Monday, May 28, 2007
California Dreaming: Part I
Ducks lead series 1-0

The air tonight, the air in Anaheim, wafts of anticipation, of the first taste. Who hasn't been Californicated at least once? Arnold Schwarzennegger comes out to greet the Canadian crowd, schmoozing with an accent that reminds me of Dominik Hasek. Stephen Stills from Crosby, Stills and Nash warbles out the Canadian anthem, and I fear for his stability. His head bobbles uncontrollably.

So we are here. So we are finally here and I cannot believe that when it comes right down to it, there is nothing different about this game than any other game we have played so far. We have an opposition, a sheet of ice, nets, sticks, a puck: play on boys. Something surgically dissected for the past 9 days lies out so simply -- the goal has never changed.

The Senators score on the first shot on net, and it is the first of many lucky bounces for Ottawa to come. Mike Fisher's shot skims past a terribly angled Jean-Sebastien Giguere and look, this is what it feels like to lead 1-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Waited too long. Sat down too long. The Anaheim Ducks are the best team we have faced yet and they make it obvious; forechecking with a tenacity that we reserved for the Buffalo Sabres and we can't clear the damn puck for a stretch of 5 minutes. They are the first ones on the puck, the first ones to initiate physical contact. We are thoroughly outplayed, so when the Ducks get the tying goal on a 2-on-1, I can't say I am disappointed.

We are so damn lucky to be tied heading into the second period. It's not so much the physical havoc the rest had wreaked; the mental space of the Senators has shifted slightly, the focus not as clear as it used to be. Perhaps we have enjoyed this too much. Perhaps the players have thought too much about this, explored too many possibilities, staying up late at night, like I did, and wondering what it would feel like to win the Stanley Cup, to lose the Stanley Cup, to spend a day with it, to wonder forever about the possibilities.

Too much. The Senators retake control in the second period, playing like the team I remember seeing in the last three rounds. Aggression, neutral zone control, tighter gap control, cleaner passes. Still, it isn't the total even-strength dominance against the Buffalo Sabres; there are stretches, several rushes where Fisher's line manages to get some decent scoring opportunities, but they are rare and far in between. Our best period of the game involves most of the play in the neutral zone. Wade Redden's shot from the blueline on the power-play beats J-S Giguere cleanly and we are leading again, but with 2 special teams goals and getting hammered on even-strength, it is precarious.

The Ducks show in the third period that they deserve the win. The puck is constantly in the Ottawa zone; Emery makes save after save; even when a weak Getzlaf goal beats Emery, between the legs, to tie it, it hurts, but ... we know they deserve it. Even when Moen's goal, with about 4 minutes to go, wins it ... ugh. Meszaros misses a check, the Niedermayers walk out and score. What can I say. The Senators just weren't there.

Yes, Anaheim's breasts are real.

The media. Talk of the wheels falling off. Yes, that's right. I think it's a good thing that the media, certainly the Toronto media, will pounce on the Senators' mistakes and lack of energy. Please, someone bring up this organization's "culture of losing." Please remind of us how we've blown this in the past. Please remind us of how we have to fight for everything we deserve, how mentally fragile we are. Please. Somebody scold us. I get more nervous when they praise us.

Only losing 3-2. This had blow-out all over it by the third period.

Emery giving us a chance. One of Emery's strengths is that he always gives the team a chance to win; he will allow the tying goal, but you need to have a hell of a shot and opportunity to beat him for the winner. And Moen did just that.

Fishie. Crash, bang, dig, chase, dump, Fisher is a machine. He was the most active player; no rust on his end.

Being outshot 32-20. Oy. The score was flattering.

Alfredsson, Big Line. How goes Alfredsson, so goes the Senators.

This was possibly the worst game we've played in the last two months. This was definitely Alfredsson's worst game of the playoffs. He was squashed repeatedly by the Anaheim Ducks and never got up in time to make a decent play.

The Pahlsson line totally dominated the Big Line and well ... that's that. Spezza looked to have regressed in his defensive awareness, and kept making one pass too many. Alfredsson looked shaken by several huge hits and never recovered. And Heatley ... well ... I wasn't that impressed with him in the Buffalo series, and he hasn't done anything to change my opinion.

Redden. Seletal looking Redden; he looks hungover, he looks like he hasn't slept in days. Maybe it's the facial hair, maybe it's just his face, but he looked slow and lumbersome tonight. No communication with Meszaros, no confidence, no legs ... turnover after turnover. Wake up, Wade.

Terrible legs. The puck movement was absolutely brutal. No more than 2 or 3 passes connected in a row the entire game. I don't think the Ducks iced the puck the entire night; I've never felt relived for an even-strength icing before tonight.

Thank gawd game 2 is only a day away, instead of the two-game layover.

The positive spin to this is, if there were a good way to lose, this would be it: Get thoroughly outplayed and still be in much of the game. The boys just need to remind themselves that for all the talk, for all the accoloades and the emotional rationalizing, all this is a game on ice. The moment and the game exist as capsules in and of themselves; this isn't the end of the world. The world's end comes when the team stops wanting it more than Anaheim.

Clear all the unnecessary distractions. Don't even think about Stanley. Think about the next period, the next rush, the next play.

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Anonymous Paul said...

Good post.

The feeling of their being tied despite being outplayed, of their letting in a goal in the dying minutes of most important game yet, was intensely reminiscent of /that/ game 7 against NJ.

Thanks and keep up the great writing.


29 May, 2007 08:58  
Anonymous Paul said...

Here's the reference. It was Friesen scoring the go-ahead with just over 2 minutes remaining. The feeling last night was just like this one.


29 May, 2007 11:04  
Blogger Finny said...

you have to remember. it's just 1. you have a shot at splitting the series tomorrow night. despite all the stats that everyone spits, you still have tomorrow.

after that, then we'll see where the chips lay.

btw, totally irrelevant, but your goalie is incredibly hot. hahaha...

and fyi - I never wanted to face your squad b/c I have tremendous respect for your top line... and they scare me with how good they are.

29 May, 2007 12:56  
Blogger aquietgirl said...

btw, totally irrelevant, but your goalie is incredibly hot. hahaha...

Did you read my post on Hlog about this matter? I should update that entry with a photo I finally found of him.

I'm feeling a little bit better. I have a lot of respect for your team, as well. They're very focused and the pundits weren't kidding or exaggerating their physicality.

Here's the reference. It was Friesen scoring the go-ahead with just over 2 minutes remaining. The feeling last night was just like this one.

That was the play that shattered my heart in a million little pieces. It happened slightly different than last night, though, since we were down 2-1. Still, with Redden's mistake on key goals both nights, I see your point. Were we that dominated in period 3 of game 7? I seem to remember Marian Hossa/Alfredsson ringing one off the post on a play before Friesen's goal.

29 May, 2007 16:17  
Anonymous Paul said...

You sure are a stickler for precision, AQG. You may be right about the details, I have no memory of the details. But the feeling, I remember that intensely. It was tied in the dying minutes, and I concluded that's it, next goal wins. Then they put one in aaargh. It was like yesterday. I was in a bar, shouting go sens go, when suddenly I realized some I was giving up, there wasn't enough time left.

That feeling - /exactly/ the same. Details, maybe not, I don't have as fine a mind for details as you... colour me jealous.

At least this time it's in game 1 not game 7.


30 May, 2007 08:43  
Blogger aquietgirl said...

I only know the details so well because I listen to the highlights of the call of that game, oh, once a week.

I'm obsessed, not a genius!

30 May, 2007 23:07  

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