Loaded draft table awaits Ottawa
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.
Feature photo Courtesy NHLI via Getty
It’s been a fairly compelling first round in the National Hockey League playoffs.
Though some things prove to be more compelling, or thought-jogging, than others.
Here’s where my brain has gone the past seven days.
- This coming Saturday is – regardless of the outcome – a newsworthy one for the Ottawa Senators. The NHL holds the draft lottery with potential game-changer Rasmus Dahlin waiting in the wings for the winner. If Buffalo wins the spin, the Sabres land a generational talent on this June’s draft floor in Dallas (I’ve always wanted to write: “generational talent.” Sounds so damn sophisticated). Ottawa has a 13.5 per cent shot at grabbing the first overall slot. If not, there is plenty of top-end talent beyond Dahlin. If Ottawa wants high-calibre offence, there’s winger Andrei Svechnikov. Want grit and game: Brady Tkachuk. Desire sniping ability: Filip Zadina. Interesting to watch what happens with Michigan defenceman Quintin Hughes. He’s smallish but is a dazzling skater and dynamic with the puck. Remind you of anyone the Senators might be losing?
- The Toronto Maple Leafs. Now that I have your attention, let’s delve deeper. If you’d given me shoot-the-moon odds regarding Saturday night’s Game 5 in Boston, I’d still have shied away from laying a loonie/huard on the Buds. This team looked done. Out-muscled, out-skated, out-smarted and out-coached. The fact Toronto found a way to win and push it to a Game 6 was a gob-smacker. Good fortune and very good goaltending pushed the series on. Toronto’s defensive zone play remains an absolute mess. A 4-1 lead turned 4-2, then 4-3, and set the stage for 14 of the most grueling minutes of ‘hang-on’ this club has seen. The Bruins morphed into Bruce the Shark from Jaws. But it’s still a Boston series win here when all is said and done. Nobody wins consistently in the playoffs with a nonchalant defence like this one. Right . . . Right?
- Get to hear plenty of griping and moaning from Ottawa Fan about how dirty and devilish Snidely Whiplash, err, Nazem Kadri is, but he is a necessity on a Toronto team without much bite. Does he take selfish penalties? Yup. Is he worth the occasional cost? Yup. Would you take him on your team? Yup.
- One thing I absolutely do not get about hockey: the complaining about ‘imbalance’ of penalties. I’m not circling the Leafs on this (every coach/GM/owner gets involved during the season/playoffs) but it shook my dislike-meter. Claiming “THEY had six power plays, and we ONLY had one” as being unfair because of the numbers disparity is ludicrous. Toronto was full value for its penalties. Could the Bruins have been tagged for more? Maybe, but none seemed overly egregious. Look, if you did/do the deed, you should pay. Evening up the numbers to make everything appear neat and tidy is childish. As Baretta said: “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”
- Patience. It really does have a lot to do with patience, in Winnipeg. Respect the process was what Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff precisely accomplished with his hockey club – one of the league’s more dominant teams in the opening round. Cheveldayoff held off from the lure of attempting mammoth deals to improve his team for the short term. Instead, he barely made a mark, trade-wise, during the team’s first six seasons in Winnipeg. He held his cards tight and allowed the Jets rich farm system to slowly develop. There was no rush on players like Mark Scheifele. When he’s ready, he’s ready. Now he’s ready. Like many other young prospects at the time. There was no panic surrounding coach Paul Maurice. He was Chevy’s guy. Give him time and he’ll get it going. Now he’s got it going. There’s a ton to admire about the Jets, but the bulk of the admiration should go towards the general manager.
- One of the toughest sets to call – and pick a team to favour – must be Columbus/Washington. The idea of a potential Final Four in the East of Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa and Washington is mouth-watering. Besides, it’d be fine to see Alex Ovechkin finally take the next step. On the other hand, I love Columbus’ style – fast, crash-and-bang hockey. The John Tortorella post-game clips would be tasty as well.
Playoff tip-ins: Why the Pittsburgh Penguins remain the Pittsburgh Penguins: Name me another team that can take a punch to the gut by losing one of its best scorers (and a Top-5 talent, NHL-wide) and still throw up an eight-spot on its opposition, on the road? . . . Drew Doughty of the Kings, Victor Hedman of the Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Predators have been named the three finalists for the Norris. Tough to argue against any choice, but I like Hedman’s overall game. The one thing you don’t hear much about? Hedman is sneaky mean. I like it . . . Nice showing by last year’s worst NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche. Not only did they make the post-season, the Avs had the heavily favoured Predators chasing their tails at times . . . I know the New Jersey Devils are no longer the Devils your dad liked to talk about – you know, dull and defensive. I still can’t get charged when I see them take the ice, even if they are a pretty creative team these days. The one saving grace? The sight of a painted-up David Puddy rooting the team on . . . Say what you want, but Puddy’s old stomping grounds, Seinfeld, still holds up as a timeless classic. The best show of the ‘90s . . . And . . . back to hockey (kind of): I think Ron Hainsey’s done a superb job with the Leafs but every time I watch him handle the puck he reminds me of those metallic players from the old table hockey games. Think about it . . . Love the Winnipeg story about a couple who were married Friday then headed to the Jets Whiteout Street Party later in the day. That’s hockey baby! . . . No one outside of Willow Glen is talking about the San Jose Sharks being in the second round. This is a good thing for the San Jose Sharks. Sneaky might just work this time around.