On Thursday the Ottawa Senators advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators needed just five games to dispatch the Habs. Ottawa Citizen sports writer and columnist Ken Warren joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the Senators.
BL: Years from now, a young hockey fan browsing the results of the 2013 NHL playoffs might conclude that this series was a breeze for the Senators since that only went five games. Would that fan be correct?
KW: No, there’s no such thing, I don’t think, in any playoffs series as a breeze because it’s just so physically punishing. Even if a team sweeps a series, they suffer injuries, nagging injuries, all sorts. They’re battered and bruised, no question.
BL: All right, since you have brought up physical punishment, I want to talk about Game 3. It featured a hat trick by Ottawa rookie Jean-Gabriel Pageau and 236 penalty minutes so there must have been some pain involved. Was that hockey at its beautiful best or at its ugly best?
KW: That’s a matter of perception, right? The game was over when all of the ugliness…started, and I think at that point frustrations boil over, and you get into a situation where in Montreal’s case I guess they were trying to send a message for the next game realizing that one was over. And Ottawa, not wanting to cede anything to them, were willing to fight back. And that’s when things got completely out of hand. It is, unfortunately, I suppose, a part of playoff hockey when lopsided games are happening.
BL: What we got there was a five-on-five brawl, an ugly elbow to the head at one point, and then a Canadiens player deliberately shooting a puck at one of the Senators at the end of the game. Were you surprised that the league didn’t impose further penalties after Game 3?
KW: Yes, especially since earlier in the series, if you go all the way back to Game 1, there was a very devastating open-ice hit from the Senators Eric Gryba on Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens, and Gryba ended up receiving a two-game suspension from that hit, which didn’t sit well with the Senators, who thought it was an overreaction. To settle it down after the third game you might have offered another suspension to a Canadiens player.
BL: The Senators went on a five game losing streak toward the end of the season, and they almost didn’t make it to the playoffs. Then after they had advanced Ottawa team captain Daniel Alfredsson said, “We believe in what we do. We know we’re not going to be pretty every night, but we seem to find a way.” Is that still the strategy going forward?
KW: That’s pretty much how they won that series against Montreal. It was not pretty hockey. It was not up and down the ice pretty tic-tac-toe passing. It was grinding it out. Those lopsided scores, that’s misleading. There’s two 6-1 wins but you know Ottawa’s not an explosive offensive team at the best of times, so the number of goals they scored in the series was quite abnormal, more the result of probably suspect goaltending on the other end than anything else.