The number 4 seems to be a big number for the Ottawa Senators these days.
-It was 4 minutes in penalties to #4 Chris Phillips that allowed Carolina to steal the win on Saturday
-It was another penalty to #4 Phillips that gave the Capitals the chance to send the game into overtime tonight.
-It was the Capitals 4th goal of the game and Chris Clark’s 4th goal of the season that gave them the overtime win.
-It was Ottawa’s 4th loss in a row.
But it goes beyond that. The Senators can hardly ever win when they score fewer than 4 goals and they can hardly lose when they score 4 or more goals. When scoring 4 or more goals the Senators were an outstanding 46-0-2 last season. When scoring 3 or fewer goals they were a lowsy 6-21-7. In the playoffs they were 3-1 when scoring 4+ goals and 2-4 when scoring 3 or fewer goals. This year they are 4-0 when scoring 4 or more goals and 1-7-1 when scoring 3 or fewer goals (the win being a shootout win).
It seems really strange that the Senators can’t win when they don’t score 4 or more goals. It is strange because this team should be able to do well in low scoring games. They have a good defense and have generally had pretty solid goaltending last year and this year. But something just isn’t right with this Senators team and hasn’t been for a long time. The Ottawa Senators just cannot win the close, hard fought games. They can be easily frustrated by good goaltending and don’t seem to have the leadership and work ethic to fight for every point. It’s generally hasn’t cost them in the regular season until now but it has cost them in several playoffs over the past decade. Most of the players have changed but the result has remained the same. The Senators just can’t get it done.
A few weeks ago (just prior to their 3 game 21 goal outburst) I had a theory that the fans and media might bear some of the blame. Well, maybe blame is a strong word, but lets say maybe they are a factor. You see, the Ottawa Senators fan is pretty much an eternal optimist. Even when they were scoring 10 goals in their first 6 games I heard fans calling in to the local radio station saying things like ‘this slump is might actually be a blessing in disguise. A little adversity will do this team good and once they learn to win again everything will once again be hunky dory and we can gun for the Stanley Cup again’. The local hockey media said many of the same things and even after tonights game a couple of the hosts on the Ottawa post game show (on TV) reiterated the same thing. Well, maybe this is not the right line of thinking. Maybe the fans should criticize this team the way they deserve. And I am not talking about ‘Alfredsson sucked tonight, lets trade him’ I am talking about ‘This team is not good enough to be a Stanley Cup contender and will be in a fight for the playoffs’.
Why do I say this? Well, because I see what happens in Leaf Land. In Toronto the Leafs get bashed for everything they do or don’t do. Nothing is ever good enough for most in the media and many of the fans. They are too old. They are too slow. They defence is horrible. Pat Quinn never talks to John Ferguson Jr. There are rifts in the dressing room. Just read a Steve Simmons column on the Leafs. He hardly ever has anything good to say. Even in a recent article where he was praising Pat Quinn for some of his draft picks he was making subtle jabs at JFJ for his lack of drafting ability. For some in Toronto nothing is ever good enough. And yet they generally win. Not so much in the regular season, but in the playoffs when it counts. Before this season everyone had written them off but they are now sitting with a 9-5-3 record. I am thinking that all this pessimism has given the players a reason to play hard; they want to prove everyone wrong. Maybe the Senators players believe everything that they hear, that everything will be better soon and that they will be better for it once they get through these tough times. But the reality is, maybe they won’t.
So maybe Senators fans should start realizing reality that this team is not good enough. They haven’t and aren’t good enough to win in the playoffs and maybe now they aren’t good enough to win easily in the regular season. Maybe then the players will work harder to prove the fans and the doubters wrong. Maybe mass doubt amongst the media and fans is the adversity the players really need.
Oh, and can someone tell the Senators play by play guy (Dean Brown?) that the worst lead in hockey is 2 goals not 3. I have heard him say the worst lead is a 3 goal lead several times this season and it is flat out wrong.