They just can’t make it easy, can they?
The Senators headed into New York on an emotional high, after thoroughly dominating game one of their second round series, and stealing game two in spectacular fashion. With an opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, we all knew it would have been a challenge for the Sens to match the Rangers’ urgency.
This was by far the Sens’ worst game of the playoffs, just as it was the Rangers’ best. Kind of the opposite of game one, in which Ottawa played out of their minds and New York was extremely flat. It sucks to lose, and it would have been nice to go up 3-0, but we all knew it couldn’t be that easy. Let’s not panic yet: I have faith that the Sens will bounce back with a solid performance in game 4.
The first period was not even remotely close, as the Rangers’ speed was on full display throughout the entire 20 minutes. The famous neutral zone trap was nowhere to be found, as both teams played an exciting, wide-open brand of hockey. In other words, they were playing Rangers hockey, not Senators hockey.
By the time Mats Zuccarello opened the scoring off a beautiful feed from some guy called Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa was already in survival mode. It seemed inevitable that New York would take a big lead early in the game, and that’s exactly what they did.
Credit where credit is due: the Rangers played their butts off, and for most of the game looked far superior to the exhausted and uninspired Senators team. I heard a rumour the Sens all ate chicken parms before the game, and though I’m almost certain it was #FakeNews, they definitely looked like it tonight.
The second Rangers goal came later in the first period, when Michael Grabner took advantage of a questionable play by Ben Harpur behind the net, and tucked a wraparound past Anderson.
Now, let’s be clear on one thing here: Yes, Anderson had a fantastic game overall, and no, we can’t fault him for a loss in which his team played the worst hockey they’ve played since the end of the regular season. However, Andy looked very bad on that one goal, and I can definitely understand why a lot of fans are mad at him for it. Anderson has had two very obvious holes in his game for years: he is bad at handling the puck, and extremely bad at wraparounds. The fact that he has not improved in either of these areas is very, very frustrating. Has he not identified these as problems in his game? Has he not tried to work on them? And if he has, why have we not seen any improvement?
I adore Craig Anderson and I know that he bailed this team out many times in this game. But come on, man.
The second period wasn’t quite as bad as the first, thankfully. The teams traded power play opportunities, with one team’s special teams looking significantly better than the other’s (I’ll let you guess which one I’m talking about). Zack Smith left the game with an upper body injury, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back for game 4.
New York took a 3-0 lead when Erik Karlsson collided with Mark Stone, leaving Marc Methot alone to defend a 2-on-1. Methot defended the rush well by taking away the pass, but Rick Nash’s shot got past Anderson. It didn’t take long for the Rangers to score again and take a crushing 4-0 lead. For the first time in the 2017 playoffs, a Sens game was actually looking like a blowout.
Ottawa did get a little bit more wind in their sails toward the end of the frame, however, courtesy of none other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has now scored the last four Senators goals. And people say we’re too dependent on Erik Karlsson.
Of course, I cannot mention that Pageau goal without talking about the absolutely filthy pass from Bobby Ryan to set it up. I’m not going to call it the nicest assist of the playoffs, because Erik Karlsson exists, but it was definitely up there. I might even call it the best non-Karlsson assist.
The amazing thing about this Senators team is that their games are never really over until they’re over. So even though this clearly wasn’t their night, even though the Rangers were absolutely on fire, there was still a tiny shred of hope. A comeback wasn’t impossible, after all. They’d done that kind of stuff before.
(There is a joke to be made here about Ontario teams, original six teams and 4-1 leads, but I will not stoop to make it seeing as we didn’t come back after all.)
To the Sens’ credit, the third period was much better than the other two, and Ottawa did have a few decent scoring chances that might have gone in against a weaker goaltender. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and Ottawa never even came close to tying the game. We should all consider ourselves lucky it was only 4-1 and not something more embarrassing.
It’s also important to mention that Bobby Ryan left the game with an apparent injury. Before the playoffs, this might not have been a very big deal, but Bobby has been one of the Sens’ best performers these last few weeks, and it’s a huge blow to the lineup if he’s going to miss a few games.
It was a bad game, but those things happen sometimes. I trust in this team’s ability to rebound, and I have faith that they’ll show up on Thursday. This should serve as a nice wake up call. It was never going to be easy, after all.
Quick note: after a few of you objected to our use of the term “Zero” in our recaps, we’ve decided to switch to a nicer term.
The Good: Mike Hoffman
He didn’t get on the scoreboard, but I thought Hoffman looked very good out there, especially compared to the rest of the team. He had a number of good looks at the net, and made an excellent defensive play in the third period to help shut down a Rangers 2-on-1.
The Good: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Seriously, what is with this kid? Is it the chicken parmesan? Is it the big stage? Does he see a team wearing bleu blanc rouge and just fly into a rage? Whatever it is, I love it and him.
The (Mostly) Good: Craig Anderson
I went over this earlier in the recap, but I thought Anderson turned in a stellar performance despite the one bad goal.
The Bad: Ben Harpur
I feel bad for the guy because he’s been given some tough assignments that he hasn’t quite been up to, but this definitely wasn’t his best game. He definitely doesn’t deserve all the blame for the result because none of his teammates were particularly good either, but I’d certainly be in favour of playing Wideman over him at this point.
Sens Killer: Mika Zibanejad
He was all over the ice tonight. I miss him.
You guys might not want to look at these next two charts.