You know, even though the Senators are a team that’s spent almost the entire season in a playoff spot, the last few weeks were still emotionally fraught for me. This culminated in an extremely dramatic final regular season weekend where I went through The 6 Stages of Playing The Leafs in the Playoffs
Stage 1 – Denial
“No way the Leafs are gonna beat Pittsburgh and Columbus on back-to-back games. They’re gonna miss the playoffs for sure.”
Stage 2 – Anger
“Goddamn the Penguins. They are truly useless. They haven’t the faintest idea of when to lose, and absolutely no idea of when to win.”
Stage 3 – Bargaining
“Ok, even if this happens, the Sens will have home ice advantage. That’s gotta count for something right?”
Stage 4 – Depression
“Whelp, the Leafs are up 2-0. This series will take years off my life. Why did I have to live to see this?”
Stage 5 – Acceptance
“I guess this is happening. I’m ready. Let’s do it. Bring it on.”
Stage 6 – The Leafs Choking
So after all that wasted emotional energy, Ottawa’s got home ice advantage in a playoff series against Boston. I think Boston’s a good matchup for Ottawa, but more than that, they’re also the perfect playoff opponent. They check all the boxes. All the ingredients are there:
a) The Good Player You Grudgingly Respect – Patrice Bergeron
b) The Good Player You Will Never Respect – Brad Marchand
c) The Grizzled Tank Defenseman Who Plays 47 Minutes A Night and Never Gets Tired – Zdeno Chara
d) The Flashy Prospect Who Is Incredibly Young – David Pastrnak
e) The Incredibly, Obnoxiously Homeriffic Play-By-Play Guy – Jack Edwards
f) The Deeply Annoying Anthem Singer – Rene Rancourt
g) Some of The Dumbest Fans In Hockey – Self-explanatory
You don’t even have to try to hate them. They’re like if Richard Nixon was a hockey team. Plus they’re a team Ottawa has quietly owned over the past two seasons. Add in the fact that we’re learning today that Boston’s pretty beat up and likely to be without Torey Krug for much of the series and I have to ask you a question: Is this all a little too perfect? It feels like the Senators are getting everything they could have wanted and I don’t trust it. It feels like Tuukka Rask is gonna suddenly turn into an immovable object after spending the last 2 years being extremely average. It feels like The Universe is trying to set me up to get my heart broken by Adam McQuaid or some other useless scrub who will immediately fade into back into obscurity after assassinating my hopes and dreams. It feels unwise to hope.
Is this just me? Where are you folks at in your spiritual journey to Wednesday night and beyond?
Sens in 5.
There seem to be two emotional levels on which all hockey victories are processed:
1) the coldly utilitarian, a culmination of an objective process, under which we are as likely to see 1000 game player Chris Neil thrown under the bus as a promising prospect slotted into an area for which he’s been projected.
2) a cathartic expression of relief from anxiety over every perceived shortcoming and insecurity.
If I’ve learned anything from generations of movies about rich men who grew up to say, “Wait, maybe it isn’t about getting rich after all…” it’s that the latter scenario is more capricious but has to happen before anyone will take you seriously.
Sens could win the Cup, but if they do they likely won’t have to go through the Leafs to do it. And so there will always be an asterisk, and if will largely be imposed by the Sens’ own fanbase.
And what better year would there have been to do it! A Leafs team full of kids might have lost to a team of veterans (and some kids) reversing the armchair psychoanalysis of yesteryear. We could have read a summers worth of think pieces praising the Sens, because the Toronto media would have to play the Sens up to explain the Leafs’ exit. How could the team of destiny lose to anyone except a truly formidable opponent?
All this to say: the Sens matching up against a team they’ve played well against, and who are missing two defensemen to boot, is preferable. But rarity is value in and of itself, and a Sens-Leafs series would have been good in a rare way, with potential for real catharsis.
Oh well. Fuck the bruins, too. Go Sens!
Varada, I only say this out respect for you and the community: I feel the need to present, as the ancient Olmecs would say, “L’autre cote” of this mindset. Are we really that messed up that we’d impose our own asterisk on winning a GD Cup without playing the Leafs? I don’t want to discount the psychological implications of an Ottawa-T-ONto* series but if the Sens made their first serious run in 10 years (Ed Note: fuuuuck) the last thing on my mind would be “Ahh but we didnt fade the most fadeable team on the wayyy tho.” Maybe its the decade with one playoff round win talkin’ but I find all victories to be of the cathartic relief over anxiety nature at this point. If I had to pick beating the Leafs and getting swept the next round or making the Final without playing them I know where I’d put my money every time. After getting so close to glory in ’07 only to see things go downhill the very next season, I would take an efficient game 5, 2-1 Cup victory against Las Vegas Golden Corrals in the Pacific timezone and live out my days in my ugly commemorative jacket hating out the door like “Kiss the ring!!!”. I’d also likely live 4 or 5 years longer.
Will I ever despise another professional sports franchise as much as Toronto? I mean, the Sens are set to play their first post-season game Wednesday against Not-The-Leafs and we’ve spent the majority of this post talking about them all because they failed to seal a game on home ice against a Columbus squad that had nothing to play for. I for one look forward to the think pieces about how Auston Matthews let the Caps sweep them on purpose to teach his teammates the true meaning of working hard in the offseason to come back stronger than ever.
Anyway, what I’m saying here is we have sitting in front of us what’s likely going to be a very good series. We’re seriously one Brad Marchand slewfoot away from hating the living shit out of this Boston team. Two series, one win, one loss and the very sight of a Canadiens hat brings the bile to the tip of my throat. Ditto the penguins. Even that series against the Rangers had an interesting effect. After taking them 7 games as the 8th seed does anyone else get that “Ahh, you guys ain’t shit” vibe every time Ottawa plays them? Trust me, we’ll find enough to chew on. Holy shit, speaking of which I just remembered Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron in the ’11 series. It’s officially lit.
We’re about to witness some new franchise history here and I’m pretty damn excited about to dive in there with our first coach with NHL playoff experience since Bryan fucking Murray.
*T-ONto is the new way Drake shortens Toronto. He’s moved on from the VERY cool nickname “The T dot” (v cool)
Look, we all wanted the Leafs. We all wanted the Count of Monte Cristo reboot where the guy plots his revenge for 15 years, drafts Erik Karlsson, and comes back to town to methodically destroy his enemies with a series of timely overtime goals. But now that tacky, overpriced cruise ship has #actuallysailed, and trying to recycle those white-hot Leafs takes we were all preparing for our series previews is pretty much just writing that kind of speculative fiction where the South wins the Civil War, helps Hitler win World War II, and worst of all, we end up living in a world where the Leafs don’t blow 2-0 leads. Unseemly.
How is Boston the favorite in this series? What am I missing? The Senators are getting most of their key players back at the same time the Bruins defense is down to a bunch of kids trying to save their orphanage by putting on a big show. Craig Anderson is going to steal at least one game, and Alex Burrows is going to goad Brad Marchand into getting suspended. Each of Pierre Dorion’s blazers is more Bob Hope-ass than the last. What else is there?
I’ll try to write more about this later, but basically anyone who is looking at this series from a predictive point of view is boiling this matchup down to “Sens Goal Differential = Bad, Bruins Corsi = good, Bruins win in 3 games.” Never mind that Ottawa has matched up well against Boston this year, or that Ottawa’s fully healthy for the first time in weeks while Boston is banged up. The Corsis have spoken.
Boston’s perfectly capable of winning this series, and I’d probably even put them as slight favourites with a gun to my head, but I am skeptical about the 70%(!!!) winning chance they’ve been getting from some sportsbooks/models.
Let’s look at their players and sort by points this year.
1-3) Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci. – Those guys are good.
4-6) Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Ryan Spooner – These guys are also quite good.
7-8) David Backes, Zdeno Chara – These guys are Old, but I have heard of them.
9) Dominic Moore – Ummm??
10) Frank Vatrano – ….???
11) Riley Nash – What?
12) Brandon Carlo – Are?
13) Tim Schaller – THOSE?
Is Boston just a team with 2 lines and a bunch of Erik Condras? The answer is a HARD maybe! You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t like the chances of a 4th line of Pyatt-Smith-Wingels against a guy named Kevan.
Fuck the Leafs. Sens in 5.