Dear Ottawa Senators (Senators 4, Stars 5)

Hi guys, it's Mark. You may remember me from such thrilling adventures as being the only guy in Rochester, New York not to jump on the Tampa Bay Lightning bandwagon, turning Daigle into a productive player in NHL '96, and that loud jerk by the glass who won't shut up about Fisher. I was there for the agony of 10 wins the first year. I was there when Duschene bagged the playoffs for us. I was there falling backwards with Tugnutt when Plante's shot trickled through him. I was there when we took it to New Jersey before Jeff Friezen scored and ended it. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not some punk crybaby fan. I've got street cred.

But listen, guys, we've got to talk.

See, it's all about expectations. I'm not the one that set those expectations, you are. You're the ones who went on an 11-game win streak. You're the ones who smoked teams like Chicago. Hell, you guys have gone to the playoffs pretty much every year of my adult life. I believe in this team because you've given me a reason to believe. I knew last year was a fluke and when my friend Ottawa Jen asked me if they were going to make the playoffs I told her, "Yeah, next year." Here's next year and you're in contention for a playoff spot. You're a playoff team because that's what the Ottawa Senators are: A playoff team. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will always be. This franchise was built from nothing to what it is today through hard work. You've been through bumps big and small along the way, but you kept getting better.

You've had some bumps this year too, and we don't need to rehash them yet again -- we both know what they are, and I'm not here to attack you.  But as always, you battled through them.  Of course, that peaked before the Olympics when I saw you get better for having endured adversity early in the year.  And yet, here we are, having this talk:

New York Rangers. Carolina Hurricanes. Toronto Maple Leafs. Calgary Flames. Vancouver Canucks. Toronto Maple Leafs. Atlanta Thrashers. And now the Dallas (North) Stars.

I really thought you had this one.  You started out great.  Dallas couldn't move the puck at all.  The puck was in their zone all the time.  Two power play goals.  And then you just stopped.  I don't understand it.  Yeah, you have a system, but so does the other team.  It would be easy if both sides weren't trying to win.  When they step up the intensity, you have to come back out even harder.  You guys keep clawing your way back into games only to collapse at the worst possible time.  It's time to end that.  It's time to step up.  If you can't match the intensity of the bottom-feeding teams, what do you think is going to happen in the playoffs?  Remember how shell-shocked Pittsburgh was in 2007 when you smeared them?  Guess what, the playoffs haven't gotten easier since you've been away. WAKE UP.  Wake up, because I know you can.

Daniel Alfredsson: You're the best captain in the NHL, and there's no doubt about it. Other teams can slap a C on their little golden boys because it sells jerseys while their veterans do the leading, but this is your team. I know you have a Superman complex when things get tough but you can't do it all. You couldn't when you were younger, and you can't now. What we need from you is more like the game you played today. Your leadership must come from being smart with the puck and not trying to put the team on your shoulders. You can still play, but you have to play smart now. Smart play and hard work are what will lead this team back to winning and everyone will follow your lead.

Jason Spezza: More of this, please. You are the guy that has to put the team on your back now. You can dominate the ice, but you have to do it every night. That's the difference between a player and a star. I know it takes a ton of effort to play the way you played today, but that's what it takes. To reach that upper level, your mind, body, and soul must be one. You've shown you can do it. Now DO IT.

Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester: I believe the children are the future. You both played your roles to perfection today. Keep it up.

Alex Kovalev: I'd like it if you cared when the playoffs hit, ok?

Erik Karlsson: You played like a rookie today. I'm willing to overlook this because you are a rookie. There will be growing pains, and until you suck continuously I will continue to accept them. But you sucked out there. Stop sucking. Sorry you're in a pressure-filled position already because your fellow defensemen don't have your skills, but if you suck, we lose. So, stop. I mean it.

Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott: I'm done with you both. Pascal, I have defended you all year, but no more. Five goals on nineteen shots is a joke. Goalies are supposed to be even-keeled, but the longer the game went on, the more you scrambled. You've had your chances to be this team's goaltender, and you haven't taken advantage of any of them. It's time to stop pretending you're a top goaltender. You're not. Top guys rise to the occasion and you've done nothing but let the team down. Sorry they played badly in front of you early in the year -- so did your former team. Suck it up. I'm never going to believe you've truly turned the corner after today. You could get shutouts for the next ten games and I'd cringe on every shot wondering if THIS is the one that causes your composure to resemble Jenga.

Stop snickering, Elliott.  You're a backup.  Yeah, I said it.  Top guys are consistent.  You fade harder than Kid 'n Play's hi-tops.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, your inability to deliver consistent goaltending.  Hey, I'm really excited about that.  Glad you looked so strong in relief of Leclaire this game.  Where was that when you played Atlanta?  Oh, that's right, you can't seem to motivate yourself.  It's like you can only play well in spurts... like... a backup.  Backup.

So, listen guys, I know I've been harsh here, but it's only because I love you so much.  I just want to see you play the way we both know you're capable of playing.  And really, I promise all will be forgiven if you do just one thing for me:  BEAT MONTREAL!


Sens Killers: Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro
Both (North) Stars players played excellently in this game.  Ottawa didn't give up much space to anyone early in the game, so they went out and created it themselves.  It's the kind of effort you expect to see from players who are fighting for their playoff lives.

This shot chart is your reward for reading all of that:


Game Highlights:


Sens fans.  Amigos.  Venting your frustration in the middle of a wicked slump is OK... obviously I'm right there with you.  But if you want to give up on a team that has shown it can be great, you're drinking Drano. Keep the faith.

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