Redden can handle it all

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

The game put on the ice by Senators defenceman Wade Redden last night was remarkable in any circumstance.

So much more so given he had returned from Lloydminster, Sask., just a few hours before last night's series-clinching win over the Lightning.

Redden's father, Gord, and brother, Bart, came back with him after the funeral Friday for Pat Redden, who lost her battle with cancer a week ago yesterday.

"IMPORTANT TO MOM"

"I knew how important it was to Mom to win," said Redden in the Senators' gym after last night's 3-2 win in which Redden had two assists, clocked 28 minutes, eight seconds of ice time -- the most of any Senator -- and didn't have a turnover, an impressive stat in itself given how much he handles the puck.

And he handled it last night.

Redden can pass the puck, maybe like no other blueliner in the league.

You won't see many better than the one he let loose in the first period last night, swinging out from behind the Ottawa net and firing about a 70-footer, diagonally across the ice to Senators winger Martin Havlat up near centre ice on the right wing.

Havlat skated down the wing and then fired a perfect offering to on-rushing Peter Schaefer, who tipped it behind Tampa goaltender Sean Burke for the first goal in the elimination of the defending champions.

Two passes, 190 feet, puck in the other net (though I'm still trying to figure out if that says more about the Senators or the Lightning).

"That is a great pass. Most defencemen in the league wouldn't even think about making it," said one NHL scout, when asked about Redden and the best-passing blueliners in the league.

"In my book, Redden is the best. Redden, (Anaheim's) Scott Niedermayer, then I can't think of who the next one would be."

Redden's outstanding play in the face of his personal loss has been viewed admiringly by his teammates.

"He's so inspirational," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "Not enough can be said or written about what he's gone through. He was arguably the best player in this series. He's a true professional.

"We love him. He's great for the team."

Redden's pass and that Schaefer goal are clear examples of how good this Senators team can be at a time when other teams are moving the puck in 15-foot increments, chipping it off the boards, dumping it in, running around trying to get it back.

Generating a 60-minute effort is the next challenge, though the Senators came close last night.

"It seemed like we were two different teams at times this series," said Redden. "But we've got good players here. We're going to see some adversity here. Things are not going to go smoothly. We know we've got to keep working on that.

"We've got to recharge now. We know it's not going to get any easier in the next round, no matter who we play. We won a series in five games, but it's just the tip of the iceberg."

ANOTHER GREAT PASS

Redden would pick up another assist before the first period was out (not quite as spectacular, just a cross-ice pass to Andrej Meszaros, whose slapper beat a screened Burke).

The Senators won last night despite playing without defenceman Chris Phillips, out with a sore knee.

Christoph Schubert went into the lineup and Anton Volchenkov moved up to become Zdeno Chara's partner. That's how the Senators can adapt in the face of injury, not to mention the solid job put in by goaltender Ray Emery with that other guy out.

In the end, the kind of skill displayed by Redden, Havlat (six playoff goals and he could have had two more last night), Spezza and wingers Dany Heatley and Schaefer and the Senators' overall depth were just too much for the defending Stanley Cup champions to handle.

Nothing short of spectacular goaltending was going to get the job done for the Lightning in his series and it was far short of that, though the veteran Burke turned in a solid performance last night.

Looking across the other series, the Devils appear to be closest to rivalling the Senators, though it was hard to tell if the Devils were that good or the Rangers that bad in New Jersey's sweep.

ONLY SENS CAN STOP SENS

The Senators dusted off the defending Stanley Cup champions in five games and didn't come close to consistently playing to their top potential.

The truth of the matter is it's looking like the Senators are the only team that can stop the Senators at this point.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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