Roundtable of Death: The Sens are Dead, Long Live The Sens

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, Steph, and James discuss how it’s better to have won and lost than never to have won at all.

Luke:

Part of me just wants to let Mick, Keef, and The Boys take this one.

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything to say about this series other than “So it goes.” Having watched nearly every bounce go Ottawa’s way for two months, I’m not inclined to summon my equine dental hygiene specialist to closely examine this horse we’d been given.

That said, as someone who publicly stated “Montreal’s bottom 6 is terrible”, the first three games of the series were still deeply troubling to me. By the time Dale Weise scored in overtime to give Montreal a 3-0 series lead, I was reduced to a hollow husk of a man who could do nothing but mutter to himself “Well on the bright side, at least no one could have possibly predicted this!” My feeling is that if you play the first three games of that series over again, there’s no way Montreal goes up 3-0 a second time. I say this because they DID play three more games in the series, Bryan Flynn, Torey Mitchell, and Dale Weise were nowhere to be seen (just as God intended), and Ottawa won 2 out of the 3 games. If you lose because the other team does stuff that’s so unlikely there’s no way you’d ever expect it to happen again, should that make you feel better or worse? Let’s ask Bruins fans. I bet they have thoughts on the matter.

Going into Game 4, I was filled with something approaching dread. Making the greatest run to the playoffs in NHL history only to get swept in the first round would have raised philosophical questions I would have been ill-equipped to answer. Luckily we were spared these questions as Mike Hoffman did a thing, Ottawa blew out Montreal once in Montreal (as is now playoff tradition), and only the referees were able to stop the series from going to a Game 7. We had some moments, people, and that’s all you can really ask for as a 7 seed. *Hands out t-shirts reading “2015 Playoffs: They Didn’t Totally Suck!”*

Speaking of the Refs Tho

I’ve been trying for the past 18 hours to work myself into a moderate froth regarding the heinous refereeing that led to Ottawa’s untimely departure aaaaaaaannnnnd……………..I just can’t do it. Every team loses due to human error, and as annoying as it is that the errant humans weren’t the ones who play the game, the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t want to risk losing in an utterly soul crushing way, you shouldn’t go down three games to zero against Carey Price to begin with.

I feel like this was a fitting way for this Sens team to go out, to be honest. Yes Montreal won, but did Ottawa really lose? This year’s team will forever be remembered as the team that only the refs could kill. Not a bad legacy for a team that gave us one of the most enjoyable 12 weeks in Sens history.

So it goes.

Varada:

I just finished watching a bootlegged copy of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s just like, what, so the Hulk is invincible now? That’s his power? He can do anything and nobody can stop him? The movie ends when the Hulk just does the thing everybody said they needed to do? At least it’s not as bad as that show Daredevil. Hoo boy! What a torture-thon! Literally! He’s constantly torturing people! I don’t understand how that’s supposed to be an enjoyable watch. What’s that? There was a hockey game last night? Oh, yeah, that broke my heart.

But I think you’re right, Luke: it’s hard to be particularly bitter when the team put themselves in a position where a miracle run was required just to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, then they lose a tightly contested first round which they just as likely could have won.

This isn’t a Toronto team that doesn’t know what stage of rebuild it’s in, or a Sabres team that’s definitely, definitely in stage one, or a Carolina team spending oodles of money to be terrible with no end in sight. This team played entertaining hockey, got into the dance, anything could, and did, happen, and we’re all better for it.

Was the announcing annoying? Considering Price was outplayed by Anderson, and debatably even Hammond (who I thought was really good! No idea where people get this “played himself out of a job” thing), and was talked about as if he was the best player in the world throughout: yes. Only one goalie in this series allowed five goals in one game.

Was the officiating atrocious? Maybe. It was certainly weird, as quick whistles and face-off violation penalties can attest. The series occasionally felt as if the refs would randomly drop a power-up onto the ice and the team would hope for a red shell. It was weird, but it’s an even weirder tradition in the sport itself. Powerplays change the whole dynamic of the game, and always have, in ways that forever distort the purity of the contest itself.

Are the Canadiens full of pests who really got under my skin? Absolutely. Prust and Gallagher had jobs, and did them, and I hate them for it. I guess it’s interesting to see Montreal learn from what we did to them a couple of years ago.

But all in all, the Senators won the respect of the league and its many armchair experts, all of whom couldn’t give a crap about a small market team with the lowest payroll in the league. They did so with Vezina quality goaltending, Norris quality defenseman, a Calder quality rookie, and only room and financial space to grow. The future’s bright.

Now bring back the damned heritage jersey and let’s build some memories.

Chet:

Winning is great, but you know what’s sometimes more memorable than winning? Heroic failure. We’re all moved by heroic failure, right? Gallipoli? Cervantes? Kristers Gudlevskis?

The Senators went out on their shields last night, and as much as I love the 0% ROI complaining about blown calls, I’m with Luke in that I can only get so frissoned about last night. They would have needed another goal anyway, and just like those Iranian hostages, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, trying to win four straight off Carey Price. Besides, losing a game like that is all of a piece with a series in which the Sens had already lost two overtime games, which are already basically coin flips. It was clear from the very beginning that the only thing separating the Sens and Habs were a few bounces one way or the other, and it was almost immediately as clear that luck, or fate, or that Mufasa-like cloudbank over the casino that looked just like Julia Robillard, was not going to give the Sens those bounces.

But they scratched and clawed anyway, didn’t they? To make sure Montreal knew, in a deep, uncomfortable place, that Ottawa was better? That their own lucky bounces would run out soon enough? And when they do, maybe in the next round, maybe in the conference finals against the Rangers, when Carey Price simply can’t keep his so-so team afloat forever, they too will fail. Except at that point, there won’t be anything heroic about it. It’ll just be Julia Robillard evening things out.

The Senators played like beautiful, star-crossed, tragic heroes last night, and I’m proud of them. Senators history is full of more talented teams that choked, or gave up, or won, but in a predictable, suffocating fashion. These guys refused to do any of those things, which is why we’ll remember them. As failures, and as heroes.

Steph:

You know what sucks about being constantly convinced that your team is going to do the thing – come back in the third period to win the game, come back from a 14 point deficit to make the playoffs, force game 6 against a team with probably the best goalie in the league, etc. – is that when they don’t do the thing for once, you’re extra disappointed. I couldn’t be team tank in January and I still think this run was worth not getting a high draft pick, but it still doesn’t feel good for the season to end like this. We all went through the stages of hockey grief together.

Denial: Nah, nah, this was a shitty dream and I’ll wake up to the Sens in the conference final and also Jared Cowen never existed and Alfie is back on the team.
Anger: The Habs are a shitty team with maybe 3 good players, they’re dirty, Gallagher is a piece of shit, the refs were against us, it was a garbage end to a Cinderella season, fuck hockey, I’m done with sports.
Bargaining: If only the ref hadn’t whistled early on the Pageau attempt they would have evened the score, forced overtime and probably won, since the Sens work best in high pressure situations, right?
Depression: Get the tequila. No, not the good stuff.
Acceptance: I guess I’m cheering for the Flames. Habs are still garbage fucks though.

I don’t know, I’m still mad about the officiating, but I don’t want to be thinking about it 20 years later like Leafs fans about Kerry Fraser. The last months of the season were incredible to watch, and I want those crazy goals, improbable wins, and Hamburger themed revolutions to be what’s remembered about this season. In the end, the Sens did the thing – they kept trying to win no matter how many shitty bounces or shitty calls went against them, and that’s what should be remembered about this season and give us all hope for next season (when it will be revealed that Jared Cowen never existed). ​

James:

Hahahaha You slay me Chet…those things you’re referring to that I totally know about…CLASSIC examples of heroic failure things. I would add some but I’m…uh…in a—

HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY what a way to go out. And by “what a way to go out’ I mean “I’m still trying to figure out what all the feels mean.”

Corny as it sounds, I think today we are all Dave Cameron showing a stiff upper lip to that blown call. There’s nothing we can do other than move forward and let that dickbag in the office cook and act like he actually won that series. BTW I think it’s going to be a big year for “his” Yankees AND “his” Patriots/Cowboys…I guess he doesn’t root for the Heat at this point.

To build on Chet’s point, hey, to the victor go the spoils and everything but if I take one major thing out of this series it’s this: If that’s the class of our division I’m extremely excited about the future because that simply is not a very good hockey team overall. Sure Ottawa lost this time but have you ever seen a team go down 3-0 and seem less intimidated about that? Especially a Sens squad. If that’s what losing to Montreal looks like, where the biggest margin in the series was a 5-1 win? I’d take them as a playoff dance partner again in a heartbeat. That was not like Sisyphean task of facing the Pittsburgh Killbots year after year in the past. The Senators still have a lot to work on (Could have made Price work way, way harder) but they have a ton to build on as well. I’ll take a 1-1* rivalry with these assholes.

To me, the story of that series was Craig Anderson. Just a few weeks ago, I was confidently saying the wise move going forward was to give Robin Lehner his long awaited shot as starter, install Hammond as backup (he’s not going to keep going undefeated but SURELY he’s as good as Curtis McElhinney) and deal Anderson while the dealing’s good. 3 games of Andy and I am totally rethinking it. To come in after basically not playing for months in relief of a goalie who couldn’t have been on a hotter run just to go toe to toe with Carey Price and to hold it down like that? That was damn impressive. Not to get too ahead of myself here but I think a big move is going to be made this summer and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to decide what that move is.

Moaning Korner: Dat fucking broadcast tho. Much as I talk about shit about commentary, don’t get it twisted, I looooove cheering for the “bad guys.” Ask yourself this: Would you really want Glenn Healy endlessly waxing on about if he were but a glove upon the hand touching the cheek of Craig Anderson? Blech, no thanks.

We live in a world of hockey media where the most talked about team is a garbage pile of perpetual failure. The Canadian hockey press basically covers the Chicago Cubs as if they were the Yankees. It’s funny and consistently shines a spotlight on the ongoing embarrassment of our hated rival. With years of training I’ve come to embrace that bias to a large degree. If you ever want to know the extra satisfaction that is your team beating the opposition AND the announcers just look up JG Pageau’s hat trick on Price two seasons ago. Bob Cole’s call on that third goal is worth more than all the Saturday night losses to the Leafs on HNIC combined. As I’ve said in the past, I am more or less used to the bias at this point. I have no doubt that if Toronto went on the same epic march to the playoffs that Ottawa just did, they would put them on a postage stamp. Whatever. I don’t want Ottawa to be Canada’s team. I want to see them grow and succeed on some hater shit. There is no bandwagon here (well, save for the gawd Ann Murray). This thing is ours for better or worse and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Anyway, all this in mind, the coverage of those six games was just unbearably shitty. I’ve sat through countless Saturday night cringefests on CBC but that was just a new level all together. From the gotta hear both sides on Subban’s slash on Stone it was slanted to the point that I think went beyond being annoying as a Sens fan to just a sports fan in general. Hearing any series called that way would be frustrating. I can handle bias of that stripe from a bunch of failed football commentators on an ESPN Nashville feed or whatever, all of those local broadcasts have an obvious slant, including ours. But there’s a reason a clownshoes guy like Jack Edwards is on Boston public access and not NBC. For national coverage of TWO Canadian teams that was just embarrassing. The Habs already had Gallagher, Prust and Subban trying to get under everyone’s skin, they don’t need your help from ice level there, Glenn Healy. You know the game’s fucked up when former Leaf AND Hab Mike Johnson feels like the only voice of reason in the whole mess. For the first time I thought even Elliot Freidman’s approach was clumsy. Felt like HNIC jumped the shark and pandered out of desperation or something. Either way, what an all around shit show that was. “You think that shit is poppin’ man but it’s not poppin’ man” – Ghostface Killa, Re: HNIC Panel.

I have more to say (WHAT!?) but I’ll leave it at this, after a season and a half of almost inexplicable lethargy came a coaching change and an historical run by a below average career minor league goalie we were treated to something truly special. Hammond was the spark, the inspiration, but the whole team turned the season around under immense pressure. The team as a whole, especially many of the young guys, can’t unlearn what they went through these past few months. How to win games. I think as fans all we wanted were honest efforts and we got those to the very end. We got a team who figured out how to compete with anyone. I’ve been yammering on about the need for a passing of the torch for a minute. All you need to do is look at the lineup Dave Cameron iced these past few months to see that the time has come.

3 thoughts on “Roundtable of Death: The Sens are Dead, Long Live The Sens

  1. Pingback: Kuznetsov’s rise; Babcock’s future; stopping Ovechkin (Puck Headlines)

  2. Pingback: Kuznetsov's rise; Babcock's future; stopping Ovechkin (Puck Headlines) | Wolrd Blogs

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