Today I’m going to take a bit of a different tack with the Five Thoughts feature; I hope you don’t mind. Normally, this is a space to dive into some minutiae from the week gone by, maybe touch on an important topic in the broader league as whole, and just generally sink our teeth into the play of the Ottawa Senators. Now, as you may have noticed, these are not normal times for Sens fans. It’s sort of snuck up on us, but we are currently in the midst of the third-longest play-off run in franchise history. By any objective measure, this has been a great season. And, we owe almost all of it (well, maybe all of it) to one man: Erik Karlsson.
Yes, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored four goals in one game (and it was awesome, by the way) and Bobby Ryan made it his personal mission to score as many game-winning goals as humanly possible in round one against the Boston Bruins. But it’s been a Conn Smythe-worthy effort from the captain that’s gotten us here. Just when we thought we had seen everything Erik has to offer, he kicks it to seemingly a whole other level in the post-season. Thus, in appreciation of Karlsson’s feats, I thought we might re-visit four of the other all-time great playoff performances by an Ottawa Senator:
4. Jason Spezza, 2006
This one is a bit under-appreciated among Sens fans, but Spezza’s 14 points in 10 games remains the highest scoring rate in the play-offs of any Senator with a minimum of 10 games played. The 2005-06 season is a particularly bitter one to look back on, as the Senators wasted what was their greatest collection of talent on a Dominik Hasek injury and a disappointing second round exist against the Buffalo Sabres. Nonetheless, Spezza was spectacular in that post-season — particularly as he racked up 10 (!) points in a five game first round victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jason Spezza means a lot of different things to Sens fans, but no one could ever argue the man couldn’t score. In the 2006 playoffs, he was a notch above.
3. Patrick Lalime, 2002
It admittedly feels strange to include Patrick Lalime on a list of all-time great Sens playoff performances considering how much flack he’s taken over the years, but in 2002 Lalime was superb in the Ottawa goal. In what can only be described as the best goaltending performance in Ottawa Senators play-off history, Lalime surrendered a meager 2 goals across five games during a first round victory over the second seeded Philadelphia Flyers. We all know how the second round match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs turned out, but even after that was said and done Lalime boasted a .946 SV% and a 1.39 goals against average. The Game Seven loss stands out in our mind, but the Sens wouldn’t have even made it that far without Lalime that postseason.
2. Marian Hossa, 2003
Marian Hossa is another former Senator who I feel was somewhat unfairly maligned for a perceived lack of productivity in the play-offs. After a stellar regular season campaign in 2002-03 in which Hossa led the team in total points and potted 45 goals in 80 games, there was indeed a lot of pressure on the young Slovak to produce on the big stage. The Sens eventually bowed out to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals in 2003, but Hossa finished just two points behind Scott Niedermayer for the overall scoring lead. His 16 points in 18 games were five more than any other Senator, and if not for Jeff Friesen maybe we might today be reminiscing about the time Marian Hossa won the Conn Smythe trophy; he was that good.
1. Daniel Alfredsson, 2007
Frankly, it’s impossible to discuss Sens playoff successes for any period of time without eventually coming back to this truly remarkable performance by Daniel Alfredsson. Part of it was the scoring, Alfredsson notched 14 goals and 22 points in 20 games, but part of it was also the sheer determination and ferocity with which the captain played that year. For many fans, it was over the course of the spring of 2007 that they first fell in love with Daniel Alfredsson. It’s easy to forget now, but up until that point Alfredsson had worn the same labels that haunted Marian Hossa. He cast all that away, and engraved his spot in Sens’ lore that spring.
Oh and he also did this:
He hasn’t quite reached those lofty heights yet, but if Karlsson is able to carry the Sens to the Cup final he’ll have only that magical run by Alfredsson as competition for the top spot on this list.