Sunday, April 25, 2010

No Shame

After the Senators lost last night and their season came to an end, I listened to the Team 1200 Post Mortem with JR for a while. There was the usual questioning of earlier trades, and the use of the goaltenders over the run of the season and all the usual “what ifs”.

The overwhelming sense I got from the fans while listening on the web from my hotel room in Boston was that they were disappointed “for” the team and not disappointed “in” them. Two very small words which make a very big difference. Years ago after the 4 game sweep at the hands of the Leafs fans were disappointed in that team. The compete level, the emotion level, the courage, in fact everything was questioned.

Losing to the defending champs in 6 games, 2 of which went to overtime, is no shame. Especially considering Ottawa was missing one veteran top-4 defenceman (Kuba), two top-6 forwards (Kovalev, Michalek) and the captain played the entire series with a torn abdominal muscle with a rookie defenceman logging the most minutes in the series.

Their compete level was high. The emotion level was high. The resolve to beat the odds was high. Their grit level was high and for all those reasons there is no shame in this loss.

Now more than ever I believe these players became a much better team the day Heatley was traded. They swapped a me for a we and traded goals for character and this team had plenty of that against Pittsburgh.

See you at the rink.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Sutton hit

As I am working the Buffalo/Boston series for HNIC during the first round I am surrounded by people who are not Senators fans nor are they media who regularly follow or cover the Senators. With no bias to be found I can tell you there is no hockey person I have spoken to here in Buffalo who does not think the Sutton hit was a clean, legal, hockey hit. None were surprised that there was no supplementary discipline.

Most of the surprise is that a veteran like Leopold was caught like that. Sutton’s continued use of that move is because players continue to come down the wing with their head's down, apparently unaware that he is on the ice and he has done this many, many times. If something works keep doing it until it doesn’t.

Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik admitted as much after the game when he was asked about the hit. He said it was a clean hit and they had all watched video of Sutton’s tendencies both good and bad.

It continues to beg the question, why aren’t today’s players more tuned in to who is on the ice and what they tend to do. It was the same story after Chris Neil hit Tampa’s Viktor Hedman. It drove him backwards and he suffered a concussion when his head hit the boards while falling. It was a clean hit from the front, and Hedman saw it coming but said he didn’t think Neil would hit him. What did you expect him to do? Did no one tell him what Chris Neil does for a living? Did no one warn him that #25 plays hard, finishes his checks and will drop the gloves? How could this have possibly been a surprise?

Did Daniel Alfredsson complain when he was injured after a hit in Pittsburgh? He blamed himself for allowing himself to be vulnerable. Just because a player gets injured doesn’t mean that the play that injured him was illegal.

See you at the rink.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Paging Kreskin

The NHL playoffs started last night and I watched the opening games from my hotel room in Buffalo. While I will call the Buffalo/Boston series for HNIC, the Senators opened up against the Pens with a 5-4 win. Some shaky goaltending at both ends and Ottawa doing a very good job at closing gaps and jumping up into the play. With a team like the Penguins, laying back and trying to defend is a quick way to lose.

Ottawa is certainly the underdog in this series, but it’s probably the toughest series to predict. A bunch of us were throwing some ideas around and realized that Ottawa sweeping Pittsburgh is a legitimate possibility. Pittsburgh sweeping Ottawa (which is now impossible) was also just as legitimate. This series going the full 7 games is also very easy to envision. The Senators have been so streaky this year that it makes it hard to handicap this thing.

When Ottawa has been hot this year, there is no team they have been unable to beat. When the Senators have been cold, they have been ice cold and at times looked like they couldn’t win a practice. So what will happen in this series?

I have no clue. I only know how tired Pittsburgh must be after playing more games than any team in the last 2 years. I also know how much it would mean to the Senators and the city if they can rebound from missing the playoffs to upsetting the defending champs in round #1.

See you at the rink.