Question: why the hell does Ottawa have so much trouble with terrible division rivals? Losing to Buffalo, scraping out a win in back-to-back games against the Habs, and then losing to Toronto. Most of those games are on home ice. (Ottawa’s home record is 19-14-4, by the way, compared to 18-12-6 on the road.) Is it the fact that home games against Montreal and Toronto are basically also road games due to the atmosphere in the building? Are those teams actually not that bad? Where’s the beef?
Its a good question this. A pertinent one coming off a stinging loss to hated Toronto. Last game, or as i like to call it “Toronto fans biiiiiiiig special day” getting good and St. Patrick’s Day drunk and watching “their” team…
(Pointless sidebar: What’s that like leafs fans from Ottawa? Cheering for the team of another city that ostensibly hates the city you are both from and live in? I’ve always found it precious, “GOOOOO OTHER CITY!!! BOOO, I HATE MY CITY!!!” Isn’t that the main thing with our silly world of sports? Root root root for the home team? Look, I know it’s because your pappy loves the leafs and you two have stuff to work out and need this but you should have taken your disloyalty to your home to a much more successful place like Detroit…or…almost anywhere else, anyway, looks good on you!)
…play their rival slugging out their 3rd game in 4 nights. It was not one I expected Ottawa to win no matter who they were playing. I’m not making excuses. I’m just being realistic. Ottawa’s a good team but they’re far from elite. It was unlikely they’d win that game at home or on the road.
As for the “atmosphere” hooey people tend to bring up a lot, I hate that it happens but I dont really buy into it. These are professional athletes, when the game is being played I don’t think that the players of either team are effected by it all that much on the ice. That said, Alfie is routinely booed by Toronto fans and tends to play well against them so perhaps that’s motivating for him but by that same token, I dont know if chanting a goalie’s name mockingly really fucks him up. I have my doubts that athletes depend much on the energy of the building to win or lose. I could be wrong but my belief is that it’s mainly fatigue from travel, not sleeping in your own bed and occasionally time zone, probably going out and partying more at night and just generally being out of your routine (something hockey robots thrive on) that makes road games harder to win. But thats not what youre asking is it?
<Pause, takes off fake glasses dramtically>
What youre asking is why Ottawa seems to have trouble winning games where the travel might be minimal or non existent and against a division of familiar teams all of which but one sits above Ottawa in the standings and only tenuously at that!
First, Boston, well, this team goes without saying. They are the defending champs and despite having Marty Turco and struggling lately are still a very, very serious team for anyone to beat. Tim Thomas is maybe the biggest Sens killer in the league and thinks that his country has gotten away from the ideals of a bunch of slave owners who lived over 4 centuries ago and would not have the slightlest clue how the world currently works. That’s the kind of crazy only a goalie like Robin Lehner can match. So..what was I saying? Oh yeah, fuck that guy on AND off the ice. Boston also plays a pretty boring system that really works effectively against the Sens. Good as they are, Ottawa plays the brewin’s (thats right) what feels like a dozen frigging times a year and really needs to pick up more than one W a season against them. Especially when you consider these two might start dancing in the playoffs regularly.
Next, Montreal this one is an interesting emergence. Im not too panicked about this one as much as those last two games REALLY sucked to watch on a few levels, I cant really begrudge the boys for taking three of four points from a home and home. Though I think it’s fair that you bring it up as on paper they should have just pummeled the Habs both games. The teams play similar systems which I find typically makes their meetings a dog fight. Also, their goalie is way fucking better than any of ours. I dont want to seem like I’m gushing about him but look at Price’s numbers in comparison to their putrid place in the standings. I think without that guy they’d practically be the Blue Jackets. Price tends to play lights out against the Sens and it sucks for all of us.
Buffalo, yeh, Ottawa’s lost a couple to them recently…this is just the cosmic ballet of life. I really don’t find Ottawa has all that much trouble beating them overall as the Sabres continue to be bullshit. 😉
Finally, Toronto. I dont know. What is it with Toronto? With the exception of like what? 4 players on the team the Sens roster has nearly compleley turned over since their playoff days practically a decade ago. Toronto has seen a complete changing of the guard b/c Brian Burke has had to reboot the team like twice since taking over. It’s called, “killing it, bro.” So is there bad juju at work? If you believe in it I guess this would be the place for it. Cant blame the shitty schedule on the struggles they have had against them including last game where Ottawa nearly doubled the leafs in shots and even saw an own goal form one of their best players. WTMF.
For me, the answer to the Toronto question is the same one I have for a lot of perplexing losses Ottawa has suffered at the hands of lesser teams this season. It is that this team is hard working and really fun to watch but their performance in situations where a lot is on the line show they are still young as a group. I’ve noticed the boys seem to be able to do shit like roll into HP Pavilion and beat the Sharks, dummy the Caps on the road, basically own the Rangers all season but they arent expected to win those games. They play a loose but gritty game and maximize their run and gun style and creep creep on teams a lot. As soon as a game is a total “must-win” they can look like a shell of the team that can hold their own with the best. I dont think it’s that they arent getting up for big 4 point games against division rivals so much as maybe the team is not yet confident enough to play on their freewheeling style when big things are on the line.
Jah willing, when the Sens can smoosh the teams below them in the division on a consistent basis we will know that the rebuild is further along and we can start getting ready for some very, very exciting hockey. Right now its a bit early to panic too much as we are still in a phase where Ottawa’s strong season is an “unexpected pleasant surprise.”
Yeah, I also wonder about the atmosphere at games, and agree that it’s mostly a fan fixation. Unless we’re talking those playoff-mad atmospheres where it’s probably going to shock Kyle I Used to Play for the Coyotes Turris a little and either psyche him up or scare the shit out of him.
I think there’s also something to be said for the demographics at certain games. I’ve been to a million Sens games where even sitting in the third deck I’m next to a family of fourteen out for Lil’ Jimbo’s birthday party. It’s like a 67s game half the time. Then you go to a game against the Leafs (or at the ACC, which I’ve done a couple of times) and it’s all middle aged angry men with a shit ton of money, a nice suit, and a complex about how the central brand in their life has been awful for as long as they’ve been alive. For that reason and that reason alone I never go to see Leafs or Habs games at Scotiabank Place. Pay twice the ticket price to completely lose sight of the fact that it’s hockey? No thanks! I sort of think of the higher prices to those games as Idiot Tax – let the other fan bases subsidize our team.
Bruins have the Sens’ number, but then their record indicates that they have a lot of teams’ numbers. Against Toronto there’s always an excuse, but they are somewhat valid. This year it’s that Ottawa only plays Toronto on the second of back-to-back nights, which is surreal. Montreal just seems to find a way against Montreal, most recently a sudden supernatural ability to block shots. (Though part of me wonders if having Andrei Markov back in the lineup helps. Even if he isn’t scoring, you have to adjust your whole gameplan with him on the ice. I think the Habs’ season would have been a different story with him around this year. As would have been my fantasy team’s.)
Oh, I forgot to ask: what is with Ottawa’s complete inability to win games when featured on Hockey Night in Canada? It seems like they only lose embarassingly when it’s a Saturday night against the Leafs and the whole country is watching. I wish there was a record somewhere of Ottawa’s record during nationally televised games. I bet even if you removed all those early years when the team was record-breakingly bad, you’d still have a losing record.
I actually completely forgot about the Sabres. Which makes sense.
Totally agree about expectations and the team’s playing style. I’m hoping someone on the Senators’ brass recognizes this and the night before their first playoff game against the Bruins wanders into the dressing room all drunk, collar open, like “Issh the end of the world boyysssss. Drink up iffu gottem!” and the team just loosens up and is like, “You know, we play hockey for a living. How awesome is that? Have fun out there!” and then they accidentially win the series in six.