Monday, November 7, 2011
Senators Need To Show Up Angry Against Rangers
When New York Ranger winger Wojtek Wolski planted an elbow into Daniel Alfredsson’s grill on October 29th, putting the Ottawa captain out of action for the next four games (and counting), speculation immediately began that the Senators would get their revenge on Wolski when the two teams faced off nearly two weeks later.
That game is just about upon us but the gods have spared Wolski even more graciously than Brendan Shanahan spared him an obvious suspension.
Wolski has a wonky groin (you can make a joke about his stones… but I’ll refrain for now, as tempting as that is) and he’ll be watching his teammates have to answer for him on TV from the comfy confines of the Injured Reserve list.
So does that mean the rumble is off?
Hopefully not. There is no way the Senators can let 60 minutes go by without inflicting some kind of physical toll on the New York Rangers. That’s just the nature of the game.
They watched as their franchise player and locker room leader lay face down on the ice before being helped off by a trainer and Wolski paid for it by sitting a lousy two minutes in the penalty box drinking Gatoraid. That’s not nearly enough.
If Wolski isn’t there to face the music, then his teammates will have to do it, as they should. And before anybody starts wringing their hands, we’re not talking about Todd Bertuzzi going ultra-vigilante on Colorado’s Steve Moore in response to a hit on his captain Markus Naslund. That is and will always be the NHL’s worst nightmare in this kind of payback scenario (which they ultimately fostered by not suspending or even fining Wolski).
Instead, we’re talking about Ottawa finishing every single hit on Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Going out of their way to get a glove in their face after a whistle. Challenging their tougher players to scraps. Getting into Henrik Lundqvist's personal space on every single play near the net.
Basically, the Senators need to become hell on skates for 60 minutes and let the Rangers star players know they’re a valid target after what happened to Alfredsson.
If the Rangers take exception to this and some kind of brawl breaks out, then so be it. I’m sure fans will be quite forgiving of guys like Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka if they end up taking a few penalties in this one. It’s one thing to go into the box for a lazy hook or an errant high stick. Those kinds of penalties hurt your team. But if you do it to prove a point, to show that there are real consequences for the opposition if they go after your star players, then that’s a penalty the team will gladly kill off anytime.
This is the type of game that isn’t just about the scoreboard or the standings. It’s about morale and team bonding. Not much brings a team together faster than turning the rink into a modern day Alamo. You can call it a “dinosaur mentality” and say the best revenge is simply getting the two points. But we all know that’s a bunch of bull.
The best revenge would be to see the Rangers pay a very steep physical price for taking out the Senators captain. If this is done cleanly or in some kind of throwback brawl, it doesn’t really matter. The fans will love it. The players will love it. The media and the bloggers will hate it, but they hate everything anyways.
So will we see a game like this? In the modern NHL, these expected clashes usually provide very little bang for your buck. Guys are afraid of taking suspensions and the media blow it out of proportion (exactly as I’m trying to do with this piece). But once in a while, we’ll get a game for the ages.
Maybe Wednesdays tilt against the Rangers in Ottawa will give us another one of those classics, like the famous Ottawa/Philly brawl or Ray Emery fighting the Sabres Martin Biron and Andrew Peters within seconds of each other and doing so with a huge grin on his face.
Don’t bet the house on it, but with spirited and emotional guys like Neil and Konopka on the ice (certainly MacLean will want to play Konopka), it’s not as farfetched as you think.