Five thoughts is a day late this week, but that gives us an extra game to look back on. Let's discuss some of the most prominent storylines from the past week (or 8 days).
The "Canada's Team" narrative is one that emerges almost every year and it's always dumb. The logic goes that since an NHL team based in Canada has not won the cup in over 20 years, Canadian fans, being fiercely patriotic and loyal to their fellow countrymen, would all jump on the bandwagon of the last Canadian team standing in the hopes that the Stanley Cup would be returned to Canada.
And sure, that's true for some people. I used to be one of those people. I know a lot of them. However, there's also a huge population of fans who actively root against the other Canadian teams, and that's also completely understandable.
The longer this curse continues for Canada's teams, the bigger the celebration will be when a Canadian team finally manages to bring home Lord Stanley. At this point, I want my team to have that glory, not anybody else. We all know that whichever team's fanbase finally sees their team win will be completely insufferable for years, maybe even for all eternity. I want to be the insufferable fanbase, not the one who has to listen to their chirping all the time.
All that to say that I don't mind if other Canadian fans want to jump on the Sens' bandwagon, but I also understand if other fans are actively rooting against us. In fact, I kind of love that idea. I want other Canadians seething with rage as the media keeps pushing the "Canada's team" narrative. I want the entire country furious that the Sens keep refusing to lose. It fills me with Schadenfreude.
For so long, I've been on the opposite side of that dumb narrative, wishing people would stop telling me I had to cheer for some of my team's biggest rivals (and by that I mean the Habs. People wanted me to cheer for the Habs. Never in a million years). It's fun being Canada's team for once, even though "Canada's team" doesn't actually exist.
Anyone remember how worried we were about Anderson going into this series?
Andy was good in the Boston series, and wildly inconsistent in the Rangers series. Going up against the likes of Crosby and Malkin, and with Murray and Fleury both playing lights-out in the other end, we weren't really expecting Andy to steal any games.
And yet, four games in, Anderson is playing probably the best hockey he's played all postseason. He looked human in game 4, but was a huge part of the game 1 win, and probably the only reason the Penguins didn't score more than 1 goal in game 2.
We need Anderson now more than ever, so it's extremely encouraging to see him looking like his old self again. The last thing we need at this point in the playoffs is a goaltending controversy.
That power play
The Sens' power play has gone from a funny joke to a very serious concern, as the Sens have now gone 0 for 25 on the man advantage in their last 9 games. That, to put it simply, is inexcusable.
They look absolutely pathetic on the power play. They can't seem to generate any good chances, their passes aren't connecting, and they even tend to give up odd-man rushes.
Ottawa might be able to pull it off against a depleted Pittsburgh team, but they can't expect to beat good defensive teams like the Predators or Ducks if they can't figure out how to convert on the power play. This is something they should have figured out last round. Let's hope they manage to get it together soon.
When will the Sens get the respect they deserve?
Look, I don't expect the Sens to be favourites in this series, or in the next one if they make it that far. I don't need the media to drool over Ottawa's 1-3-1 system or suddenly declare them one of the best teams in the league. I'm used to them being ignored, and I'm fine with that.
But can we stop saying they don't deserve to be here?
There were signs all along that Ottawa was a better team than most people believed. Under Dave Cameron, they looked like a very talented group of players who had no idea what they were supposed to be doing anywhere on the ice. They were bad, but they had more individual talent than people thought. When Boucher came in, there was reason to believe his #System, combined with the talents of Karlsson, Stone and Hoffman, among others, would be enough to at least make the playoffs.
Not to mention that Boucher's defense-first style is one that's well adapted to the playoffs, and that the Sens improved their depth a lot at the deadline. Sure, Boston was injured and most of Ottawa's wins have come in overtime, but the Sens have still looked very dominant at many times during the postseason. I'm not saying they haven't benefited from favourable matchups and their fair share of luck, but let's not pretend this is all a fluke. They outplayed both their previous opponents, and they've shown an ability to do the same against Pittsburgh. They deserve to be here.
Do you believe?
In case you missed it, there was a very brief period of time yesterday when the Sens were the Stanley Cup favourites, with a 26% chance to win it all. Now, that didn't last very long and I don't think any of us expected it to, but we're getting to the point in the postseason where the Cup doesn't seem like an impossible dream after all.
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but.... Ottawa can totally beat Pittsburgh. They've looked completely dominant in their two wins, and the two losses were games in which they just didn't look like themselves. Those two Rangers losses were so demoralizing because New York looked completely unstoppable, but there hasn't been a moment in this series where Pittsburgh has really scared me. As long as the Sens are on top of their game, they can take them.
And if they manage to get past the Penguins... well, they've been heavy underdogs in all their other series, haven't they? Who even knows what this team is capable of?
I think it's a symptom of making it this far in the playoffs that you start to get used to your team winning. I've almost forgotten what it's like to face elimination. I can see the Sens beating just about anyone at this point.
I'm usually pretty realistic in my expectations for this team, but the more they win, the more I keep having to remind myself not to get too cocky. I shouldn't assume they're going to keep winning like this.
And yet, I'm sure I'm not the only person who cleared their schedule for the Stanley Cup Finals.
(On that note, you may direct your tomatoes/death threats at me when the Sens lose in six games. It will have been my fault. I jinxed it. I’m sorry.)