Monday, April 16, 2012
Despite Loss, Senators Putting Scare Into Top Seeded Rangers As Game 4 Looms
New York 1 Ottawa 0 (Rangers lead series 2-1)
There will be a lot of virtual ink spilled about the soul-sucking performance of Henrik Lundqvist and the inability of Ottawa's top scorers Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek to even get a puck near the GQ force-field (the two combined for 4 shots - 3 of them by Spezza), so I won't bother going on about it tonight.
You've all seen it and I know by the site stats that nobody in Ottawa likes to read blogs breaking down games the day after a gut churning loss.
So on to the positives. And there were a never ending supply of them all night long in Game Three.
To cut right to point of it, the Rangers are in for the battle of their playoff lives.
The supposed first seed is getting everything they can handle from the eighth place Senators, and in true playoff fashion, the Rangers escaped by the slimmest of margins on a fortuitous bounce that local favourite Brian Boyle put past Craig Anderson.
The Senators put 39 shots at Lundqvist, which was 16 more than the Rangers managed. That's not exactly within the "margin of error". That's a sign the Senators outplayed the Rangers and simply got shutdown by a great goalie. The law of averages say the Senators will get a few by him eventually and if Anderson keeps playing strong, this series should go to six or seven games.
Other good performances were clocked by Zack Smith, who finally showed up in this series and was probably the best Senator on the ice the first two periods. Kyle Turris doesn't look intimidated and nearly tied the game with seconds left in the 3rd. The role players are doing a good job cancelling out the role players on the Rangers with Zenon Konopka, Jesse Winchester and Chris Neil all having a strong series.
If there's a chance Daniel Alfredsson can go in Game Four, it might be all the emotional spark the Senators need to get one or two past Lundqvist.
The Senators got that boost from the Matt Carkner scrap in Game Two but now that the scores have been settled and everyone was ready to play square hockey, Ottawa couldn't find that extra gear when they needed it in the third. Right before Boyle scored the winning goal for the Rangers, Ottawa had them on the ropes for three or four shifts but the big moment never happened.
The Kanata crowd was waiting for a goal to unleash pure hell but ended up kicking empty plastic beer cups out of their way on the sad march from the stands.
As painful as that loss was, the Senators look like a team who can actually beat the Rangers if they get a bounce or two to go their way. Whatever team can end up racking up two wins in a row will win this series.
There's still plenty of time and ice for Ottawa to surprise a few more people this year.
Black Aces Senators 3 Stars
1. Craig Anderson
2. Zack Smith
3. Chris Phillips
Honourable Mentions: Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Colin Greening and Bobby Butler.