April 18, 2012
Sens hope to avoid home futility mark
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - For all the money they spend, the fun they have, the noise they make and the momentum their efforts should generate, far too often Senators fans leave Scotiabank Place disappointed after a playoff game.
Especially of late.
Since defeating the Sabres to claim the 2007 Eastern Conference championship, the Senators have a 1-7 post-season record on home ice.
Since a 5-3 victory over the Ducks in Game 3 of that spring's Stanley Cup final -- their first-ever game in June -- the Senators have lost seven consecutive playoff games at The Bank.
That stretch of futility ties a dubious NHL record they could hold for their very own by bowing to the New York Rangers again Wednesday night.
"I don't really look back at the stats," said winger Chris Neil, one of four players still on the team from its run to eventual elimination by Anaheim five years ago. "We look forward, and to what we've got to do. Obviously, if you look back to winning on home ice and playoffs, back to our run to the finals, you can go that far and see what the record is.
"We've got one thing in mind, and that's Game 4 coming up."
As it should. But the fact of the matter is, the Senators have never been dominant in their own barn at this time of year. Prior to the seven-game slump, their post-season record in games played just off the 417 was 26-21. That means it currently stands at 26-28.
Maybe that's what coach Paul MacLean was thinking about Wednesday morning when he raised some eyebrows by stating there is no such thing as home-ice advantage in the playoffs. More likely, even he's unaware of the past problems this team has had winning the big games in front of its own fans.
Much of the trouble during the slump, as it was in Monday's 1-0 loss to the Rangers, has been in scoring goals. In the seven defeats, the Senators have put the puck in the net just 13 times, an average of less than two goals a game.
Daniel Alfredsson, who missed Game 3 against the Rangers and is questionable for Wednesday's critical Game 4, has five of those 13. Neil has two.
Jason Spezza has just one goal in the seven losses.
A bigger problem has been in shutting down the opposition. The Senators have yielded 26 goals, or almost four a game, during a time when scoring is supposed to be more difficult.
Unless you're the Philadelphia Flyers shooting on Marc-Andre Fleury, apparently.
The Senators, however, were very good defensively against the Rangers Monday night, holding them to 23 shots on goal.
MacLean has them striving to be even better defensively.
"In the game we feel we had, depending on who counts the scoring chances against, 10, 11 or 12," he said. "Four of them we had the puck on our stick, in our zone, and didn't make the next pass to get it out of our zone. That turned into a scoring opportunity for them, and ultimately the goal that won the game.
"It's been something we've worked on as a team, all year long, our execution with the puck, especially in the defensive zone. If there's one thing we can do better, moving forward as a team, is to execute better, talk to each other, listen to each other ... especially in our own defensive zone when we have the puck."
Local sportswriters have debated a couple of times in the past week whether it's fair to pin the failures of past Senators teams on this group, which most would agree has overachieved.
Most would also agree the current Ottawa squad is hard not to like. It's tough, hard-working and enthusiastic. It has some very talented and exciting players, and is minus the arrogant and selfish personalities of Senators past.
Eventually, these guys will send their faithful fans home from a playoff game talking about a win. If they want to have a chance of advancing to Round 2 this spring, it better be Wednesday night.
"Game 1 in New York was an eye-opener for some of the guys who hadn't played in that loud of a building," said Neil. "Coming to home ice, it was good to see how our fans reacted.
"The crowd was awesome. They were into it. Hopefully they come out for Game 4 and are even louder."
It couldn't hurt.