Thursday, May 23, 2013

All Hell Breaks Loose In Kanata After Game 4 Collapse

There’s no disguising it. That was likely a fatal loss for the Senators in Game Four last night against the Penguins. Blown out, left for dead, vultures in the rafters.

An enraged Coach Paul MacLean pulled a John Tortorella after the game by throwing the game notes onto a podium and walking out of his press conference, presumably to go lay a cruel but necessary beating on assistant Dave Cameron behind closed doors. That was the kind of brutal night it was.

The fallout has been heavy -heavier than you’d think it would be considering how outmatched Ottawa is by their opponent - and the debris is collecting around three specific players. Namely Craig Anderson, Sergei Gonchar and Daniel Alfredsson.

Let’s quickly try to sort through it for the sake of everyone’s sanity so we can go enjoy that sunny weather here in Ottawa.

First, Craig Anderson.

He’s the best goalie in the league right now, but nobody can be expected to put up a wall against the best offense in the NHL. It’s just not possible over a series. You can do it in a single game and you can do it in individual periods, like Anderson did last night in the first, but they’ll always score on you eventually. That’s how the Penguins are built.

It doesn’t help that the Senators have been consistently sloppy in their own zone this series but the best defensive team would still be giving up 3 or 4 goals a game on most nights to this group. Momentum swings in the playoffs are sometimes unstoppable and that’s what happened last night to start the second period. If Anderson hadn’t played one of the best periods of any goalie in Senators history, it would have been 5-2 Pens to open the second, not 2-1 Ottawa.

Anderson is the Senators best weapon – and only real hope to make this a series. Unless MacLean has some wild scheme to radically change the chemistry and throw the Penguins off stride, I can’t see Robin Lehner starting in Game 5.

Secondly, Sergei Gonchar.

Rough, rough game for the vet. And whenever Gonchar gets a penalty or even stumbles on a word in an interview, the dyed-in-the-wool Gonchar haters come out and set fire to Twitter. He was as much a victim of bad calls as he was bad luck. The first penalty for interference was an early game call that wouldn’t have been made in the third. Every defenseman does that play a hundred times a game. It was a bad call. No harm, no foul – Ottawa scores short-handed.

The tough one to start the third, a high-sticking call on Matt Cooke that lead to a Pens goal, was a case of a defenseman battling a forward in front of the net. Cooke sold it pretty well but what was Gonchar supposed to do? If he’s not hard on Cooke in front of the net, the Pens score and he’s the one blamed. It’s all in the realm of acceptable battles but Gonchar got a little overzealous and hit a bent-over Cooke in the back of the head.

Yet he had some ugly defensive plays for sure and that’s hard to watch in such an important game. But like I said, momentum is a bitch and once the Penguins got rolling, all of the Senators defensemen were skating on cement. Jared Cowen had a similarly tough night with the speed of the Penguins.

Gonchar has been an invaluable presence on that blueline this year and has had a good run in these playoffs so far. To bury the guy for one bad game against an almost unstoppable offensive team is a bit rich. The future Hall Of Famer will bounce back like he always does. He’s too good not to.

Thirdly, Daniel Alfredsson.

I wish I didn't have to get into this one, but there’s no way to ignore it because it’s now a verified shit-storm of almost Bryzgalovian proportions.

You all know he said “Probably not” when asked if the Senators had a chance to come back and win three in a row.

He also said “But we've never quit, and we're not going to stop now. The odds are against us in every way. I don't think there's much going for us. Maybe that's the way we like it."

To me, this was a guy who was asked moments after a crushing loss when the emotions were still raw and unprocessed through the “don’t say something honest” filter that all NHL players have installed in their brains. I’m sure he regrets those two words now that he’s slept on it, but in context with the quote that followed it, it doesn’t sound like a guy throwing in the towel. It sounds like a captain who knows the odds are stacked against his team but is not about to say “die”. Just like the Senators have done all season long.

Some people will see it as heresy, but those people weren’t just humiliated on home ice in what could be the penultimate game of their entire career. You’d be emotional too. In fact, in the same situation, you might blurt out “We’re completely f***ed and I’m going to go out right now and get shitfaced. Thanks for coming.”

Think of it rationally for a minute. Do you really believe a guy like Alfie, with all that character and class, meant to say he was throwing in the towel on the team?

Come on. He shouldn’t have said it that way, but sometimes shit happens, as they say.

The Senators will move on and nobody will be playing harder than Alfredsson. Should be a good one Friday night.


Anonymous said...

I have NO issues with Alfie's comments, if anything he has earned the right to be completely honest.

What I do have an issue with is our paethetic defence: EK, Gonchar and Cowan (in order) all had ab abysmal night during a crucial game! These guys are supposed to be professional athletes but they're sure not performing like professionals. Focus focus focus, and discipline.

I'm absolutely SICK and tierd of EK's bullsh$t - if he wants to play forward and score a cazillion goals then just move positions. In the meantime he is supposed to be a defenceman so start acting like one! Giving up a 2-0 breakaway in your own building game 4 (quasi elimination game, just ask Alfi how he felt about the loss) is totaly inexcusable. Furthermore, EK is supposedly one of the leaders on this team. Pffft is what I say to that.

Big shout out to the young offensive players for the Senators, they didnt give up all game and tried their underskilled hearts out.

Anonymous said...

Great column but take issue with your (and Ottawa Citizen) take that Andy is the best goaltender in the world/playoffs right now.

Quite simply, an .850ish save percentage in 3 of 4 games isn't even close to being the best. You can say he's facing a team full of weapons but guess what, if the Senators want to win a Cup they'll have to go through a team like this. Andy is a good goalie that can get hot and then is average the rest of the time.

I've always doubted Anderson and I'm being proven right...but he can prove me wrong (and you right) by shutting the Penguins down in the next 3 years. Robin Lehner is the future, he is a winner, he will continue to win.

Anonymous said...

Meant games, not years. Message is the same though, Andy is below average right now.

Anonymous said...

I think Kassian should dress and do what should have been done in game one. I don't think he gets it the way Carker does.

Anonymous said...

Wow, anon, your standards for EK are pretty high - apparently he's somehow supposed to take responsibility on a play where he was probably the one guy who couldn't do anything.

Watch that goal again. Right before the rush starts he's taken out of the play by a hit (uncalled interference but whatever). Bobby Orr, couldn't have done anything on that one. Neil and the other D-man, meanwhile...

Ross H said...

I can't believe the reaction to Alfie's "probably not" comment. Here's a guy who's actions speak louder than words; scores the goal with 26 seconds left to tie game 3; gets the third goal for the Sens when they're getting blown out 7-2. Daniel Briere called him one of the fiercest competitors he's ever played against. Nobody who has any sense would believe he's not going to give it his best. But there are a lot of haters (Leaf fans) out there.