit better I’m confident the Sens can outscore these schlubs. It was a fucked up game and I expect game 2 to be a clean slate for both of these goalies.

Overall, I think Ottawa could have played quite a bit better against a Paccioretty and Subban-free Canadiens. I can remember about 5 incomplete passes that could have put the game away pretty early had they connected. Hopefully the jitters are out of the system because if that’s what Montreal looks like in a win, this could be an interesting series.

Let’s get the tinfoil on under the wrist guards and split this fucker.

GO SENS GO! 

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.