Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Role Reversal!

It's astounding how much can change in just one year. I still remember sitting at my best friend's house only 1 year ago, watching game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, same two teams in a series that had gone totally wrong for Ottawa. We were the first seed, we were the powerhouse, we had Aflie, Spezz, Heater, Havlat, Chara & Redden, we were the favourite, we were supposed to win. And then we lost when oh captain our captain looked like he wasn't really interested in fighting a Buffalo player off the puck in overtime.

Fast forward one year:

  • They handed Ottawa the league's top point producer, Calder and Art Ross Trophy winning All-Star phenom, Sidney Crosby. Ottawa handed them a quick 5 game exit from the playoffs.
  • They threw at Ottawa the Calder Trophy, 2-Time Veznia Trophy, 4-Time William M. Jennings Trophy, 3-Time Stanley Cup winning goalie Martin Brodeur. Ottawa threw them out in 5 more games.
  • They dispatched the President's Trophy winning, high flying; Stanley Cup Favourite Buffalo Sabres to finally end Ottawa's season, and Ottawa dominates the series towards a 3-0 lead.

Talk about a role reversal, it's like that bad teen movie about the girl who switches bodies with her older (disturbingly more attractive) mother. They are the first seed, they are the powerhouse, they have Briere, Drury, Vanek, Pominville, Zubrus & Miller, they were the favourite, they were supposed to win.

I again had the pleasure of being part of the 20,000 plus people screaming at Scotiabank Place last night, and now having witnessed it in person, I think I've got an idea why Buffalo has given up. (And I do in fact believe they have been beaten down sufficiently that they hold little hope anymore, you could see it on their faces in the third period.)

1) Size Matters! She may say it doesn't, but that's a lie and you know it. Buffalo has relied all season on their speed, their ability to beat most teams through the neutral zone and their ability to skate right in toward the net. Unfortunately for the Sabres, Ottawa is also a relatively fast team, maybe not as fast… but almost. And when you negate that advantage Buffalo is left with a bunch of physically smaller forwards than Ottawa fields. That's why the Ottawa back and fore-check has been so strong, Buffalo just doesn't have the size to knock Ottawa players off the puck like Ottawa knocks them off.

2) This Ain't No Strawberry Social! If you come into the Eastern Conference Final thinking that your sheer talent is going to win you games without having to get down and dirty, well then your foolish. Game 3 saw way too many occasions where Buffalo players would not sacrifice themselves in order to make a play. Go figure, in a contact sport if you make a play you'll likely get hit. So if you're unwilling to take the hit as Briere & Afinogenov were on multiple occasions last night, then your not going to setup plays, and your not going to score. This isn't a cake walk boys... it's hockey!

3) This is OUR HOUSE... bitch! That's the mentality of the Ottawa defence. Anything past our blue line is their house and they don't like anyone tredin' in their crib, yo. They shut down center ice and cause turnovers, forcing Buffalo to play along the boards at which time Point 1 from above (see: Size Matters!) comes into play.

4) My Heart Will Go On! Cliché? Maybe, but anyone watching these games can see it. Ottawa wants it way more than Buffalo does. The heart of every Senators player on the ice is in the game, look no further than the Captain Alfie for the prime example. He fore-checks, he back-checks, he blocks shots, he takes hits, he chases pucks, he sets up plays, he scores. He is 100% in the game, every second of the game, and he is leading HIS team to their first Stanley Cup Final birth in modern franchise history.

With only one win away from the cup finals it's a good day to be a Sens fan. make no predictions for Game 4, all I know is that this is our year.

Go Sens Go!
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