Thursday, May 31, 2007


The one, the only Jean-Pierre Allard checks in following the Senators' 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.

It’s fitting, if not highly ironic, that Anaheim's checking line not only continued to muzzle Ottawa’s top offensive line, but also proved to be the difference in a close game for the second time in as many tries in the Stanley Cup final.

Say hello to Sammy Pahlsson, the Game 2 hero who scored the only goal with a little over five minutes left in the one-sided contest for the Ducks, coming right on the heels of his linemate Travis Moen's game-winner with in the final three minutes of Monday's series opener.

So it's back to Ottawa for Game 3 on Saturday with the Senators on the brink of kissing away yet another glorious chance of winning their first Cup in their reincarnated history.

If they could only envisage going home knowing they can compete with the mightier, faster, grittier, smarter and hungrier Ducks. Forget what both Don Cherry and Daniel Alfredsson said about Anaheim winning two in their building and now facing a Senators team that can easily return the favour at Scotiabank Place.

Not gonna happen.

Or that Ottawa can’t possibly play any worse than they have in the first two games, yet lost both by these by one lousy late goal.

You ain’t seen nothing yet, Randy Bachman, even if you likely had the pleasure of cheering, from a distance, a young Teemu Selanne on his way to a rookie record 76 goals in 1992-93, the year the Senators were reborn and made sure they finished last in order to pick Alexandre Daigle instead of Chris Pronger in the draft.

I simply cannot see how this a team can win a game against the Ducks, let alone four, unless Ray Emery steals four straight games, which he almost did last night in a phenomenal 30-save performance before Pahlsson surprised him with a sneaky shot to his blocker side after yet another turnover, this time by Dany Heatley, followed by passive defensive plays by Alfredsson and Joe Corvo.

The entire Senators team has looked exactly like I expected them to look much earlier, if not against the baby Penguins, then against the grittier Devils or faster Sabres. Namely, slower, lackadaisical, gripping their sticks too tight, coughing up the puck, failing to penetrate the defense and turning the puck over while getting ridiculously hammered by stronger opponents.

Say hello to the 2007 Ducks who have a remarkable combination of the aforementioned three teams’ qualities, plus a goalie who is aptly named the Michelin Man, though I much prefer calling him “Jiggy Stardust” in honour of would-be alien David Bowie. Throw in a smart and savvy Randy Carlyle as head coach for good measure and is it any wonder that the Senators have looked like little frightened and awestruck teenagers in the land of californication.

10-1 Anaheim. Sounds like the cross-street Angels' pitcher John Lackey's won-loss record.
Instead, that's how badly Ottawa was outshot by Anaheim in the first 11 minutes last night. Sorry folks, but that’s a totally inexcusable way to start a playoff game, never mind the biggest one in the history the franchise. So they got 6 more shots by the end of a scoreless initial frame, thanks mainly to a 5-on-3 when they had a few close chances but J.S. Giguere stopped them. The Anaheim goalie then went back to reading his newspaper until the last three minutes of the game when Ottawa finally played with an urgency that simply wasn't there in the first 57 minutes.

Emery had nothing to show for his effort, other than the little consolation that the Ducks could have easily won the game 7-0.

Final shots were 31-16 for Anaheim. Need I say more?

We'll never quite know what short-term effect, or long-term one for that matter, the decision by coach Bryan Murray to break up his big line so soon will have, but it sure didn't have the desired effect. The Senators were again slow coming out of the gate, as well as curiously ineffectual, save for some thundering checks that, alas, netted them minor penalties, instead of slowing down the Ducks. In fact, by the halfway mark of the first, the Pizza Line was back together, but only for a short-lived tenure, broken again to start the second, and back on sporadically the rest of the game. Again, hard to tell but my take is that this might have been a tad too early. Perhaps Murray should have given them a few more periods.

Perhaps Murray shouldn't be so patient with Jason Spezza. By the middle of the second, the big lazy centre had not only given up the puck numerous times, but was clearly losing all battles along the boards, not to mention being outright owned by Pahlsson in the faceoff circle. That a player who was, up until two games ago, at the top of his game, can lose his focus in such a short time begs the question as to exactly what kind of frame of mind Spezza (and the rest too for that matter) has been in ever since the Senators’ plane touched down in California.

All in all, chalk up another 21 turnovers to go with the 14 from Game 1. Definitely not a smart way to start a Cup finals.
Hate to bring up baseball again (blame it on Gary Bettman for the sweet game of baseball "bourquing" me from this so-called show) but it’s getting late very early all of a sudden in the Nation's Capital.

Any bet that religion, the only subject out of a million, according to Google, that hasn't found its way in the pervasive coverage of the Ottawa Senators Be Red campaign will be front and centre in this morning’s editions.

Something like:

"Sens 600,000 Faithful Left On A Wing And A Prayer"

Or perhaps even:

"Sens Brass Contemplating Emergency Pilgrimage To Mount Royal’s St. Joseph Oratory"


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