I've missed the first two games of the finals due to my second job so I've only seen bits and pieces of the games, but I'm wondering if we should all really be that surprised at how the series has gone so far. Yes, the Senators are a great team. Yes, they deserved to win every series they won. But I've maintained from the beginning - you'll just have to trust me on this - that they had a fairly easy ride to the finals. They absolutely deserve some of the credit for their opponents poor play, but let's face it, every opponent they played, particularly Buffalo, gave them a lot of help. Every talking head who has talked about the Ottawa-Buffalo series like Ottawa rolled through a juggernaut should be slapped upside the head because he clearly wasn't paying attention. The Sabres did not end the season well. They did not play well in the first round, they did not play well in the second round. The Sabres team the Senators beat in the Conference Finals was not the Sabres team that was rolling through the rest of the league in October. I'm also really surprised at how many people talked about Ottawa shutting down Buffalo's powerplay like it was a huge accomplishment. I know it seems logical that a team with so much offensive ability would kill with the man advantage, but again, have you people watched any hockey this year? Because that hasn't been the case all season! Most nights I could've gone on the ice with a few of my sixth graders and WE could've killed off the Sabres powerplay. No one mentioned that in the last three games of the Buffalo series, the Senators powerplay disappeared. No one mentioned that the Spezza line didn't dominate 5 on 5 against Buffalo the way they did against Pittsburgh and New Jersey. No one mentioned that despite Buffalo playing like crap for much of the series, the series was still almost all one goal games. So while I thought I was cheering for Ottawa, it appears that I'm much more bitter and vindictive than I knew because I'm really enjoying watching another fanbase who was sure this was the year suddenly looking bewildered and wondering what the heck happened to their team.
Other random thoughts:
- Other people have pointed this out, but it's like the Senators picked up all of Buffalo's bad habits during that series. They're not skating, they're trying to avoid getting hit, they're turning the puck over, they're not getting the puck on the net, they can't score on the powerplay. Who knew that stuff was contagious?
- I'm befuddled by Spezza and Heatley's refusal to hit and be hit. I know they're skill players, but they are not small men. I hated watching Danny Briere duck away from hits, but atleast he has an excuse. He's 5'9", 177 pounds - maybe... both numbers seem like exaggerations to me. Either way though, he's a little guy. Spezza is 6'3", 200+lbs and Heatley is about the same. Guys, you're not going to get hurt, okay? Stand in there and hold your own.
Boy, Danny's stats make you realize how absolutely scrawny Ryan Miller is. He's listed at 5 lbs. lighter than Danny, but he's 5 inches taller! (That's if you believe Danny really is 5'9".) It's a good thing he gets to wear all that extra equipment.
- Scott Niedermayer's playoff beard is a thing of beauty. I almost feel like it's reason alone for the Ducks to win. As someone much wittier than me said, at this point you could shave it off, put it on skates, and watch it kill penalties itself.
- I've spent a lot of time over these last few days debating Teemu Selanne. Namely, is he really kind of beautiful or really kind of funny looking? I think I've finally decided on kind of beautiful, but it was a tough call. But how can you not love a guy who promised his friends back in Finland that if he ever played in the Stanley Cup Finals, he'd make sure they were there to watch him and then actually followed through by flying 16 childhood friends to Anaheim, paying all their expenses, and finding them game tickets? You can't do it! I'm beginning to feel like I might be able to put up with Chris Pronger winning a Cup if it means Teemu gets one.
- It's been entertaining watching Buffalo fans go from "OH MY GOD WE GOTTA GET A DOMINANT NUMBER ONE LINE LIKE THE SENATORS OR WE'LL NEVER WIN ANYTHING!!!!" to "Yeah, this is why you have to spread the scoring out" practically overnight.
- I know a lot of people complain about defensive hockey, but I don't mind it when the games are still entertaining and I have to admit, I do enjoy Anaheim's smashmouth hockey. I love watching all of my little skilled guys fly all over the ice, but it's nice to see some bone rattling hits once in a while. Hockey should never lose all its physicality. A teeny tiny part of me is glad we're not in the finals since it's very possible the Ducks might've killed one of us.
- It's a tough call, but I think my favorite thing in hockey is watching a team succesfully kill off a 5 on 3 powerplay. It's always exciting - blocked shots, big saves, missed nets, huge clears, constant movement... It's everything that's fun about hockey crammed into one heart-pounding, nail-biting block of time.
- I love Chris Drury and I love Daniel Briere, but I think Thomas Vanek has to be the priority right now. Get that kid locked up and get him locked up good. Then deal with the captains after that.
I'm actually going to be home to watch game 3 which means it'll probably stink.