Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tearing down the Belfour Wall!

Game four started out much like games two and three did before it, Belfour making the saves and the Leafs getting a goal. A scenario that in the last two games has resulted in a low scoring Leaf wins. Leaving frustrated Senators to look at their sticks and then to the sky asking why and when?

The Why was simple, it was yet another amazing performance of Eddie Belfour. The When as it turned out would be April 14, 2004 at the Corel Centre. Wednesday night the Sens, as they say got their groove back.

Game four brought a few changes to that familiar Pat Quinn plot line. With Daniel Aldredsson leading the way, finding the score sheet with a goal and an assist, it was Toronto that was faced with catch up hockey and tonight they didn’t have the horses to do it.

The Senators refused to panic when Gary Roberts got the all important first goal for Toronto; they came back and showed their hometown fans that any talk of a quick exit was unnecessary. The Sens, out hit, out skated, out shot and out scored a suddenly old looking Toronto team. Belfour appeared merely ordinary in game four, largely due to the Senator attack of constantly being able to keep somebody in front or close to the front of the Leaf net, running a screen, clogging up the defense or ready to bat in a rebound. The Sens found their playbook and stuck to it in Game four.

With less than 40 seconds to go in the first period Daniel Alfredsson converted a Martin Havlat pass into a goal, the first one behind Belfour in 157 minutes. They probably heard the sigh of relief and the resulting celebration all the way back at the Air Canada Centre. Marian Hossa regained his scoring touch in the second putting a beauty of a shot behind Belfour at 13:15 of the second. After that, the Sens were in total control, winning the physical battles and using smart puck control strategy though the rest of the second and third periods. The battered and cut Todd White scored the spirit crushing third goal in the third period, followed up by a power play marker by Chris Phillips, cementing the 4-1 victory.

Belfour faced 36 shots in his first loss since game one. Patrick Lalime came up big in the Sens net, making the kind of saves that Belfour made the past two games, shutting down the Leafs after the Roberts goal, making 22 saves on the night.

Injuries are starting to catch up with the grey beards in blue, Joe Nieuwendyk did not dress due to a suspected back injury, Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker both left the game in the third period with undisclosed injuries. With a day to nurse their various ails and with a pivotal game five on the line it’s expected all will return in two nights if at all possible. But the longer the series goes the older the Leafs look, the quicker those nagging little injuries become bigger problems. Simply put; they won't be able to keep the pace of the younger Sens much longer.

Game four is always the momentum game, if you win it you find yourself primed for the best 2 out of 3 showdown to come. Now that the Sens have broken through the Belfour wall, they can get back to the free wheeling style of hockey that found them success this past year. For Toronto an already overworked Belfour now is no longer invincible, something that will weigh on the minds of his team mates. No longer will a 1-0 lead be considered the end of the game, the Sens know they can fill the net again. Bring on Game 5!

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