EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three reasons we'd love to see the Senators knock off the New Jersey Devils:
1. For the way Louis Lamoriello unceremoniously dumped ex-Hull Olympiques coach Claude Julien, a good guy who is now sitting on the sidelines, at his home in Ottawa, after guiding the Devils to 102 points through 79 regular-season games. The firing was never properly explained by either the egotistical GM or Julien, who doesn't want to burn bridges, so we have no choice but to continue to see it as unfair and wrong.
2. For the sake of hockey fans everywhere. Seriously, nobody can be excited about the thought of the boring Devils in the Stanley Cup final again. Nobody can want to see their trapping butts anymore this season. Not even the winkies in New Jersey.
3. For selfish purposes.
Holiday plans are unsettled.
Need more time to think. Yeah, we want the Senators to go further, but we just don't see it happening. The one matchup we really like is their forwards against a generally unimpressive group of New Jersey blueliners. However, the system and the goalie will prove to be too much for Ottawa.
Devils in six.
This and that
Chris Kelly is carrying a hot stick into Round 2. The sharp Senators centre scored three goals on seven shots against Pittsburgh, and his 42.9% shooting percentage is third best among all NHL playoff performers. How does it feel to be an offensive statistical leader, Chris Kelly? "To be honest, I haven't thought about it at all," he said. "A statistical leader eh? I'll have to tell Spetz." Yeah, don't bother. They're stats. Jason Spezza already knows ... As "soft" as the ice usually is at Continental Airlines Area, Mike Comrie says he has "seen a lot worse." Comrie, whose career started on the quality surface at the home of the Oilers, says there are only about 10 sheets across the league that are worth talking about. He also suggests the Senators and Devils might not need much of it anyway. "If we trap too, the whole game might be played between the blue lines," he snickered ... Along with Sens-Devils, the Red Sox come to town to play the Yankees, with "Dice K" on the mound for Boston in tomorrow's series opener. If you can't get tickets to that one -- and unless you're waving lots of dollars, you can't -- the other option is the Raptors-Nets playoffs, with games tomorrow and Sunday. Do sports weekends get much better?
What a treat it is to have our old friend, Le Droit sports editor Marc "Big Foot" Brassard, along for the ride to New Jersey. We're not one hour out of Ottawa and he's already criticizing my driving (for being too slow and maybe a little off line) and my singing (satellite radio does not come with the lyrics). Now he's complaining that I'm writing a column on my Blackberry at the same time. Sheesh. Does the new Trail Blazer come with an ejection button for the passenger seat? ... Name a former Stanley Cup champ who has also won a Super Bowl, an Ontario slo-pitch championship, plus set us up with a fine National Car Rental ride that has tired wipers after working six or so hours of rain en route to the Garden State. Okay, so it's three different people, but they all have the words John Madden on their passport ... Now that they've decided to build Mario Lemieux a new rink, the peeps in Pennsylvania might want to do something about the I-80. The bumps are so bad Bruce Garrioch can barely sleep.
And another thing
You're Antoine Vermette and you're growing up in Quebec. When you're playing road hockey with your buddies and it's your turn between the pipes, who do you pretend to be? Patrick Roy? Martin Brodeur? Ken Dryden, maybe? "I can't really remember, but I think I was Billy Ranford," said the flashy forward. "He was more of a flashy guy, with the glove, you know?" Go figure ... Vermette and Devils defenceman Johnny Oduya were Victoriaville Tigres teammates for 24 games at the end of the 2000-01 QMJHL season. In case anybody asks ... Never really noticed before, but when Bryan Murray gets a little angry with his team during practice, he sounds a whole lot like Brian Kilrea ... At least one of his teammates hopes playing the Devils in the playoffs conjures up positive memories for Spezza. "I remember Chris Phillips took a shot/pass to him and he scored his first playoff goal," said Spezza, recalling Game 5 of the 2003 series. "I hope he remembers that, too."
Ray Emery will not be intimidated by anyone's reputation, says Spezza. Not even all the hype, talent and accomplishment that is Martin Brodeur. "Ray's got a lot of confidence, it's probably good for him put be put up against Martin Brodeur," said Spezza. "It's his time to shine, to see if he can beat the best in the world. Ray's a big-game guy. Deep down, he doesn't mind the matchup." ... And more from Spezza: "The five-game series win over the Penguins was tougher and better for the Senators than the five-game series win they had over Tampa Bay in the opening round last spring. "Last year we won a game 8-4 ... it was more free-flowing. We really had to work for games against Pittsburgh. It was close, physical, tight-checking. It was definitely a good first round for us."