Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From First Place, to First out!

Four and out, without a doubt, that sums up the Ottawa Senators brief sabbatical from the start of golf season. While they didn’t go out with a whimper, they certainly didn’t go out on their shields, Wednesday night the Senators never seemed to capture the sense of urgency that game four had presented to them and instead played sending off party to the Penguins quest for Stanley.

The crowd gave a half hearted thought to becoming a force, but by midway through the first period they had retreated (much like their hometown team) to casual observers of a season ending game.

Their only bright spot to the night, was the appearance of soon to retire Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier, clad in a Sens uni, there were hopes that the General might lead the charge, and while that never seemed to materialize, his appearance at least chased away the embarrassing semi clad Gladiator of the game before. The Centurion we guess, was used to proclaim the call to battle on Monday, a bit of theatre that didn't work out so well and seemed to be nixed for Game four (or at least if Glad the Wailer was in the rink, the CBC had the good sense not to rub things in at the expense of Ottawa and their fans).
From never surrender to running up the flag at the series end, it was a quick 48 hours for the Legions of Ottawa.
The Senator’s second season of misery came to an end after sixty minutes of the fourth game, with the Pittsburgh Penguins sweeping the same team that eliminated them from the playoffs one year ago.

Well, the same team in name only. Since Christmas this year’s edition of the Senators more resembled the stumbling, confused early groups that once played out the Civic Centre, Palladium, Corel Centre and Scotiabank Place.

The team that one year ago marched as far as the Stanley Cup finals (only to be swept without any delay by Anaheim) looked more like the confidence lacking team of playoffs past, whether eliminated by Leafs, Flyers or any other match up you care to look for.

Game four never provided much hope for the crowd, nor incentive for the bench that this was going to be any different a result than the previous three games. Pittsburgh while challenged in the first period never seemed to be in any peril.

Ottawa didn’t hit particularly much, didn’t shoot particularly much and only scored only once, surrendering their bid for a return to the finals with a 3-1 loss to a more energetic and confident Penguin squad.

Marc Andre Fleury, who had a very good series, wasn’t tested to the same extent as previous games, but when he was he stopped most of what limited attack Ottawa had to offer. Much like the three games before, their top scorers couldn’t score and their defense had remarkable trouble in controlling their own end of the rink.
Only Martin Gerber really held up his end of the bargain on most nights, though at times a key save required wasn’t there, but no one can point a finger in his direction, he did about as much as one person could have done to salvage the deteriorating situation in the capital’s post season.

Daniel Alfredsson, the injured captain strapped on his blades for one final attempt of myth building, the battered body and various tears testimony to his leadership but indicative of the curse of this season. Try as he might, he never seemed to have the same jump and never did find his timing. The last gasp of the Senators year was a reunion of the money line, with Alfreddsson teamed up with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, two under performing Sens through the latter stages of the season and missing in action for most of the four game sweep at the hand of the Pens.

Pittsburgh cruised through most of these games, Evginy Malkin in the early ones showing his game altering skills, Sidney Crosby replying in the latter games with goals and leadership on the ice.

Gary Roberts, a medical scratch for games three and four, proved to be the haunting of playoffs past, with his physical play and timely goal scoring in games one and two, indicative of the grit and dedication clearly lacking in the Ottawa line up.

Roberts can rest up for a bit, his Penguins deserving of their break until round two. The confidence gained from dismissing the Stanley Cup finalists will be of great benefit as they prepare for their next opponent. A squad of believers, that have refined their game to provide both fast paced offence, scoring and solid defensive play, combined with a willingness to pay the price physically and receiving dependable and spectacular goaltending, they are a team on the rise and look ready to challenge.

Much of the above was once said about the Senators, who very much resembled these Penguins not too long ago, a young eager team with a world of future ahead of them.

Tweaking is no longer an option for a team that comes so close and then lays down their arms. Something changed terribly in Ottawa before the blue prints became the finished product, now the reviews must begin, the inevitable changes will be made and a team that once was thought to be a dynasty in the making will have to be rebuilt.

After all a dynasty without a Cup to its name, isn’t much of a dynasty, it’s more of a disappointment.

Ottawa Citizen-- The end
Ottawa Sun-- A losing attitude
Globe and Mail-- Senators swept away
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Game 4: Pens sweep away Sens, 3-1
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins played the right team
. Stats Pack

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