Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Le meilleur des mondes possibles"

We're all a little disappointed right now. Perhaps the more appropriate term is questioning. Watching the Senators in Games One and Two, I know that this is a better team than it looked like. Since the team is better than they appeared, I am going to assume there are a number of external factors that have led to Ottawa losing the first two games of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. I don't care if it's just the rose-coloured glasses talking, but I'm going to outline a number of factors that have resulted in the Senators losing their games:

1. Officiating
I can hear it now; everyone saying that it's useless to blame the referees, that the Sens have to adjust, and that it is the same ref for both teams. But you know what? To hell with all that. After the lockout, general managers in the NHL were instructed that there would be a crackdown on obstruction in an effort to increase goal scoring. This Ottawa Senators team was built around that guarantee, and now all of our hopes are being quashed by interference creeping back into the game.
As a few examples, watch out in Game Three for "incidental" contact away from the puck. The first coming to mind for me was Rob Neidermayer running interference on Daniel Alfredsson right off the faceoff in the first period, and then getting a scoring chance because Alfie couldn't get to the puck. A second was a so-called 'highlight reel' of Samuel Pahlsson which demonstrated four plays: a hook, a slash, an interference penalty, and then a shot on net. Want to know why he's been instrumental in shutting down the CASH line? It's because he's using tactics that are against the rules to slow them down. It shouldn't matter how many penalties have been called against the Ducks already, and it's unfortunate that it does affect how the game is called.
On the other side of the coin, what was the reasoning for a second-period penalty on Anton Volchenkov for finishing a bodycheck on Dustin Penner after Penner had turned his back to intentionally get hit from behind? Ridiculous. Perhaps an Ottawa Senator should keep an eye out for some Duck with his stick in the air, and then skate face-first into it to draw a high-sticking call. Another quizzical brainfart from the referees was blowing down the play to call a penalty on Anaheim when Alfredsson was in complete possession of the puck and about to take a shot from the high slot. What, did the rules change when I took a quick trip to the bathroom?

2. Greg Millen and Bob Cole
These guys are ridiculous. I am going to watch the rest of the games on NBC, and I don't care how many times they explain what an off-side is. It's not even enough to remember that they cut off an overtime game to show a pre-horse-race show, I don't care. Maybe it's Bob Cole commenting on Chris Kelly's beautiful hit on Antoine Vermette, or how he loves Sid the Kid Crosby so much that he brought his name randomly into the play-by-play, or Millen verbally blowing J-S Giguere, but there's something not right about these two.
I'm sure that the Senators, now composed of 61 per cent Canadian players (and 100% players playing in Canada), have heard new of the Canadian Broadcasting Network's representatives consistently sympathizing with whoever is playing against Ottawa, and that has definitely affected their play. I'm confident Ottawa can look past this indiscretion, however, and come out strong to turn every Canadian (except possibly Leafs fans) into a Sens Army recruit.

3. Ice conditions
Joe Corvo brought it up, and in Game Two I could really see what he was talking about. Bouncing pucks completely spoiling good scoring opportunities for the Sens, while the Ducks take advantage of their knowledge of the tendencies of vulcanized rubber on terrible ice surfaces. When the Sens return to Ottawa, and deal with decent ice conditions, we'll see what's what. Watch out, Anaheim.

4. The layoff
Before the series began, I didn't believe the layoff excuse. After Games One and Two, I'll take anything. In their neverending quest to appease American broadcasters and audiences (at the risk of disenfranchising Canadian ones), the NHL decided to wait a full week after the last semi-final ended to begin the finals. Players aren't used to that kind of crap, jackasses.

5. The game time
In the same way the NHL accomodated NBC for the layoff, they've also made every game at 8:00 EST. I guess that's just as much for the Eastern Canadian audiences, but it doesn't seem to be working, anyway. It results in messed pre-game rituals, and (as stated by Garry Galley) the presence of the dreaded Anaheim afternoon heat seeping through the doors and sullying the ice for the Senators.
6. TV time-outs
One time in the game, after the Ducks iced the puck, there was a TV timeout. If the purpose of penalizing a team by not allowing a change is to encourage defensive panic and to discourage a team from icing the puck to relieve pressure, there is no sense in going to a TV timeout. I'm positive the Senators would have scored off the ensuing faceoff had there been no break in play.
So I'll just wait for the bad luck to pass, remain hopeful that all of these factors--combining to form the reason behind Ottawa's two losses--will pass shortly, and assure myself that the Senators will win as soon as they do. In the meantime, I'm going to continue writing to CBC and demanding that they instate my NHL play-by-play dream-team, Galley and Jim Hughson.
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