Well, I definately have to eat some crow today. I guess showing loyalty beyond reason on game day is what is great about sports, but it definately makes the day after losing a crucial game in a series that you really have no chance of winning that much tougher. I agree with Penguins fans around the world -- Pittsburgh is definately a 100% better team than the 2008 Ottawa Senators. The Penguins have everything Ottawa used to have -- youth, speed, skill, chemistry -- plus some things Ottawa has only had in short bursts -- solid and reliable goaltending, and gritty skilled players; though, it may be hard to name more then one player (Hasek? Fisher?) for either category in Ottawa's history.
The game last night was epic for two periods and the Bank was rockin'. Hits, big saves, back-and-forth action -- I think the shots through two were 27/26, Ottawa. Then the third period hit and the game was over in less than two minutes. The final frame revealed another trait about Pittsburgh that Ottawa used to boast -- they have a quick-strike offence that will bury you and you may be helpless to stop it. Anyways, this series has one game left; two if Pittsburgh mails it in (another new trait of theirs...low blow!) so they can win on home ice. I have a bad feeling about the Penguins in subsequent rounds, though, as the Senators have not prepared them at all for a fierce or skilled team with a win-at-all-costs mentality.
There are few things I want to touch on:
1) For anyone who has ever doubted Daniel Alfreddson's commitment to his team and teammates, well, don't say it to my face. He is a gamer if there ever was one, and yes his impact on the ice was minimal, but he showed up and at least tried to help Ottawa to victory. He couldn't mix it up, but he has a torn MCL!!! Regardless, the crowd went crazy for him all game, and for the team, and his teammates let him down by not elevating their overall game.
2) I commented before about Crosby disrespecting the Canadian national anthem, by eyeballing his opponents and then getting very serious during the U.S. anthem. I was wrong, as last night the reverse happened. Sorry, Sid -- I don't see your routine enough. You played well last night though (not as well as Geno -- holy crapfest, is he amazing or what! Penguins fans, you are blessed...)
3) Here is a scenario for you to ponder -- if Neil corked Fleury, accidental or not, would the Pittsburgh players do anything? How about if Neil scored to tie the game up, giving his team much needed momentum in your building? Somebody from Pittsburgh would take business into their own hands. Well last night, one of my new favourite Penguins, Maxime Talbot did both these things -- hammered Gerber accidentally and scored a big goal to tie the game at one -- and not one player stepped up and rammed a fist down his throat. Neil took three roughing penalties at horribly inopportune times (none of which were off-setting) when a fight with Talbot would have brought the house down. Which brings me to my final point...
4) So far the Senators have scored 4 goals in 3 games -- Donovan, Stillman, Bass, and Foligno. What is the common thread these four players share? None of them were on the team last year -- you remember, the team that went to the FINALS!?!?!? It really puts into perspective the pit of disarray this team has fallen into since their amazing start to the season. How does a team which succeded greatly one year fall so quickly the next, with the core of the team still intact? Something has infected this team's psyche, and I don't know if it is something a coaching change can cure. I can see a very different looking team next season, with the a majority of the following names possibly not being around off of this year's squad -- Robitaille, Redden, Kelly, Stillman, Vermette, Commodore, Neil, Spezza, Meszaros, Emery, Donovan. Some are UFAs, some are RFAs, some are trade bait, and some will be retained, but Ottawa will have a very different look next year as they, unfortunately, are on the verge of a very real re-building process.
Anyways, Game Four here we come. I hope for the best, but have been prepared since mid-February for the worst.