I would never, ever admit this during the series with Ottawa if I didn't have to - especially a series as embarrassing as the current one has been - but the truth is, ever since I've watched hockey, I've had kind of a soft spot for the Ottawa Senators. That's wavered a tiny bit here and there this season, but the affection still exists. So for Sherry and the First Blogger Playoff Pool, here's my pro-Ottawa post.
FIVE REASONS WHY I, HEATHER BERMINGHAM OF BUFFALO, NY, WILL CHEER FOR THE OTTAWA SENATORS IN THE STANLEY CUP FINALS IF THEY WIN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE WHICH, LET'S FACE IT, THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IN THEIR SLEEP CONSIDERING HOW PANICKED THE SABRES CURRENTLY LOOK
1. Dany Heatley. Dany Heatley is one of my favorite guys to watch in the league. Some people have criticized him in the past for a lack of defensive play - though that would be an awfully tough assertion to make right now - but I don't really care. Offensively, he is absolutely amazing. He does what he does as well as anyone else in the NHL. How much fun did I have watching him and Danny Briere play on the same line together during the All-Star game this year? A ton. Heatley is one of a handful of guys who really scares me when he gets the puck. I hold my breath from the time he picks it up until the time he no longer has it and considering his manhandling of the Sabres over the past couple of seasons, I'm often letting my breath out with the puck in the back of our net. Love, love, love watching Heater play.
(Sidenote to every fan, Buffalo or otherwise, who insists on calling Heatley a murderer and other witty comments along those lines: Shut the hell up. Would Heatley have spent time in jail if he wasn't in the NHL? Yeah, probably. Does the lack of jail time make it any easier to live with the idea that he bears some responsibility for his best friend's death? Somehow I doubt that. Do you have the right to be outraged when Dan Snyder's family has been nothing but gracious and forgiving? No, you do not. Again: Shut the hell up.)
2. Daniel Alfredsson. I'm still a little peeved about his comments regarding Henrik Tallinder (see the below posts for more because this is a negativity free post), but I'll get over it and seriously, how can anyone not be happy for Alfie? The guy has taken the brunt of criticism from fans and media for Ottawa's past postseason failures. Some of that was certainly justified - his play did tend to suffer once the regular season ended, he did often look nervous and tense, and a team does take cues from its leader - but geez, you'd think he roasted and ate babies for all the garbage he's taken. While I hate the fact that he's destroying my team, I'm so happy to see him flying with confidence in the postseason. I don't know what changed, but he's clearly relaxed and, maybe for the first time in his playoff career, having fun. I don't know how anyone who calls themselves a hockey fan can not be impressed. He's just at another level and an absolute joy to watch right now. When Rod Brind'Amour was presented with the Cup last year, I was pissed for reasons I won't go into right now, especially since I'm not sure there's any logic behind them anyway. If Ottawa wins though... I'll stand up and cheer when Alfie lifts the Cup up over his head. Hell, I might even cry. He'll have worked through a lot of crap to get there and if it happens, it'll be more than deserved. (I really miss his hair though.)
3. I feel some kinship with Ottawa fans. While no city can top the tortured sports history of Buffalo - four straight Super Bowl losses, Wide Right, No Goal, a plague on the defensive corp just to name a few - Ottawa has watched an extremely talented Senators team dominate the regular season and waste away in the playoffs for a few years now. I'm genuinely distraught at watching a Sabres team with so much talent looking so panicked and defeated and Senators fans have done this for a multiple years. Geez, how have you guys survived? Ottawa is the fanbase I would most like to see get the Cup. Eleven people in Anaheim would celebrate a finals win (hyperbole, Anaheim fans), Detroit has done more than enough celebrating for a while (and also - Dominik Hasek). Ottawa fans understand the struggle and heartbreak involved in getting to the end game. They understand what a special and fleeting thing a championship is, how everything has to line up just so at exactly the right time. Ottawa fans would get the beauty and joy and they'd embrace it like few other fanbases in the league right now. If it can't be Buffalo, I'm okay with it being Ottawa.
4. The Senators deserve it, plain and simple. They're getting a little help from a flat, panicky Sabres team, but there's no doubt that they're playing great hockey right now. Everyone's doing his part, they're really playing as a team and helping each other out, and they're doing everything right. On the couple of occasions that Buffalo took it to them, Ottawa went in the lockerroom, straightened themselves out and came back on the ice stronger and focused on getting back in the game. I'm still not super impressed with Emery (whoops - my negativity alarm is sounding!), but I cannot say enough good things about the defense playing around him. If Emery makes even the slightest mistake, someone is right there to bail him out. I have a very strong feeling that Buffalo never would've pulled off the goal that Ottawa scored in game 3 because the second the Sens realized Emery was out of position and the puck was doing flukey things, there would've been a swarm to the net. Somebody would've been trying to tie up the offensive player in front of the net, somebody would've been fighting to get to the puck, and somebody would've been guarding the net until Emery was back where he needed to be. The Sabres - as they have throughout the playoffs - left Miller all alone. The Senators are in this thing together and that's awesome to watch.
5. If Ottawa wins the Cup, there'll be a lot of cranky, pissed off Toronto fans in the world. How can anyone not want that? They can say what they want about being happy to have the Cup in Canada - I'm not buying it.
I'll admit, under the current circumstances, I had a much tougher time sitting down and writing this post than I should have. It's just a stupid pool after all! But I would like to assure any Senators fans who wander this way that despite the difficulty involved, I really do mean every word. If we can't do it, I hope you guys do.