OTTAWA - The Senators faithful have come up with a new way to praise Daniel Alfredsson.
They count down the final 11 seconds to the 11:00 mark of each period, then begin chanting the captain’s name. It’s a decent idea with some potential.
Alfredsson heard the countdown and chant, which grew stronger each period, but wasn’t aware it was for him. “It’s kinda neat,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senators coach Paul MacLean was full of praise for Alfredsson Tuesday morning.
“For me, Alfie deserves a lot of credit,” MacLean said when asked about the team’s run to a playoff spot. “I think he does an outstanding job, and he’s made my job way easier coming here. To me, he’s been tremendous, and a big part of the success this team is having is because Daniel Alfredsson is the captain.”
Alfredsson and assistant captains Jason Spezza and Chris Phillips met with MacLean the morning after the 5-1 loss in Montreal March 23 that nudged the Senators toward a seat on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
“We just talked about our team, what we needed to do, what we did well as a team and how to get back to that,” said MacLean. “It wasn’t a long, drawn-out session.”
But a seemingly important pow-wow, nonetheless. Later that day, MacLean told his players that, with seven games left, their playoffs had already started. That they needed to win four games.
They proceeded to reel off four victories in a row to clinch a spot.
“We knew we were sitting pretty good, but we had to step it up,” said Alfredsson. “I think all of us stepped up, especially the Pittsburgh game. That game kind of seemed to give us a lot of momentum.”
Alfredsson was asked about the job he’s done as a leader this season. Is it his best season yet in that role?
“No, I mean I haven’t done anything miraculous at all,” he said. “I think Jason has definitely taken a bigger role on and off the ice, Phillips as well. They have done a really good job. They’ve kept me pretty positive, still being a young old man at times. It’s just been a fun group to part of.”
While Nick Foligno says Alfredsson is playing like a 21-year-old, No. 11 himself still hasn’t decided if he’ll play again next season.
“I’ll come to that after the season,” he said. “Right now, just living it and enjoying it.”
And no doubt getting a kick out of the countdown in his tribute the fans have started doing each period. He should be on the ice next season to enjoy it too.
STARTS AND STOPS
The crowd was absolutely loving Chris “Oil Changers” Neil Tuesday — the refs, not so much. Neil, who was crushing ’Canes all night, was given a third-period interference penalty for a hit on Tuomo Ruutu. Until they take body contact out of the game, that will continue to be a horrible call ... Matt “Big Country” Carkner was an energetic and physical force against the ’Canes, starting with his open-ice hit on Chad LaRose early in the first. Carkner, whose been a healthy scratch much of the past two months, will be needed in a first-round playoff series with the Bruins ... Yes, Senators fans are clearly getting in playoff mode. Before the opening puck drop, they gave the CIS-champion Carleton Ravens basketball team a standing ovation. I’m not sure I remember the last time they gave the Senators one of those.
STUFF I THINK I THUNK
Craig Anderson made one spectacular save in the first period, but was definitely a little off in the second. The Brandon Sutter goal seemed to go through the logo on his chest, he bobbled another easy shot to his trapper, and he totally misplayed a puck out of his crease that would have turned into a Jeff Skinner goal had Erik Karlsson not been there to swipe it off the goal-line ... Anderson usually doesn’t say much in his answers to media questions. He speaks in cliches or by stating the obvious. It’s to the point where some reporters only half-listen to what he spews. But did Anderson try to sneak one by us after the morning skate or what? Asked if he would like to play the remaining three games, Anderson said: “Obviously, there’s three games left. We play today, Thursday and Saturday. Then we don’t play until Wednesday, so there’s a lot of time to relax in between there and get ready for the playoffs.” Unless Anderson knows something the rest of the world doesn’t, the date of the Senators first playoff game has yet to be determined
Spezza’s “mad dash” Sunday morning began with a flight that left New York at 6 a.m., stop in Washington, then land in Ottawa at 9:30 a.m.. He just missed the actual birth of new daughter Nicola, but did get to see for himself that she and mom Jennifer had made it through the delivery just fine. Spezza tried to get back for the Islanders game at 3 p.m., but could not get a charter. “I’m not going to lie, it was a good day sitting on the couch with a new baby and watching the boys play the way they played,” he said of the 5-1, playoff-spot clinching win. “It was a pretty satisfying day for me. One of the most satisfying days I’ve had in a long time.” It was midway through March — less than a week after he lost a good friend — that Spezza said he wife was expecting “any day.” That he not only endured the distractions of the month, but thrived is a credit to Ottawa’s MVP.
Goalie Ben Bishop, with new mask and all, practised with the team Tuesday for the first time since suffering a groin injury Mar. 24. Alex Auld remains the backup until Bishop gets a few more sessions under his belt.
JUST SAYIN’ HMMM ...
Sixty-four seconds in Nick Foligno had already had to pick himself up from out of the back of the Carolina net once and been called for called for goalie interference a second time. At least no one could accuse him of letting his foot off the pedal ... Not a good sign for a team that has clinched: just 35 second in, Spezza required the trainer’s attention in a corner of the ice. As it turned out, having his nose slightly out of joint did not prevent him from continuing on ...Skinner was clearly frustrated by a hit from Carkner in the second, as he responded with a slash to the back of the big guy’s legs. After a whistle a few moments later, Skinner swung his stick wildly but missed Carkner. He must be thinking this morning that it’s probably a good thing he did.
THE LAST WORD
“We know we can play with and beat anybody in the league, There’s no question. The question is, can we do it in a seven-game series. We’ll have to wait and find out.” - Daniel Alfredsson.