For what he’s done thus far in his career, Daniel Alfredsson deserves at least a portion of the hero worship bestowed upon him by Team 1200 minister Steve Warne and echoed by his merry band of Senators disciples.
But now, two games into this opening-round playoff battle with the Penguins, it’s time to “Waaaaaaaaake” Alfie.
Somebody needs to give Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen a good, hard, shake, too.
The Senators are in position to pull off an upset very few paid prognosticators thought possible, needing to hold serve by winning Games 3 and 4 at Scotiabank Place Sunday and Tuesday to have the defending champs in a firm headlock when the series shifts back to Pittsburgh.
It’s certainly not inconceivable. Only six teams had more points than the 56 the Senators accumulated with a 26-11-4 record at The Bank during the regular season. And with the way most of them did their jobs during the first two exciting games at Mellon Arena, the Senators served notice they’re going to be a handful for the defending champs, at the very least.
To beat them, they need their top-paid players to cash in offensively.
They have other important responsibilities, for sure. But especially with Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek out, the Senators’ best and most experienced four forwards have to score.
As a group, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for them to at least keep pace with Sidney Crosby. And so far, they are not:
Crosby 1, Group 0.
As a group, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for them to at least match Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, point for point. And so far, they are not:
Crosby-Malkin 8, Group 6.
That latter count is flattering for Group. Alfredsson has two of the six points on assists he was awarded for touching the puck on his own side of centre ice.
Of course, it’s tough to put the puck IN the net when you don’t put it ON the net.
Alfredsson, who had no shots in Game 1, recorded just two in Game 2.
Spezza, Fisher and Cullen combined for zero shots on goal Friday night. In fact, the next shot Cullen registers in this series will be his first.
The thing is, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury looks ripe for the picking. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma figured there were two or three Ottawa shots that beat him, Fleury would very much like another crack at in Game 1, when he surrendered five on just 26 shots.
And he barely flinched on Peter Regin’s 41-foot wrist shot that beat him 18 seconds into Game 2.
Alas, the Senators had just 19 shots in he final 59 minutes and 42 seconds. That’s just not enough.
It’s a good idea to work in close for what Kovalev would call a quality shot. But barring that, getting almost any type of shot is better than getting none. You just never know what’s going to happen when you test a guy.
Senators coach Cory Clouston said Saturday that everybody has to be better as his team moves forward. But that’s not entirely correct.
Badger Brian Elliott’s goaltending was good enough in Game 2. Andy “Mount” Sutton has successfully and emphatically sent the message that says ‘Danger’ to any Penguin who dares glance toward the ice as he skates down the right wing.
Sutton has done at least one aspect of his job as well as Crosby has done his. He may not move very fast going north-south, but the timing he has in sliding across and flattening an opponent — like Jordan Leopold, for instance — is as impressive as the manner in which the Penguins captain passes a puck or outlasts a checker in a battle. Apples and oranges, but just as impressive.
The Senators’ defence, as a whole, has also been good enough. The fourth line, particularly rookie Zack Smith and Jesse Winchester, have provided solid shifts in two straight games. Rookie Peter Regin exceeded expectations in Pittsburgh with a goal in each game. And Kelly’s Heroes — the Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil line — only won Game 1 and turned in their usual strong performance in Game 2.
So no, not everybody needs to be better. And Alfredsson, Spezza, Fisher and Cullen — two-thirds of each of the Top 2 lines — don’t need to be better at every part of their job.
They just need to start providing some offence. And they’d help their cause by shooting the damn puck.