Chris Neil shows the sports world that it’s the heart and soul players who win you games, not necessarily your household names, as Ottawa won 3-2 in overtime, tying their best of 7 series at 1-1. A fan favourite for fisticuffs as much as skill, Neil delivers in intensity every night and he was the difference maker in a crazy, all-out knockabout.
The refs put the whistles away and allowed a lot of rough stuff, leaving the Sens and Rangers to play some old style hockey with bodies splayed on the ice, sticks in faces, and mad scrums into the net. The tone was set early on when the Sens announced that Matt Carkner would be suiting up and a very clear message was sent to the Rangers bench, as Brian Boyle took as many hits as he gave to Karlsson the night before. This was a pure exercise in gamesmanship and both Carkner and Dubinsky were shown the door, but not before Dubinsky gave Gatorade some great free advertising by dumping a cooler full on his way out.
It was not a pretty game in any sense of the word. The tone for an aggressive game was set early, and bad feelings left over from games past were revisited. The worst of these was Alfie’s early exit on a head hit by Hagelin, who clearly targeted the head area and will probably have an ineffectual disciplinary hearing over the phone, otherwise known as one of Shanahan’s post season courtesy calls. Alfie didn’t come back to the game and his status is unknown.
The CBC commentators referred to this game as the circus. The only amusing moment of the game was the two pucks on the ice incident that left Winchester asking some questions. Other than that, there was not much to laugh about in this game, as frustration mounted along with injuries. The game actually looked more like rugby, with full team scrums moving towards the goalie’s crease. The training staff in both locker rooms are going to be very, very busy.
Ottawa won this game and gained some confidence, but they are sorely in need of some important lessons when playing the Rangers. They need to shoot the puck and throw everything they can towards the net. The Senators were guilty of holding the puck too long, making one too many passes or pausing for that perfect angle several times. New York shut them down at every possible turn, no doubt infuriating Spezza, whose shots were almost all deflected.
It’s a mystery why Maclean continues to talk in his ear on the bench when he should be yelling at him. Spezza’s shots are deflected because he’s consistently shooting directly into the lane which is consistently blocked; for Ottawa to have success against the Rangers, they have to create some space by playing the periphery and spreading out the Rangers in the zone. The Rangers are playing them so tight that they’ve clogged the zone and aren’t allowing shots on goal. Ottawa needs to open the lanes themselves and that’s not going to happen with straight shots.
Ottawa’s positioning needs a ton of help as well. The best chances on Lundqvist involve net traffic and plenty of it, and even when Ottawa wins puck battles on the boards, there’s rarely a player in front of the net to capitalize. Ottawa should stop giving Lundqvist so much respect and start crashing his crease. He’s had it way too easy so far.
Good on Ottawa for standing up for themselves and taking some numbers down. They’ve shown some fight in this series, knowing that they can’t go back to Ottawa down 2 games to the best team in the East. Now they’ve got to learn to play smarter against them.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.