Monday, May 28, 2007

Advantage Anaheim

Game one was one for the birds; the Anaheim Ducks recovered from an early Ottawa start and wore down their dance partners during Monday nights opening game of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Senators came out early and played the kind of style that brought them through three successive series, a fast paced and hard hitting brand of hockey that set them up nicely in the early going. So fast and furious was the Ottawa attack in that early going, that it generated a power play in the first minute of the game, that on a high sticking call to Scott Niedermayer. It was a mistake which Mike Fisher converted on, as his fluttering shot found its way into the Anaheim net in a most fluke like fashion, leaving the crowd at the Honda Centre in quiet contemplation at the two minute mark mulling over the 1-0 Ottawa lead.

It was a shock for the Ducks who suddenly were down a goal and had given the Sens that emotional boost that can change a series. By the ten minute mark however, the Ducks had recovered from that setback and gained the tying goal thanks to Andy McDonald who put one past Ray Emery, giving life to the faithful in the rink.

The first period ended with the two teams tied, but Anaheim showing some signs that they were ready to push Ottawa in game one. The Ducks were playing a more physical style of play by the end of the third, taking the boards, winning the face offs and consuming time at an alarming fashion.

Period two provided the Sens with another gift, yet another power play advantage as the Sens enjoyed a two man advantage early on in the second frame, one that the Ducks killed off with surgeon like skill, cutting off the Sens attack before it could launch and sending the Sens back into their own end time and time again to retrieve the puck. It was a golden opportunity to put the pressure on the Ducks and yet the Sens couldn’t mount much of an attack due to the Ducks ability to knock them off the puck.

The theme of courting disaster continued for the Ducks as they collected another penalty at the four minute mark of the second as Ryan Getzlaf was called on a cross check on Mike Comrie. Wade Redden would make the Ducks pay for that one thirty seconds later, leaving the Sens up by a goal heading into the third. Yet as the second period was winding down you sensed that the Ducks were gaining strength while the Sens were starting to shy away from the puck, refrain from taking the body and providing far too many scoring opportunities in front of Ray Emery.

As the third period began the rising tide of the Duck attack became a full force tsunami, the Ducks were everywhere. They were bashing the Sens on the boards, taking away the neutral zone and turning them back every time they ventured towards JS Giguere. Most importantly they were creating havoc in front of the Ottawa net, crashing to the crease, blocking Emery’s vision and man handling the Senators in their very own end of the rink.

It proved to be a strategy that paid off for Randy Carlyle as the Ducks picked up an early goal in the third from Ryan Getzlaf, who was flying all night long and seemed to control the play to the side of the Sens net.

The two teams played the tie for the bulk of the third but the Ducks were by far the more aggressive and in control of the two teams, they completely dominated the play sending the Sens reeling in their own end, watching Anaheim cycle the puck and shoot at will. The Sens big line of Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza not only couldn’t get untracked all night long, but made far too many uncharacteristic giveaways, killing their scoring chances before they even had a chance to form.

A third Anaheim goal from Travis Moen in the last three minutes, gave the Ducks the lead and finally seemed to spur the Sens to a cohesive attack, the last two minutes of play in the third provided the most consistent offence from Ottawa since the first five minutes of play, yet despite their opportunities and near misses they couldn’t find that third goal to send the game into overtime, instead they ceded game one to the Ducks and now must regroup and tweak their attack for a more positive result on Wednesday.

The flow of the play in the third was all Anaheim could have hoped for, they dictated the terms for the period and Ottawa seemed content to play the role of spectator far too much.
Considering Anaheim’s insistence on taking bad penalties, a process that haunted them in the previous series, Ottawa must make sure that its power play takes full advantage of the gifts when they arrive.

The Sens had their chances in the early going, but for a post here, a backside there or a cross bar at the top they could very well have been ahead by a couple or three goals by the first ten minutes, instead they allowed the Ducks to reclaim the game and then take it over, leaving the ice with 1 – 0 lead in the quest for Stanley. A much different and game long effort is needed Wednesday, the Sens need to get back to their game plan and make it work, Monday found them off track and sidetracked from their mission.

Below is some of the coverage from Monday night.

National Post-Ducks take first game
Ottawa Citizen-Ducks Win
Orange County Register-Ducks beat Senators 3-2
Orange County Register-Rob Niedermayer makes a name

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