And who knows if they’ll be back. “If people think this is over they don’t know the character that’s in this room,” said Ottawa centre Jason Spezza. Deservedly down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final to the Anaheim Ducks after Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss, the Senators will have to bring their game to a whole new level if they ever hope to see the California sun again in this series.
“I know one thing,” said Senators head coach Bryan Murray. “We’ll work hard. We’ll be competitive. Our fans are great in our building, and I think that they’re so supportive that they’ll give us a lot of energy going back.”
The Senators will have to dig deep after cruising through the opening three rounds.
“There’s a lot of pride in this room and we’re going home now,” said defenceman Chris Phillips. “We’ve got two games at home to even out the series.”
The way the Senators have been manhandled in the opening two games of the Cup final is nothing short of stunning. They were outshot 31-16 Wednesday night, and now 63-36 through six periods. The vaunted Ottawa team speed is nowhere to be seen. The Ducks have been quicker to pucks and more physical along the boards in completely snuffing out the Sens’ attack.
“We’ve got to get skating the way we did,” said Murray.
But how? The Ducks are slowing down the Sens’ forecheck. And perhaps not totally by the rules. The NHL’s so-called crackdown on obstruction and holding opened up the game after the lockout two years ago. But the Senators say the Ducks are guilty of holding them up all over the ice.
“No question,” said Heatley. “They do a good job whether it’s subtle or whether it’s blatant. They’re definitely playing a real hold-up style, a defensive style. We just got to find ways to battle through it.”
Does he feel it’s illegal?
“Yeah, it is,” Heatley said.
Heatley, Ottawa’s 50-goal scorer, and Spezza, the team’s creative genius, have to come through in Game 3 on Saturday. Hockey is a team sport but they’re the two go-to guys offensively and they’ve been totally shut down through two games.
“Definitely we’re counting on a couple of guys to be big-time players for us,” said Murray. “And they played better tonight. But they didn’t create much in the way of offence. I’m hoping when we got home we can do a little juggling, and it will come.
“But yes, I’m concerned. They have to help us win games on the road as well as at home.”
Heatley didn’t sugar-coat his disappointment.
“You’re not going to score every night,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I think we all know that as scorers. We would have liked to score more in the first two games but they’re in the history books now. We’ve got to move on.”
Murray did juggle his lines Wednesday, at times taking captain Daniel Alfredsson away from Spezza and Heatley and inserting rugged Chris Neil instead. But it didn’t do much either way with the Samuel Pahlsson-Rob Niedermayer-Travis Moen checking line still having its way with Spezza and Heatley.
“No questions, their matchups have been good,” conceded Murray. “Overall their D and their checking line have been stars of the series to this point.”
Spezza says it’s not from a lack of effort.
“We’re trying,” he said. “We know we have to better, though.”
Otherwise this will be a shocking sweep and Canada’s Cup drought will extend to 15 years.