Saturday, February 4, 2012
Sens Forget What Got 'Em Here .... Plus Unpopped Popcorn Fuelled Game Notes
Toronto 5 Ottawa 0
Why is it when the bottom falls out for the Ottawa Senators, it always seems to be against the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Many people across the capital city on Sunday morning will be wondering how in the hell their Senators could have come out so emotionally flat in the Battle Of Ontario - something that has happened many times before - even while their comfortable playoff lead continues to get eaten away by hungrier teams below them in the standings.
There just doesn't seem to be much of an excuse for getting steamrolled by the hated Leafs in your own rink while failing to show even the slightest heartbeat until the embarrassing score on the scoreclock forced you to get angry enough to engage in a few hits.
The Senators became the league's surprise team partly because they had an emotional edge on other clubs in the first half of the season. They'd go and get kicked around in the first two periods like some kind of stray dog but keep scrapping through it until their legs outlasted their opponents in the third.
Frankly, the Senators are playing like a team that's lost their hunger and maybe felt like clinching the playoffs was just a coasted few weeks away from their All-Star break. They've gone from eating scraps in the alley to feasting on Alpo in front of the fireplace, even while the burglars rob the house blind.
Certainly the coaching staff is going to wake these guys up, either through the bag skate routine or with a garbage can or two hitting the walls in the dressing room, but once the tide turns against you, it can be hard to turn it around, even if you're heart is back in the right place. Six losses in a row has essentially wiped out the strong stretch they had in late December, early January which put them in the position to become lazy in the first place.
But that's just numbers. What's important is that the Senators have seemingly forgotten what it means to battle for goals and for a team that already gives up a lot in their own end, that's going to kill them if they can't get that bulldog mentality back.
When the Senators lost games in the first half of the season, they at least went down swinging and you rarely felt like they didn't leave it all on the ice. Now when they lose, there's a strange empty feeling where it seems like they didn't even give themselves a chance. It's not about working hard - that's a cliche that's used way too much - but it seems more like a mental fog has descended on these guys after revelling in all the great press they deserved up to this point. Now it's up to Paul MacLean and his staff to get these guys a little uglier again.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Spartacat (kept the kids from crying too hard)
2. Beer vendors (kept the kids from getting too drunk)
3. The stairs (allowed people to leave the building)
The big black shield the Senators have in the walkway to the ice still looks a little strange when you catch it on TV. Almost like a huge piece of hash stuck to the concrete wall with a circle of laurel leaf foil stuck into it. The shield might have been put there as a sort of touchstone or good luck charm for the players to tap with their gloves on the way out to the ice but only one or two guys ever do. Just aesthetically, it looks kind of ugly but at least it’s original. It would be cool if all the players punched it once before hitting the ice because after time it would become a tradition and new players would be tapping the same shield that guys like Daniel Alfredsson did. Think if a team like the Habs had something similar. Imagine tapping the same shield that guys like Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau did? Not saying the Senators legends will ever be on par with that but that’s the kind of tradition you can build with a little foresight. Or, maybe some arena attendant gets an order to tear it down this summer and throw it in the dumpster out back. These things can go either way…. People like to take shots at the CBC and Hockey Night In Canada, but the fact is nobody does hockey better than HNIC. The pre-game Inside Hockey segment with Elliotte Friedman before tonight’s game that featured the struggles of ex-Senator Brian McGrattan and Jordin Tootoo with alcohol was HNIC at its best. The entire Saturday night production is seamless and nobody can touch what they do. Not TSN. Not ESPN. Sportsnet wouldn’t be able to put together 5 minutes of HNIC quality work. Clearly, it’s not just tradition keeping HNIC relevant……
..... Did you ever notice that when a team gets a goal scored on them, the players on the bench for that team almost all automatically grab a water bottle and take a big drink? It's instinctual, I guess. That's their subconscious way of putting the goal behind them and resetting the brain. Goalies in the net seem to do that too. What would Carl Jung say about it? We all know what Sig Freud would say - the bottle is a phallus or something like that..... I wonder why Saturday night against the Leafs wasn’t a Heritage jersey night for the Senators? Instead they wore their road whites at home. If there’s one Senators sweater that needs to be retired it’s their underwhelming, already dated Reebok Edge-era whites. A new road jersey with a couple of normal horizontal stripes at the waist would be a welcome addition to the wardrobe…… Somehow, the Senators still have 5 more back-to-back sets of games this season…. I actually think Dion Phaneuf is now somewhat underrated. I’d take him on my team anyday…. If Jacques Martin hadn’t been shitcanned by Pierre Gauthier at the first sign of trouble, I truly believe the Canadiens would be right there with Washington and the Leafs fighting for a playoff spot with Ottawa. Martin-coached teams always seem to even out with that consistent approach the veteran bench boss takes year after year.….. Geez, the shot that Kyle Turris heeled on the fresh wet ice of the second period reminded me of when you’re playing pool with your buds at the bar and wind up for the break but completely whiff on the cue ball while everyone laughs so hard that beer comes spraying out their nose. I’ve done that like twenty times in my life, usually a few pints in at the Dominion Tavern in the Market….
....Only being 3 games from his 1000th in a Senators uniform, you’d think Chris Phillips would be getting a little more press than he actually is right now. Barring injury, the Big Rig will play the milestone game in Ottawa Thursday night against the Nashville Predators. He would have gotten it done at home tonight against the Leafs if he hadn’t missed two games to injury. Ottawa’s been lucky to have a guy like Phillips over the years. Like I said before, he’s their Glen Wesley. Always under appreciated but one of the foundation pieces of the entire organization. Hopefully he gets his due from the fans when the time comes….. Jason Spezza, with 212 goals going into Saturday's game against the Leafs, is closing in on another Alexei Yashin mark, being only 6 markers behind the former franchise centre and #19 jersey wearer, who had 218 goals in 504 games. Once Spezza does that, he’ll be ahead of Yashin in all the main statistical categories. Some people have been waiting a long time to see Yashin’s name slowly removed from the leaderboards. It’s just about done…. Why is it that when you finish eating a bowl of popcorn you feel like you have to eat a few of those unpopped ones? All they do is break your teeth and taste like wood. But still, we perservere....
.... Jaromir Jagr, with 1,637 points, is closing in on Joe Sakic for 8th in NHL all-time scoring, needing just 5 more to put him right behind his former mentor and teammate Mario Lemieux who sits 7th with 1,723. Passing Mario might be tough but if Jagr plays another year for a good Philly team, he’ll have an outside chance (he’d likely need two more seasons). Pens fans will be pissed…. Jared Cowen has had a couple of games he’d like to forget, especially on Friday night against the Islanders. Yet Bryan Murray well knows you have to live with those stretches, even with a rookie who’s been as solid as Cowen. It always seems like a rookie defenseman is allowed fewer mistakes than a rookie forward, but the fact we’re even talking about this reminds you of how little we’ve had to point out Cowen’s faults. That’s a pretty good sign. If anything, it would be nice to see Cowen step up a little more in the offensive zone like he was doing a bit more in the months before Christmas. It reminds me of how Chris Phillips seems to find that extra gear whenever a game goes into overtime. You’ll almost never see Phillips take a chance during regulation but he gets goal hungry when it really matters. Cowen has a bit of that in him and might have better hands than Phillips if he chose to use them more.....
Remember when the Battle Of Ontario used to be like this?