Ottawa Senators take the ice, 03.27.08; Video by Me
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And it started so well. So promising… after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals last June to a stronger and more experienced Anaheim team the Ottawa Senators began this season with the National Hockey League’s best start ever, going 15-2… that’s fifteen wins, and two losses. Then, sometime around January, their brains exploded.
It wasn’t like they couldn’t win games… just that they couldn’t win them in bunches. From December until the end of the regular season in April, they went 28-29-8 and came within just a couple of points of missing the playoffs altogether.
It’s actually not that unusual over the past dozen years for the team which loses in the Finals to miss the Playoffs or get creamed in the first round. But the other teams previously in the same situation as the Senators started the season with losing records. They were hungover, burnt out from two straight months of hyper-competitive playoff hockey, whereas the Senators seemed to be energized and experienced.
There are a couple of excuses, a player with a bad attitude, a coach who got fired and some injuries to key players, but really the team just got into a deep funk. The team was in a malaise worthy of 1979’s Jimmy Carter. They tried meetings, they tried a couple of trades but everything they tried just seemed to act as a hand pressing down on the heads of the players.
The Ottawa Senators, despite losing some excellent and talented players over last summer, are still one of the deepest and most talented teams in the NHL. But after January they had no focus, they looked like they were lost… like they were mildly stoned.
But really, because Bryan Murray, the General Manager, waited so long to change the coaching staff, and actually replacing the Head Coach with himself, there was actually very little the Senators could have done. The team lacked focus even to the point of having no set system for their offence, defence and special teams. They were just players milling around most nights.
And that’s how they went into the Playoffs. They also went in missing three of their top six forwards and played against the Pittsburgh Penguins, probably the most offensively talented group of players on any team this season.
And now they’re out, swept in four straight games in a seven game series. And they’ve got three months — the Off Season — to figure out how to break this weird malaise…
Daniel Alfredsson, the captain of the Senators, actually played two of the games with a torn MCL knee ligament.
Of course now I’m stuck with a gloating step-father and grandfather, who are both lifelong fans of the Montreal Canadiens… the Senators have made the playoffs in eleven straight years, winning the Eastern Conference Championship, the Presidents Trophy and several Division Championships along the way. The entire time my step-father and grandfather have told me how crappy Ottawa’s players and coaches really are, all while watching Montreal fail to make the playoffs.
And now… Montreal has a team, led by a phenomenal rookie goaltender, which might actually make a run for the Stanley Cup Finals. Which has my family members deluded into believing the Canadiens have a chance at winning. They don’t. The Senators at full tilt might have had a shot at winning the Stanley Cup this year, but it would have been a serious struggle. That’s how strong the Western Conference is…
I really hate the Off Season. Because the Senators have been so successful during the past few years this is as early as they’ve been out and I’ve had to change my allegiances.
So now I’m going with Pittsburgh to win the Eastern Conference, and the Anaheim Ducks from the West, and I think they’ll repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. And I am aware that both teams, over the past two playoff seasons, crushed the Senators like a pop can.
…I can’t believe the Senators got beaten last year and this year by teams named after waterfowl.