Gameday preview: Senators at Penguins

People have been writing off the 2013 Ottawa Senators since before the season even started.

“I think everything’s right here. It’s 7-3. See you in Pittsburgh.” ~ Paul MacLean

The 3-1 hole

People have been writing off the 2013 Ottawa Senators since before the season even started. Coming off a season in which the team finished eighth despite enjoying great health and benefitting from career years for many of the team’s best offensive players, believing this team could or would take a dip in the standings was a logical and completely defensible thing to do.

And that was when pundits were evaluating the chances of a healthy Senators roster. Once key players were felled by significant injuries, this team still found a way (thanks in part to the seamless contributions of the 14 rookies who appeared in a Senators jersey) to persevere and stay in the playoff hunt.

Having overcome so much during this lockout shortened season, it’s almost hard to believe that it will be the end of the road with one more loss.

As difficult as Daniel Alfredsson believes it will be for the Senators to square things up, they have clawed back from a 3-1 hole before. The last time they did was in the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals versus New Jersey where they pushed it to a seventh and deciding game before eventually losing with two minutes left in regulation (Curse you Jeff Friesen).

Overblown comments

Speaking of Alfie’s comments on whether he thought the Senators could come back to win the series, the amount of microanalysis and kneejerk level of concern for what the captain had to say bordered on the ridiculous.

“Probably not. With their depth and power-play right now, it doesn’t look too good.”

Alfie caught flak from individuals who perceive this as a sign of weakness and poor leadership. They will admonish the captain for not throwing out some clichéd response that magically provides glib justification that this team has something left in the tank.

Truth is, regardless of what Alfie could have said, there’s no right answer.

We’ve heard bravado from Alfie before…

… and we all know how that series ended.

To his credit, Alfie spoke honestly and I don’t see anything nothing wrong with that. Ottawa’s a seven seed that is down three games to one versus the best team in the Eastern Conference. The odds are stacked against Ottawa. That is just the reality of the situation that they are in.

Now, there is something to be said about the concerns for how this kind of quote could rub off on some of the team’s younger and more impressionable players, but the time for talk is over.

All that really matters is the Senators putting forth an honest effort on the ice in game five. If that happens, let the chips fall where they may.

Key moment in Game 4

Coming out for the start of the second period, the Senators held the lead for the first time in the series. That lead lasted for four minutes and fifty-three seconds.

Some sloppy play and blown coverage resulted in two Penguins goals within a span of forty seconds. A breakaway goal by Chris Kunitz and rebound tap-in by Jarome Iginla gave the Penguins the lead and they never looked back.

Lineup shuffling

Paul MacLean has hinted at possible lineup changes for tonight’s game and with the ineffective play of the Zack Smith/Mika Zibanejad/Chris Neil Line, one has to wonder whether MacLean will juggle his lines to break up that trio.

I cannot envision a situation in which Cory Conacher, a young asset that they acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, is going to sit for what potentially could be the last two games of the season.

Chris Kunitz only took two shifts in the third period of game four and there has not been an update on his health.

Interesting stat #1

Comes courtesy of Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The Penguins have an 0-6 record all-time under head coach Dan Bylsma in situations in which they have a chance to clinch a series at home.

Interesting stat #2

With his power play goal in the third period, Daniel Alfredsson became the first player in Senators history to crack the 100 career playoff point milestone. It may take some time before another member of the Senators even comes close to approaching that number. Jason Spezza ranks number two on the Senators’ franchise leaderboard with 51 points and the next closest active player on Ottawa’s roster is Chris Neil with 19 points.

Senators franchise playoff point leaders

1. Alfredsson – 100

2. Spezza – 51

3. Redden – 45

4. Heatley – 35

5. Havlat – 34

6. Hossa – 34

7. Fisher – 28

8. Bonk – 24

9. Schaefer – 20

10. Neil – 19

What’s at stake

For Ottawa, it’s their season.

Graeme Nichols writes and edits The 6th Sens blog. His gameday previews can be found here for the duration of the Senators’ playoff run

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment