Shame on gutless Sens

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

Such is the season that was for the Senators, that even in a six-goal victory, they have a major weakness exposed.

On this occasion it wasn't poor goaltending, weak defensive zone coverage or a dearth of secondary scoring.

It was their lack of unity.

That nobody in an Ottawa sweater responded to Mark Bell's hit on Daniel Alfredsson in Game 81 of the regular season is disgusting. It wasn't a crime in a league that doesn't penalize head shots the way they do in junior, and no replay we've seen conclusively shows that Bell used his elbow. But it was dirty. Alfredsson was in a vulnerable position, and Bell took advantage with a check that could've ended the great Swede's career.

Some Senators said they did not see the collision. But none could claim they didn't notice their captain, leader and best player prone and banging his hand on the ice in obvious pain, separated half the width of the rink from his helmet.

Yet nobody jumped Bell, either at that moment or in the two-plus periods that followed it. The Senators should be ashamed.

'NO OFFENCE LADIES'

"I'd think a team as physically strong as Ottawa's would have exacted some (revenge)," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said when asked if Bell was guilty of a misdeed, his tongue no doubt pressed firm against his cheek as he seemingly took a dig at the Senators. "But after that, there were a couple of purse swingings that didn't amount to much. No offence ladies."

At least he stopped short of calling the Senators sissies.

Guaranteed Maurice would have been singing a different tune had Chris Neil delivered the same sting on Mats Sundin, just as Bryan Murray defended Neil when he drilled Chris Drury in a similar manner a year ago. That's what coaches do.

"It almost looked like deja vu, to the Neil hit on (Jeremy) Reich (March 29 in Boston)," said Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Whatever it was, you'll remember the Bruins didn't stand for it. The first chance he had, tough guy Shawn Thornton went after Neil.

Neil "answered the bell," as he put it yesterday, unaware of the pun.

The Senators should have responded in kind Thursday. The guys on the ice at the time were Anton Volchenkov, Wade Redden, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. Not exactly the fighting kind, but definitely capable of jumping someone and wrestling him to the ice. If not them, the night was young.

Bell was wearing a cage to protect a broken orbital bone. So what? So was Shaun Van Allen a couple years back, but that didn't stop Tie Domi from attacking him. Van Allen, now a colour commentator on Senators broadcasts, was quick to call for one of Alfredsson's teammates to go after Bell.

They could have punched him in the shield. Or reach under the mask and give him a good hard face rub in the jaw. Instead, Bell realizes that -- like Steve Downie did when he went headhunting on Dean McAmmond in the pre-season -- the Senators will let you get away with liberties. So in the second period, Bell jams a stick in Wade Redden's skates as the latter went racing after a puck along the boards. Redden went down, lucky he wasn't seriously injured.

Few expect Ottawa to go far in the playoffs. "What's wrong with the Senators?" is the most-asked question in the league, and nobody has had a good answer. Until now.

The team that went to the Stanley Cup final a year ago hasn't been playing like a team. The harshest example arrived with the regular season winding down.

What other club would have not reacted when its most important player was demolished? Not one with the chemistry to win.


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