I'd like to be the first to welcome you all to the REAL Stanley Cup playoffs...they went old-school tonight! From the opening draw to Alfredsson's final hit at the buzzer, bodies were flying...they might as well have been bumper cars! Monster hits were being laid out with the intent to hurt. The game was frenetic and raucous...it easily was as good as game 1...only they replaced the goals with more hits. And the greatest thing of all about tonight's game was that the PLAYERS GOT TO PLAY! The officials had to keep the peace in the first period...in which 6 of the 8 total penalties were called. The last two penalties resulted in mostly 4-on-4 hockey, which means the final two periods were decided by the players...and ONLY the players! No weak hooking calls or cheap holding the stick infractions...just balls-to-the wall, pave your own road, old-school hockey...and I loved it! Corey Perry was obviously a marked man...and I loved the battles he was in with Fisher and Volchenkov. What a fun flashback to the playoffs of yonder-year!
For the first time in the playoffs, Ray Emery was PHENOMINAL! He was the best goalie on the ice and probably deserved the win. If not for him, the Ducks would have easily scored 5 or 6 goals. He stood on his head and was flat-out spectacular. In both games it appeared that part of Ottawa's game plan was to come out and hit Scott Niedermayer early and often. I'm not sure why this is important to them? Maybe they hope it will get the rest of the Ducks thinking about retaliation and not about winning. Whatever the case, it really does nothing more than allow him an easier chance to sneak into the play...as he did early on after taking a big hit. Anaheim skated in 3-on-2 and he basically ended up 1-on-1 against Emery. I'm not sure this theory is worth continuing. However, the energy and passion the Senators came out with tonight was incredible. They threw some hellacious hits and were able to grab the momentum for a little while. Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize on the extended 5-on-3 power play...even though numerous times the passes were perfect, the men were open, and the net was gaping. Not being able to take advantage of the golden opportunity hurt them, more than anything, mentally. Spezza continues to seem uneasy and nervous out there...he is nowhere close to guy we saw all year. Redden played poorly...he appears to be suffering from, as they say in football, alligator arms. Two times early on in the game, he failed to get the puck out at critical times. He was guilty of this in game 1, as well as several turnovers in both games. In game 1 especially, he took some major hits and instead of focusing on getting the puck out, he prepared for the hit. I'm not saying I blame him...but then again I don't get paid to be an all-star defenseman either.
Again the Ducks entire team was a factor. Selanne was speedy and crafty...he continues to create scoring opportunities with his blazing quickness. I thought May and Rob Niedermayer looked great tonight, and the defense was solid. Though they need no mention, and though they did not get a goal tonight...line 656 was their usual force. I like 656 instead of PGP because that is how many pounds the other team has to compete against when they are on the ice! I had to scratch my eyes and do a double-take as, for the first time I can recall, they were actually pinned in once in their own end. Completely shocking...I know! No goal was scored so no harm done. They continued to bully their way to Emery's net and pound the guys that are ordered to face them. Getzlaf continues to impress with his defense...he was out their on the 5-on-3 and in the final two minutes. He is an excellent all-around player with a very bright future.
The plain, ugly truth is this...Ottawa cannot give more than they gave tonight. They came out with guns a blazing, hit to hurt everything in sight, and had glorious scoring opportunities on the power play. A win was all but certain...the game was entirely theirs for the taking...but they failed miserably. They gave their absolute, best effort, and Ducks still proved impenetrable. The play leading up to the game-winning goal is representative of the series...the Senators simply cannot hang. Their top line was on the ice and they ended up with a (-1). Heatley and Spezza turned the puck over, Pahlsson skated right by Alfredsson, and Corvo failed to engage...allowing him to fire a perfect shot to the far side of a screened Emery. A great individual effort and a beautiful goal...it is the second game-winner in a row to come from the checking line. In actuality, the Senators played their best hockey since early in the first, after the goal. In fact, after the horrible play that led to the goal, Spezza-Alfredsson-Heatley almost got it right back. Maybe they should spot the Ducks a one-goal lead in game 3...see if that will get them going? Ironically, they had their best chances before they pulled Emery. Ottawa had a few more good chances but that was over by the two-minute mark. Those final minutes might have been the loudest I've every heard it in Anaheim...the fans were outstanding! Their team responded nicely and completely shutdown the Sens...they were never allowed to set-up and I'm not even sure they got a shot off. It was a textbook example of how to put away a game without scoring an empty-netter.
Outcomes aside, this series has been AWESOME. The hits, the goals, the skating, the saves...it has all been top-notch and invigorating! I would love nothing more than for the Senators to come alive in Ottawa and force the series to 6 or 7 games. Unfortunately, it is going to take a lot more than just coming alive...they are going to have to hope the Ducks take a night or two off!