Tonight marks Ottawa's last opportunity to get back into contention for The Stanley. Having left Cali with little to build on but a battlin' puck stopper, the Sens have to start from the net out and work off the crowd noise and advantageous line matching to earn themselves a victory.
The ducks have a fine playoff road record, but they haven't paid a visit to Ontario for some time. Perhaps JSG will recall his last post-season visit to the eastern time zone - resulting in 4 straight road losses! In fact, according to the board scuttlebutt, the ducks have even opted to hole up across the Quebec border in Go-Go-Gatineau. It's hard to argue with their selection - Chateau Cartier is well known for its spa and golfing facilities. Further, I have heard it alleged that it is in close proximity to a popular cabaret featuring dancing women who remove their clothing in exchange for money (this is simply what I have heard secondhand from those who frequent such establishments).
Now whether the PPG line spent Friday night enjoying cold 50's, pole-oriented acrobatics, the sincere friendship of recently emigrated Romanians or simply bopping their heads to the soaring chords of "The Final Countdown", is certainly none of my business. So long as they're in less than ship shape for tonight's game, we can thank the team players at the The Pink for their committment to the cause.
As far as those vanilla, 'burb dwelling family men from the Ottawa Senators, they would be advised to be in bed by 9:00 and ensure attention is paid to tonight's [booming echo]KEYS TO VICTORY[/booming echo]:
1. Faceoffs: Spezza and Fisher were useless in the dots on Wednesday. Once Anaheim got control, particularly in the Sens end, it was headless chickens for a good minute or so. It was stupefying the way it drained the life out of their forward progress, and as Mike Eastwood noted the other day, losing faceoffs has got to be impacting Spezza's confidence and making him think too much when he has the puck.
2. You can run, but you can't hide: Last change or not, the top line is simply going to have to take on and defeat the Checking Line From Hell. Winning three games at home is not going to be enough to win this series.
3. Better skating and better dumps: Make that much better. Trying to penetrate the ducks zone was an exercise in futility last time out and without a more determined effort to get the puck in and get after it, it's going to be another long night.
4. The Emery factor: Throughout the season when Emery played with swagger, it often showed up in the rest of the team's game. No one picked up on the good vibes emanating from Number 1 on Wednesday, but hopefully the concentration and competitiveness he displayed there will carry over.
5. The Sens third defensive pairing: Redden played 23 minutes on Wednesday, the highest ice time on the team and the third highest at even strength behind Phillchenkov. Surprisingly, he wasn't nearly as bad as he was in G1 despite the extra minutes. If Redden can get his head in it on home ice, a significant liability has been relieved (it would also be excellent if Meszaros can resist turning over the puck on the game's first outlet pass).
6. The top line: Gotta take advantage of every second you get away from the checkers. Even strength, power play, 5 on 3 (you did practice your 5 on 3's, right?)...bury 'em.
6-0 Sens. Heatley (x2), Alfie, Redden, Neil, Corvo. Sens in 6. Believe.