Monday, May 28, 2007

Round 4, Game 1: Shake out the cobwebs

The wait has been so long that the Senators have begun invading my sleep. On Friday night, I dreamed I arrived home from work to find the Sens had lost Game 1 in quadruple overtime. On Saturday night, I dreamed my parents bought me Game 5 Stanley Cup tickets for my birthday. Finally, last night I dreamed of watching one of the big games on the shell of an enormous home entertainment system. In the center of what should have been the picture was my tiny fireplace-mounted flat screen, roller painted in red, black and gold (amateur psychologists are welcome to take a crack at that dream analysis).

In some ways, I wish the north-south, east-west contrast could be highlighted by playing the series in mid-January. Bring the SoCal representatives to the frozen tundra of Scotiabank Place (or Frank Clair perhaps?), complete w/ mobs of toque and scarf-wrapped roman centurions huddling around flaming trash cans, using only the radiant heat and whiskey to stave off frostbite. Alas, the Ottawa weather is ramping up to be hotter and sweater than Anaheim as the series wears on.

I'm pretty much sick to death of reading finals previews - it's like that point on a really long road trip where you've worn out your appetite for restaurant food despite your excitement at reaching a destination - and as my hands are already starting to shake with anticipation, here are some quick notes and keys to victory:

1. If my intuition regarding the layoff is correct, we could be in for a rather unpolished start to the series. I think we could see up to ten goals tonight as the teams initially feel each other out. A raft of penalties, odd man rushes and giveaways will provide plenty of scoring chances at both ends of the ice, inflating GAA's and diluting save percentages accordingly. Games 2 and on things will settle down as fans and coaching staff get to know (and hate) their opponents. I must say, I'll be highly disappointed if Brian Burke isn't the first to lob a juicy smack bomb over the fence ("Teemu Selanne is not Finnish for hook me and hold me").

2. King Alfie, Spezza and Heatley along with the more vulnerable defensive pairing of Corvo and Preissing will soak up all the prime ice time, keeping Ketchup and the kids away from the puck without having to lay a single body check. Physically, I'm wondering whether the urge to come out and label one of the Ottawa waterbugs is actually going to backfire. Schaefer and Fisher (and yes, even a rested up Comrie) are more than willing to throw their weight around and grind things out along the boards - they're actually far more effective when placed in that kind of a situation. There's a big hitter on every line, with Neil and Schubert on the third and fourth, respectively. If anything, bringing more contact into the game is exactly what's needed to keep the Sens sharp and possibly stave off the scenario described in point 1 above.

3. Regardless of the outcome of Game 1, be prepared for the deluge of historical analogies: "The Game 1 winner goes on to win the cup 80% of the time", "Ottawa has never been down in a series", "The West has been the superior conference all year long and it's showing", etc. The Ottawa Senators have found a way to debunk popular myths and overcome previously established expectations in every single round of these 2007 playoffs. They vanquished the bogeyman of Gary Roberts in Round 1, including dropping a tight loss in Game 2 before putting a complete and unprecedented stranglehold on the series. They made world-beater Martin Brodeur and one of the league's top checking lines look pretty average in Round 2, including overcoming a Langenbrunner OT winner and some questionable late period goals. In Round 3, they passed the 2-0 and 3-0 series lead milestones against the sputtering Beasts of the East, coming up with two of the most clutch goals the franchise has ever witnessed in the process. Never underestimate what Senators 2.0 can overcome when the need presents itself.

5-4 Sens (Fisher x2, Neil, Heatley, Redden). Sens in Six.

Comments are open for the BoO's first ever Stanley Cup game thread.

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