Pesky can only carry a team so far. The elation that came from the relative ease with which the Senators dispatched the Canadiens led Sens Army to perhaps a little more optimism than should have been warranted. Not that it was a bad thing. Enjoying the ride while it lasted seemed to to be the mantra and although there is disappointment in Ottawa this morning, it is accompanied by pride and a deep-down acknowledgement that the better team did indeed win.
You will have a minority of Sens fans still clinging to their opinion that the league wanted the Penguins in, or the officiating was slanted in the Penguins’ favor, but the fact remains that the team with more talent won the series, as it should be.
The Penguins have two of the best players in the league, one of the top 5 defensemen in the league and a veteran supporting cast that has a habit of winning, if not in the NHL then at the international level.
The Senators have the best defenseman in the league, but playing on one leg he couldn’t be very effective. They have one of the top centremen in the NHL, but playing on a wonky, recently surgically repaired back. They had a handful of players making their NHL playoff debuts this season.
These are not excuses, but simply reasons why the series really couldn’t have gone any other way.
I wrote prior to game 2 that if the Senators were going to make any kind of noise in the series, they needed to get the split in Pittsburgh. I also suggested that if Jason Spezza was close enough to playing full time, then having his presence in the lineup, even as a power play specialist, would provide the best chance for the Senators to win. Well, the Senators made a game of it in game 2, but in the end Craig Anderson was pulled and despite a valiant comeback they fell short and lost 4-3. Dressing Spezza as a PP specialist wouldn’t have helped much since they were only awarded 2 man advantages.
That game was the turning point because not only did the Penguins go up 2-0 in the series, meaning Ottawa would have to win 4 of the next 5 games, but they also showed that Anderson could be gotten to and is indeed human.
That was the only impetus the Penguins needed to become the Penguins. Anderson stole game 3, but in the end the Penguins offensive attack gained momentum and the Senators didn’t have an answer. Thirteen goals over the final 2 games is not an indictment on the Senators or their will to win, or compete, but is simply a demonstration of how good the Penguins really are when they are firing on all cylinders.
When all is said and done, Sens fans will feel disappointment for a couple of days, but then the pride at realizing what they witnessed their team accomplish over the last four months will kick in. This isn’t the early 2000’s when the anger over having watched a top contender fall to the Maple Leafs was the primary emotion.
This team was an underdog going in, and made it farther than many people thought they would. I wrote that the Penguins were the polar opposite of the Canadiens, and it turns out I was right.
Ottawa got beat by a better team. Tip your hat to the Penguins, and look forward to next season, where the Senators young core will be a year older and wiser for the experience they just went through. The Senators bowed out with class, which is more than could be said about their first round opponents, who tried to goon it up when they realized that they were finished. Just one more reason to applaud the 2013 version of the Ottawa Senators.
Now to just somehow convince Daniel Alfredsson to give it one more year.