Things aren’t looking great this week, with the Sens having dropped two ugly ones to the Rangers following an emotional win at home.
Here are five thoughts - some positive, and some negative - for this Friday.
Pageau, Pageau, Pageau, Pageau!
Let’s start with the positive thought: I know it’s been six days since That Game, but I need to take a moment to talk about how amazing Jean Gabriel Pageau has been in this series. Not only was his performance in game 2 possibly the best individual effort ever by a Sens player in the playoffs, Pageau was also one of the only players to actually show up for games 3 and 4.
I think Pageau’s legacy, and the way Sens fans will look back on game 2 after this season finishes, will largely depend on the way the Sens perform in the rest of the series. If the team that showed up this week sticks around and loses four straight, that game might be slightly tainted in our collective memory, especially since Ottawa’s poor play at the start of the game revealed a lot of shortcomings in the Sens’ System. On the other hand, if the team rallies and makes the third round, we’ll surely remember it as a highlight of an extremely memorable run.
Stone is definitely injured, right?
Stone has looked off since the end of the regular season, but he’s been a shell of his former self in this series. He’s been giving the puck away more often than he’s been stealing it, and he’s been invisible except for a few very bad plays.
He’s looked slow, and not in the way that he usually does: instead of his skating, it’s his reaction time and his spacial awareness that seem behind everyone else on the ice. Since Stone’s game relies mostly on those aspects, his poor play has been particularly noticeable.
It certainly looks like his problem is more mental than physical, which worries me because he has had a history of concussions. It’s also possible taking painkillers because of some other injury, and that that’s affecting his performance. Of course, these are all just theories, and since this is the playoffs, we definitely won’t know what’s ailing him until the end of the season.
But I do have to wonder: at this point, should he be taking time off? I still think Mark Stone in his current state is an upgrade on the guys waiting to take his place in the lineup, but it’s not like he’s an essential piece with the way he’s playing right now. If a break can help speed up his recovery process and improve his health long-term, it might be the best decision.
That said, this is the playoffs, so it doesn’t matter what the best decision is: as long as the Ottawa Senators are in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mark Stone will be in the lineup. It’s just very frustrating to see him play like this when we all know how much better he can be.
Anderson has been one of the most polarizing players in this series, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s come up with some massive stops at key moments, but has also let in way too many softies for an NHL goaltender in the playoffs.
For long stretches, he’ll look like the only thing keeping the Sens in the game, and then he’ll either make a boneheaded move or forget how to stop the puck, and suddenly become the reason the Sens are losing.
Anderson definitely does not deserve all the blame for the last two losses, because he was still better than most of his teammates, but it would be nice if he could steal a game from time to time.
Boucher made the decision to put Condon in for the third period of game four. Should he shake things up and start the backup tomorrow? I still trust Anderson a lot more, but Condon was good enough in the regular season that it might be worth considering.
One of the toughest things about the playoffs is that there’s so little margin for error. It’s a huge risk to test out an unproven goaltender in a must-win game, but you also don’t want to wait too long before making changes.
Have the Rangers figured out how to beat #TheSystem?
The series being tied 2-2 is not a bad thing at all. It isn’t even entirely unexpected. What’s discouraging about this series is the way those two Senators losses have gone down. They were both extremely embarrassing, pathetic efforts in which the Rangers basically walked all over the Sens, and Ottawa never really showed any signs of life.
Probably the thing that worries me the most about these last few games is the way the Rangers seem to have totally figured out The System. No, the Sens have not played their best hockey by any means, but the Rags haven’t had any trouble going through the neutral zone. That’s not good.
I can deal with the Sens losing because they didn’t show up or because all their best players were injured. That’s something they can work on and change going forward. What worries me is that these last two games have revealed a flaw in The System, which I had previously thought could hold its ground against just about any team in the league. If #TheSystem is flawed, that means the Sens aren’t as good as we thought. Let’s all hope Boucher can identify what went wrong with his team’s neutral zone strategy, and adapt before tomorrow’s game.
Highs and Lows
The playoffs are always extremely emotional. Since it only takes four wins to finish a series, we tend to overreact to every game. On Monday, everything was awesome and we were going to sweep the series on our way to the Stanley Cup. Today, it’s the end of the world and we’re definitely losing in six.
I’ll admit to being as down on the team as anyone right now, but let’s all remember that there’s still plenty of hockey left to be played in this series. Don’t forget how pessimistic we all were at the midway point of game 2 against Boston, or even during games 5 and 6 when it looked like the Bruins might come back. This is the playoffs. Momentum can shift extremely quickly. And, uh… have you guys watched many Rangers games this season? That team can be amazing at times, but when it’s bad, it’s bad.
These last two games have been some of the worst Ottawa has played all season, but the series isn’t over just yet.