Monday, June 04, 2007

No Pronger, No Problems

By the end of play in game number four, Chris Pronger’s enforced day off from work provided no peril and in fact may have been the motivational factor that propelled the Anaheim Ducks to a near completion of their mission.

The skate is now firmly at the throat of the Ottawa Senators. That after the Ducks took a commanding 3 games to one lead in the Stanley Cup final on Monday night, taking down the Senators 3-2 at Scotiabank Place.

In the end the Ducks once again returned to the domination game that they had played to perfection in games one and two, even though the Senators appeared to be back on their game as play began in the first period.

With control of the play and a flurry of shots directed as JS Giguere it seemed like Ottawa was on the cusp of bringing the series to a draw and forcing the Ducks to fight in a best of three final for the Cup.

Missed opportunities, weak power play efforts and stellar goaltending from Giguere would in the end however come back to haunt the Senators. A crossbar here, a post there and shots wide far too often left Ottawa frustrated and wondering what it would take to score.

They managed to get on the board with the first goal as the clock ticked down in the first; having rattled the Ducks in the early frame and taking an all important first goal the Sens had set up a raucous entry to period number two. A period which as the game would flow would be one to forget for the Sens and their fans.

The second period proved to be the undoing of Ottawa once again as the Ducks came out after the break and returned to the hard hitting and puck possession that has highlighted their run in this playoff series. Andy McDonald was the hero for the Ducks, scoring twice in one minute in a breakdown of defensive play that Ottawa would not recover from. The troubles in their own end once again became the definitive portion of the game as the Sens were incapable of controlling the Ducks, taking the puck back or mounting an attack of significant resolve.

The Ducks were full value for their third win of the series, adjusting to Ottawa’s play of the first and returning the Sens to a confused state, unsure of how to move the puck, let alone get close enough to take a shot at the Ducks net. Those opportunities that did arrive, as few as there were in the latter stages of the game, were handled with little trouble by Giguere.

Time would run out on Ottawa once again, an empty net at their end providing an extra skater and would be scorer, but few scoring chances to make use of the man advantage.

The once boisterous Ottawa crowd was left mute with the prospect of having seen their last hockey game of the 2006-07 season. They were witness to an unkind ending, having a long held wish in the capital of a giant celebration of hockey begin to fade away like an unfinished dream.

As they say it’s never over til it’s over, and Ottawa can still mount a comeback for the ages, but the task ahead is a rather daunting. A three game streak is now required for Ottawa to return the Stanley Cup to Ottawa for the first time since 1927. The way the Ducks have focused in on their task at hand, it seems an unlikely expectation.

Yet that is where Sens fans will be on Wednesday night, one game at a time is the cliché and now, they need to win each shift, each period and each game. It’s a process that they will have to employ against an Anaheim team that can surely almost taste the champagne.

Far too often in this series, the Sens have let the urgency of the moment escape them, with the Ducks but one win away from a Stanley Cup victory, the most desperate of hockey will now have to be played on a nightly basis, a process that is hard to keep alive for one game, let alone three.

No comments: