Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Game 1 in the Books

I have to limit these comments to the last 15 minutes of last night's Game 1 as that was all I was able to watch because I was out visiting friends who aren't hockey fans.

And it is a good thing that I did watch the last 15 minutes of the game and didn't rely upon the headline writers at the (Com)Post who on Page E1 this morning along the left side rundown say "Game 1 to Senators: Trailing by one entering the finals period, Ottawa wins the Stanley Cup Finals opener on a goal by Travis Moen." They even list the score as Senators 3 Ducks 2.

The guys at On Frozen Blog now have a legitimate gripe with the (Com)Post and can stop bashing the irreverent sports blogger for blogging about irreverent sports for at least one day. At least inside the (Com)Post, they have everything right.

But I digress, what impressed me the most was the way that the Thug Ducks seemed to physically impose their will on the Senators, especially after tying the game up. The Senators were getting dominated for most of the third period and you just had a sense that Anaheim was going to pull the game out which they eventually did.

To their credit, Ottawa did not curl into a little ball and die under the pressure. They tried to fight through the forechecking and did not back down in front of their own net. Ottawa will be fine if they can get away from the Bryan Murray "sit on the lead" brand of hockey.

Two things that stood out to me though was the way Anaheim was unwilling to let Ottawa generate any speed through the neutral zone. The Thug Ducks were hitting everything in white on the forecheck and that made the Senators' lives miserable. You could especially see that some of the Senators' forwards were not used to getting hit in that part of the ice. Finally, when the score was tied at two and goal mouth scrambled developed in front of the Senators' net, there were three to four Thug Ducks digging for the puck and just as many Senators trying to clear out the crease and protect their goaltender. When Ottawa was down a goal with the game winding down, a goal mouth scramble in front of the Anaheim net had only two Senators digging for the puck and four Thug Ducks clearing out the crease. One could interpret that as Anaheim wanting the game more than Ottawa, but I don't think that was entirely case. I haven't seen the Thug Ducks as much as the Senators but it certainly isn't the Senators game to create chaos in the crease.

Overall the last 15 minutes of last night's game was very entertaining. It almost makes me wish that I had seen the entire game (I hadn't seen these friends since their wedding and they have been inviting over to their place since late last year and had already delayed my visit twice). I'll certainly watch Game 2 and it will be interesting to see how the Senators respond not only to the adversity of being down in a series for the first time this spring but how they also respond to the physical beating they took last night as well. Ottawa has shown in recent years that they can't be bullied and pushed around anymore and they'll have to demonstrate that again in Game 2 to get the series tied up.

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