Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Daily Sniper: Don't Go Towards the Light, Ottawa

The Daily Sniper: News and notes from last night's action...

Is it me or does Ryan Getzlaf look drunk?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It's about that time again. I'm talking about the time of year when Canada's hope of taking home the Stanley Cup is put to bed. For the past three seasons at about this time, a Canadian team has lost in the finals to signal the beginning of summer.

The Senators still have a chance at winning this series. After all, they're not dead yet (not quite dead). Nonetheless, the forecast in Ottawa is pretty grim. The Sens are now down 3-1, needing to win three straight (two of those on the road) against the Ducks, a team that has pwnd them like n00bz controlled most of the action in the series to date.

Monday night, the Senators had their shot to get back in this thing. It wasn't a must win, but if they lost it would put them down 3-1 with the next game coming on the road. If they won, they would send the series back to Anaheim at two games a piece, and all of a sudden it would be a best of three series.

The Sens had their chance to win Monday night. You can't say they didn't come to play, either. Their captain Daniel Alfredsson netted a power play goal with :01 left in the first period, capping a thundering first period in which his team out shot Anaheim 13-2. For 20 minutes, it looked as if Alfredsson and his teammates had found the legs they had in the Conference Finals against Buffalo. After a lackadaisical effort in Anaheim and flashes of brilliance in Game three, it looked like the Senators that ripped through the Eastern Conference were back.

For Senators fans, it was too good to be true. And it was.

Their team stood 40 minutes away from evening the series and erasing all that went wrong during games one and two in Anaheim. Somewhere between the ramp and the dressing room, they lost all the energy that they had in the first period. I mean all of it. Maybe it was just their pre-game Red Bull wearing off, but the second period was a complete 180 degree turn of events. Anaheim controlled the play all period, and out shot Ottawa 13-6.

The most impressive part was how the Ducks instantaneously became uber disciplined. After leading the league in penalty minutes during the regular season and postseason, they took two penalites over the last two periods. Only one of those penalties yielded a power play to Ottawa, since Sammy Pahlsson and Mike Fisher had coincidental minors at the end of the second period.

That would be all she wrote. To their credit, the Sens skated hard the rest of the way and gave it their all, but dump and chase hockey only gets you so far. Time and again Ottawa would cross the red line and throw the puck deep, only to have the Ducks clear it back down the ice. Even if Ottawa was able to hold the zone and get a shot off, the Ducks always seemed to get in the way of those shots.

The final two minutes of a the third were simply a microcosm of the period. With Ray Emery pulled, the Sens tried desperately to muster some offense. They were only able to record one, yes one, shot on goal during the final minutes that Emery spent on the bench watching his teammates play 6-on-5. Whether it was along the boards or in front of the net, Anaheim shut the door on any offensive opportunities the Sens had.

Now the series shifts back to Anaheim for Game five on Wednesday, a game which surely looks as if it will conclude with a Cup raising ceremony for the Ducks. Up 3-1 in the series and almost completely in control of the action, my money is on the Ducks Wednesday night. Recent history is on their side, too. This season they are 3-0 when presented with the opportunity to clinch a playoff series on home ice.

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