The Ottawa Senators weren’t supposed to find themselves in the playoffs this season. Everyone knows that. But thanks the team’s powers that be finding some true diamonds in the rough and having the good fortune of watching them succeed really quickly, the team is heading into Game 4 of a first round series with the Montreal Canadiens.
Unfortunately for the Senators, the dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup is likely over at least for 2014 as the club finds itself down in the series 3-0. In all of NHL history, only a handful of teams have come back from a deficit that significant and won.
One reason in particular the Sens find themselves in this position is that Carey Price has outplayed Andrew Hammond in the crease. While the difference is minuscule with each game in the series being decided by just one goal, in the playoffs one goal is huge. The end result however doesn’t all fall on Hammond’s shoulders, Ottawa is simply getting beat by better opponents.
The Habs are after all one of the league’s top contenders for the Stanley Cup. It’s not just because they have stars like Price, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty however. Everybody on the team is stepping up when necessary. Winger Dale Weise is one prime example of that. He was particularly impactful in Game 3, scoring in the third period to tie the game at one apiece, and winning the game in overtime on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
In that game, Weise played the kind of hero the Senators could use right now. Maybe a guy that only scored 10 or 12 times in the regular season who finds a way to chip in a big goal or swing some sort of momentum in Ottawa’s direction. They need it now more than ever, and if the team doesn’t play like it in Game 4, they could be booking tee times at the golf course a lot earlier than they had hoped.
However, the fact is that nobody in the right frame of mind necessarily expected the Senators to continue their improbably regular season finish into the playoffs, so perhaps the season is already won in Ottawa. Could anybody really blame them with Mark Stone, player who was one of the league’s leading goal scorers in the latter part of the regular season, playing through a wrist injury and not looking anywhere near 100%? Odds are the team’s front office staff is more likely to get extended in the off-season rather than fired so the answer to that question is no.
That’s exactly how it should be, if only for the simple fact that the Habs are a few years further ahead in the growth of the team than the Senators are at the moment. Montreal is a team stacked with all-stars who would have made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for Carey Price getting hurt in Round 3 against the New York Rangers.
Aside from the clear reasons the Habs are outplaying the Senators, it’s important to keep in mind that the future really does look bright in Ottawa. It’s just too bad that the future isn’t now, as it is Montreal and not the Senators that has it’s eyes on a championship at the moment, at least for now.