Saturday, April 10, 2010
Congrats Alfie ... Bring On The Pens
Yup, that's me with my first cold one of the evening (a few more followed) at the big Alfie game on Saturday night. All in all, a good show by the Senators organization and a classy ceremony for the captain which actually went by surprisingly fast, compared to similar events in the past around the league.
Unfortunately for the fans, the ceremony was all they could cheer for, save a colossal Andy Sutton hit in the first period and what could possibly be the last goal of Shean Donovan's career.
I found it somewhat strange that Coach Clouston sat Brian Elliott and started Pascal Leclaire. I'm sure the Senators are extra sensitive right now after losing Alex Kovalev for the playoffs due to injury, but it's still somewhat rare for a goalie to get seriously injured and Elliott already had some rest the game before last. Leclaire made a few decent saves but couldn't help his team when it really mattered. Nothing new there.
Regardless, a few quick points:
- A lot of fans can't get the smirks off their faces concerning Kovalev's injury. The jokes are flying pretty good right now, "he was already on vacation" yadda yadda yadda. Fans might not respect him, but I'm telling you, NHL players do. Big time. His presence alone is enough to back defenseman off on the powerplay and give other players room on the ice. He hasn't had a great season, and is certainly on the downside of his career, but Kovalev is more important than most fans give him credit for. His loss is huge. Bryan Murray is one of the most experienced GM's in the league and he didn't sign Kovalev for nothing. In the playoffs is when he really could have made a difference. Now, with major ACL surgery, it's conceivable that Kovalev could be done as an NHL player. We may never know what he could have really done when it mattered the most. It's a very similar situation to Dominik Hasek's brief stay in Ottawa.
- I think the Senators are a team with great character and perseverance. Yet, it's a terrible thing for them that they get a date with the Penguins in the first round. I don't pretend to be a cheerleader for the Sens (disregard that photo at the top ... ahem) and I'm not going to start now. Objectively, I can't see the Senators beating the Pittsburgh Penguins. You think Sidney Crosby is going to let his team lose in the first round? I just don't see it.
It would have been much preferable to face the Devils and an aging Martin Brodeur (no offense to the future Hall of Famer by any means, but everyone becomes mortal at some point) in the first round instead of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc Andre Fleury just entering their prime. It's a little like the Calgary Flames going up against the Edmonton Oilers in the mid-80's.
Yet, the Flames upset Gretzky and company in 86 when Steve Smith scored into his own net near the end of a long, hard fought series. Strange things do happen.
I just don't think anyone can justify picking the Senators over the Penguins in any category worth debating. Skill, experience, and even grit. The Penguins are a tough group. You don't go to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row without knowing what it takes to win.
What might give hope to Senators fans is that fatigue can certainly play a factor here. The Pens have looked a little hungover all season long and most of their top players did double time in the Olympics this year as well. There are a lot of miles there. Maybe the Pens just don't have fuel for another run. The last time a team made it to the Stanley Cup final three years in a row was the Gretzky era Oilers, from 83-85 (they won the last two).
That's a long time ago when the league was much different than it is now.
The Senators certainly have a chance and they have the character to pull off an upset like this.
But if they lose, blame their inconsistency during this yo-yo season and remember that they had a chance to win the division over Buffalo and play a lesser team such as Montreal or Boston.
They now have the first round opponent they deserve.
I'm just as interested as the rest of you in how they'll do against the Stanley Cup champions.