Strange times for Senators fans

Last night’s game represented something surreal for Senators fans, or at least for this one. For years Ottawa was the skilled team who seemed to crumple in the playoffs against grinders, the team who couldn’t create that sense of family that you sensed other teams built around. In a sense, Ottawa has rarely seemed like a team that liked each other any more than your average group of co-workers.

So to hear Chris Neil talk about how this team is a family, and how Carkner’s mugging of Boyle (in response to Boyle’s mugging of Karlsson) meant the world to the room, is a conflict for a fan like me. It’s bittersweet. It’s one of those moments that justifies all of the loud-mouthed analysts and square-headed bullies who insist that this game is best played by a bunch of good ol’ Canadian boys engaging in the pro sports equivalent of a bar fight.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional fight, though most of the time I use them as an opportunity to check the out-of-town scoreboard. But the degree to which these playoffs have turned into pure spectacle is both entertaining and thoroughly weird. Personally, I’ve spent the entire season speculating on dry rebuilding models and sustainable franchises. I assume that there are systems used to build hockey teams that are complex and nuanced, that this sport isn’t really a Good Ol’ Boys network of old school mentalities and enforcers in suits. But games like last night’s seem to imply otherwise. Maybe the best way to be competitive really is to goon it up.

During Don Cherry’s first intermission rant, he went into an incoherent string of his usual cliches. I have no idea what his point was, but at one point he just started saying “all these Swedes and Finns in their visors.” I suppose his point was that at the end of the day it was Matt Carkner, he of Winchester, ON, drafted 58th overall way back in 1999, and making close to league minimum, that supposedly made the difference. Cherry’s cache in the hockey community was enforced.

Never mind that Ottawa ended up having to kill off a five minute major, something that just as well might have resulted in the game being out of reach before the first period was half over. But that’s not the narrative. The story that sticks is that Ottawa responded, took control of the series, and are heading back to Ottawa with the split and all the momentum on their side. That Chris Neil scored the OT winner, and that Jason Spezza looks positively lost out there, only seems appropriate given the romance accorded this Ottawa team’s newfound emphasis on getting wacky.

So, yeah: strange times for Sens fans. Those of us who remember the stacked, skilled teams of yesteryear shitting the bed against vastly inferior Leafs teams look at the result of last year and can’t help but think we’ve lost some bit of the respectability we once enjoyed. We just might win more games as a result.


6 thoughts on “Strange times for Senators fans

  1. I’d say we just changed the type of respectability that we have. There is nothing wrong with bullying your way to a cup, since that’s how most of them seem to be won.

    Bottom line, the team is way more of a team because of what happened yesterday whether we win or lose, and Carkner and MacLean deserve credit for it.

  2. Yeah, it is kind of strange to watch a game like that as a fan… Before game 2 I was kind of indifferent to both the rangers and this series (we are lucky to be in the playoffs, all this is gravy, *insert nothing to lose cliche here*, etc.). But after all that stuff happened, I wanted them to win the game about as badly as ive ever wanted them to win a game. Im dont want the playoffs to have fighting generally, but i think its great as a fan for a bunch of crazy shit to happen to your team once in a while. And hey, if it works for the players then it works for me.
    Cherry was just saying that the game is filled with rats and there isnt really any accountability, which I’m sure most people would agree with to an extent. Then he basically went crazy and said fins and swedes wearing visors caused the bubonic plague and the great depression, you know, the usual…

  3. Never mind the ‘narrative’ issue of how Carkner’s major penalty is being interpreted in light of a Senators victory (my take on the use of the word ‘narrative’ by online hockey analysts would involve standing on a soapbox) – the supposedly objective analysis of statistics would tell us that Carkner’s 5-minute major was worth the risk. All season long the Rangers have been horrible on the power play. Based on statistical analysis alone, the result – the Senators killing off the major penalty to Carkner – was predictable. That didn’t make it any less stressful to watch, however.

    In fact, the Senators could have still lost the game – they were down 2-1 – and it would have had nothing to do with Carkner’s penalty.

  4. I enjoy seeing a team that sticks up for themselves finally, but there is a very limited payoff you can get from pure thuggery–it might work in the first round on chippy, shoddy ice like that at Madison Square Garden, but it’s not going to work on its own in the long run. Anaheim was a goon squad in 2007, but they also had a lot of great players; so was Boston last season, but they had miracle-worked Tim Thomas and a good amount of skill, too.

    The failing here, though, is with referees and disciplinarians. If they call the game as it should be called, the chaff will blow away and the truly skilled players will have the opportunity to play true hockey.

    Until those arbiters start calling the game that way, though, you’d be silly not to have a few meatheads or enforcers in your lineup.

  5. Pingback: “The Ottawa Senators Bunch” | Thoughts of a man named Rory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s