Monday, April 23, 2012

Alfredsson Boils Over As Ottawa Gives New York Game 6... Sens Back In Underdog Role For Game 7 At MSG

New York 3 Ottawa 2 (Series tied at 3)

We all knew what Daniel Alfredsson was thinking as he utterly destroyed his stick on the bench after a tough 3rd period shift. But you have to wonder what was going through Jakob "Greener Than Grass" Silfverberg's head as he sat on the bench next to this suddenly maniacal Swedish legend and watched him stomp a water-bottle to death with his skate once the stick was taken care of.

Silfverberg was just thankful for the opportunity to play in an NHL post-season game while Alfredsson was just angry at seeing another opportunity slip away while he sat on the bench during a Senators power-play.

It was a disappointing night for Ottawa's star players with Jason Spezza playing his worst game of the series and Milan Michalek not helping him out much either. Coach Paul MacLean didn't use Spezza much in the 3rd, and that's understandable, but the coach also has to answer for changing a winning lineup just to insert a rookie like Silfverberg. Not that the young Swede was bad (in fact he was more noticeable than some other Senators) but you have to wonder what it felt like for players like Kaspars Daugavins and Bobby Butler who have been in Ottawa all year to suddenly get pushed aside for a rookie who hasn't been in that dressing room all year long or even worn the logo yet. It was an interesting chemistry experiment during a critical game. Not sure why it was needed, but you can't blame that situation for the loss.

There's no moral victories this late in a series. The Senators had their foot on the Rangers throats after the first period with a chance to clinch and they bungled it away with a sloppy second period that saw New York get two power-play goals and a heartbreaking late even-strength goal by rookie Chris Kreider.

Some thought the goalie interference call on Nick Foligno was soft, but to me it was clear that Foligno was pulling that "oops, didn't see you there" act at exactly the wrong time and he got dinged for it like he has all season. Brad Richards scored on that same man-advantage and it caused Ottawa to lose all the focus they had in a great first period. If Foligno is lucky, it won't be looked upon as the turning point in the series for the Rangers.

Not only was it a wasted opportunity for Ottawa, but it could have been their last one now that they have to go into a seventh game in New York with the momentum out of their hands.

You can go ahead and point to Ottawa's great record at MSG and their season long ability to bounce back from tough games, but as it stands, the Senators chances are 50-50 at best and in reality probably a little less than that. Ask any player and they'd tell you they want to play that seventh game at home with the last-change and their own fans giving them energy.

What does work in Ottawa's favour is that pressure is still on the Rangers to win this series. Never mind that the Senators have been the better team through six games. If the Senators lose Game 7, the press will be relatively easy on them and the exit stories will be all about how this team overachieved and almost knocked off the giant of the East if it weren't for a few bad bounces (or the best goalie in the world - there's no denying that). If the Rangers fall at MSG, guys like Larry Brooks will be all too eager to start carving the Blueshirts and everything from the Rangers system to their star players like Marian Gaborik will be called into question. Not so with Ottawa.

If you think about it, would the Senators be able to do this any other way? A home victory in Game 6 would have been way too easy on everybody. It's almost like this team needs the odds against them to play their best hockey. They looked terrible in the second period but got into the third with everything against them and they actually made a go of it in the last few minutes with that late goal and another opportunity in the last few seconds.

But that's just theory. Tell this stuff to Alfredsson and he might stomp your balls off if he's in the wrong mood. He was beyond upset for about 5 minutes in that last frame because he knew his team had blown it. The underdog stuff is fuel for the young guys, but the captain has seen just about everything now and all he wanted was that win.

He still has a chance to get it on Thursday night and the two day break will give both teams more than enough time to prepare.

It's going to come down to goaltending and a little puck luck. All the Senators can do now is go to New York and put it all on the ice.

May the best team win.

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Chris Neil
2. Sergei Gonchar
3. Kyle Turris


Anonymous said...

I am absolutely so sick and tired of Jason Spezza's lackadaisical approach in the playoffs. Sure he get some points here and there, but he sure won't elevate his game like Richards does. He spends his minutes circling the perimeter and taking Mickey Mouse shots from the outside. He leaves the hard dirty work for others to do, and makes way way too many giveaways/mistakes.

Unless JS elevates his game significantly in game 7 I say it's time to cut him loose and continue the rebuild. It won’t be easy, but philly has shown it can work.

benn90 said...

@anonymous I think that's a bit knee-jerk which I understand. Last night's game was awfully frustrating and certainly not a high point for Spezza this series. However, with the exception of last night, I don't think Richards has been much better than Spezza in terms of elevating his game. I think your argument is being made on the basis of reputation. The bottom line is that Spezza is going up against the top pairing on one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league. There have certainly been times at which he's shown some poor decision-making but I think he made a strong case for himself throughout the year and cutting him loose would be a big mistake. And don't think for a second you'd get a legitimate top line center in return (let alone one that'll finish top 5 in scoring). I understand the frustration though and hopefully we'll see these guys at their best on Thursday.