Cheapseats: Sens better step on it

Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek tries to get by Carl Hagelin from the New York Rangers during first...

Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek tries to get by Carl Hagelin from the New York Rangers during first period NHL playoff action during Thursday night's Game 1 in New York. (Tony Caldwell/QMI AGENCY)

Don Brennan, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:38 PM ET

Not sure which one of them dreamed up the idea, but the new T-shirts Senators players are wearing under their jerseys show some decent imagination.

Across the top, on the back, it reads 'The Skinny One On The Right.'

Under the words are four rows deep, four boxes long.

Under those boxes are the words 'Why Stop Now?'

The guessing is that after each win, the players will check off one of the boxes until, moving horizontally, they get to the last one, or 'the skinny one on the right'. That box will be symbolic of the fourth win in a series, and advancement to the next round. If they check off all the boxes, they've won 16 games and the Cup.

Most players refuse to talk about the t-shirts and their meaning, saying that it's a "family secret". But in the big picture, aren't we all family?

"Think about it, the skinny one on the right is the gas pedal," one player told Cheapseats. "We want to keep stepping on it."

In Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, however, the Senators ran into a problem. Every time really they stepped on the skinny one, the Swedish one in the net was in their way.

The Senators are behind in the series because Henrik Lundqvist outplayed Craig Anderson, yes, but also because of John Tortorella.

When he called his timeout, there was 10:09 left in the second period. His Rangers were up 1-0, but the Senators fourth line was pushing hard for the equalizer. The shots on goal were 22-12 in favor of Ottawa.

But the time out was a wakeup call the home team needed. After it, in the final half of that second period, the Rangers outshot the Senators 8-2 and outscored them 2-0.

On the flipside, Paul MacLean called his timeout with 15 seconds left with no real hope of a comeback.

On Saturday, the Senators really need to stomp harder on the skinny one right if they hope to reach the box on the far right.

STARTS AND STOPS: Wouldn't think Paul MacLean will even consider replacing Anderson with Ben Bishop for Game 2. But another performance like Thursday's and a goalie move could be made for Game 3. Anderson didn't look good on the first two Rangers goals, but then Sergei Gonchar could've helped cover up a Jared Cowen giveaway, rather than stand back in anticipation of a Marion Gaborik pass that would never be coming, too ... No way Senators fans can ever match the energy level at MSG, where the crowd rose to establish a playoff atmosphere during the anthems. The releasing of red, white and blue balloons from a couple of corner sections was pretty cool, as well ... Lundqvist best save through the first 50 minutes was off Jim O'Brien, who busted in alone on him with a second period rush. That their fourth line centre had their best scoring chance to that point probably says all you really need to know about the Senators in Game 1.

STUFF I THINK I THUNK: What's the going rate for a chance to punch Erik Karlsson in the head (okay, so they were more like hard nuggies) about seven times? Didn't cost the Rangers a thing, as both great big Brian Boyle and Karlsson went off for roughing penalties after the first period incident. In a way, it was sort of reminiscent of Brad Marchand getting away with punches to Henrik (or was it Daniel) Sedin in the finals last spring. Surely the Senators don't want any such comparison ... Mike Rupp would want back his half-rink long shot at an open net, after Anderson was caught out of position chasing a puck to prevent a Rangers breakaway. Rupp's slider went just wide ...A Milan Michalek-Jason-Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson line connected for the Senators lone goal. MacLean might be wise to start it Saturday ... Shown in the crowd on the videoboard was Dr. Oz, who looked like a loser dressed in a suit and baseball cap. Also present were former Knicks Larry Johnson and Jon Starkes ... An impressive lineup of celebrities were taped urging the fans to crank up the noise. Among them was Ottawa comedian/actor Tom Green. Now that just don't see right, does it ...

BETWEEN PERIODS: Among the five Senators getting his initial taste of the NHL playoffs was Kaspars Daugavins, whose first NHL regular season game was also at MSG. That 2009-10 debut contained was Daugavins refers to as "the most embarassing thing I ever went through in hockey." Here's him remembering it after Thursday's morning skate. "I was so nervous. It was my second shift. (Marion) Gaborik had picked up so much speed, and I was trying to chase him. I tried to poke check the puck away, and he kind of put his leg in front to protect the puck, and he hit my stick and I dropped it, and it went to our blue line. That was good, right to where I was skating. But (Shean) Donovan skated by, and he thought it was their stick, so he kind of pushed it to the far corner, in our end. So I was left standing there with no stick. I saw a scrum, a battle, so I went full speed to pick up my stick, and I just bailed on my ass. Then I stood up, and a puck hit me right on the helmet, too. I got to the bench and all the guys were laughing. Yeah, good memories."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Disturbing was some of the Senators defensive zone play in the third. First Nick Foligno loses the puck behind the net allowing for the Rangers to go up 4-0, then Karlsson makes a very un-Norris-like play with a giveaway to Brandon Dubinsky. That would have turned it into a 5-0 game if not for a great save by Anderson ... Foligno made up for the gaffe with a very nice pass on Erik Condra's goal ... Some fans booed Michalek and Spezza for darting from their spots on the blue line before the American anthem was done. But the crowd was so loud you really couldn't hear the final seconds of it anyway ...There had to be at least a half dozen "Potvin Sucks" coming from the crowd throughout the game. Wonder if Denis could hear them while watching on his TV back home, just outside of Ottawa? ... Chris Neil was in a foul mood after the morning practice. You wouldn't have blamed him. While having trouble getting to his stall because of the large scrum around Alfredsson As he tried to get to his stall, he noticed a reporter standing on his the skates he had just taken off. Dumb reporters.

ICE CHIPS: Don't know how to explain it exactly, but you could tell the Rangers were going to win just talking to both teams after the morning skates. "

"I stopped yesterday's practice early," said Tortorella. "I just think they're ready to play." ... When did Tortorella think he had a team that could win this season? Right after the HBO special featuring the Rangers and the Flyers, culminating in a win at the Winter Classic. "I was worried about a letdown, after the cameras left," he said. "I just thought we stayed with it. I like the way we won the game, in the Winter Classic. I just think that really helped our confidence. That's when I felt we could do something." ... One more from Daugavins, who says he turned sour watching a commercial in his hotel room Thursday morning. " It had all the players who ever played in the playoffs from all the different countries, and they don't even mention Latvia," he said, insulted for his home country. "And Latvia has won a Stanley Cup before! I was mad when I saw that this morning. It was like Czechs, Russians, Fins, Swedes...go through every European country that had players in the NHL, and they didn't even mention Latvia. That's crap. Sandis Ozolinsh won a Stanley Cup, baby. The Latvian Legend."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sundonib


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