Sunday, Bloody Sunday
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 Joe Sargent NHLI via Getty Images
Well at least we'll find out something following Sunday's 7-0 pasting in Pittsburgh – that being, just what are the Ottawa Senators are made of?
Sunday, bloody Sunday. And then some.
Playing one of their worst games in 2016-17 (or pick any other previous season folks), the Senators looked tired and pace-less in the most important game of the season. And it wasn't just the look of fatigue, it was the frequency of mental errors. Players – be it the forward units or the defence or a sloppy Craig Anderson – did not appear involved or invested.
There was zippo urgency.
"Your ability to rebound from a bad game is necessary. We did it against the Rangers, so . . . " head coach Guy Boucher said to the media immediately after the crushing. "I thought we were good in the first few minutes, then . . . "
Total, complete, unmitigated collapse.
Ottawa can certainly (and must) conjure a better effort Tuesday. As pointed out during the radio post-game show, teams have shown a propensity to bounce back in a big way this year after a playoff blowout.
There's no ifs, ands or buts here. The Senators follow suit or a strong post-season exits softly.
And I guess if you're an Ottawa fan, that's a word that sticks in your throat. The Senators played 'softly.'
I know this is not the 1980s or 1990s but after going down 4-0, then 5-0, I would have liked to see a more abrasive response. And that leaves me wondering what Ottawa has left in the tank – both upstairs and physically.
However, as much as burying the Senators here is expected and well deserved, let's not forget there was another team on the ice. A team rich with resolve and urgency and an ability to hitch its bicycle chain onto a different gear.
The Penguins win Stanley Cups because of that.
The Penguins also win Stanley Cups because they've got a guy named Crosby who – with all due respect to Erik Karlsson and Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin – is the best player in hockey. Crosby knows how to win. Olympics, playoffs . . . probably even at Checkers. He owns that quality. He plays the game the right way, and elevates when required.
So, is this Eastern Conference finale finished?
It's an intriguing question. Ottawa has to first completely wipe this Sunday afternoon debacle out of its mind.
That's going to be a challenge.
The Senators also have to step it up in the brain department. That showcase Sunday was as ugly as ugly can get – I can understand fatigue being a factor, but extended periods of dropped coverage and missed assignments will be a killer.
I think we're headed back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7.
Pens in seven?
Likely, from this corner.
(Discuss amongst yourselves . . .)
NOTES AND NOTIONS: Didn't know much about Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust, but boy did he make a difference in his return from injury Sunday. Like most of the Pens, Rust can flat-out fly. . . Ottawa is now 0-29 on the power play . . . The knock on winger Mike Hoffman kind of epitomized the entire team Sunday – he loses focus and drive far too often. The good news? This used to be the knock on Phil Kessel. Surrounded by a winning element, Kessel has turned it around . . . Who had Matt Cullen on that fifth goal? Answer: no one . . . Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan looked like I Dream of Genie when he dressed Matt Murray over Marc-Andre Fleury . . . Canada played well at the IIHF World Hockey Championship but loses. In a shootout. Ridiculous. I've been harping on this issue all winter long but here we go again – a championship 'hockey' game decided by a circus act.
Tuesday: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (8 pm)
Thursday: Ottawa at Pittsburgh (8 pm- if necessary)
WEEK THAT WAS:
Monday: Pittsburgh 1, Ottawa 0
Wednesday: Ottawa 5, Pittsburgh 1
Friday: Pittsburgh 3, Ottawa 2
Sunday: Pittsburgh 7, Ottawa 0 (Penguins lead Eastern Conference final 3-2)