Sadly, the Ottawa Senators may have used up every last bit of magic just getting to the playoffs. Three games into their first-round series with Montreal, Ottawa is on the brink of elimination.
With how close the games have been to this point, it would be foolish to outright write off the Senators’ chances going forward, but their chances couldn’t look much more bleak. Whether it is the stellar play of Canadiens’ netminder Carey Price or that Ottawa had to scratch and claw to get to the post-season, it feels as though the Habs, who skated to one of the best regular season records in the league, are simply overmatching the Senators.
Through the first three games of the series, Montreal has outshot Ottawa 130-98, controlled possession for long stretches of time and, maybe most importantly, were the first team to pepper Andrew ‘Hamburglar’ Hammond – the Senators goaltender who sparked the run to the playoffs – to the point where Ottawa coach Dave Cameron chose to go in a different direction in goal. Montreal has weathered the physical storm Ottawa has unleashed, they’ve thrown their weight around right back and after three games the Senators are faced with an almost insurmountable hole.
Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson, who got the call in Game 3, played fantastic in his first post-season start and, realistically, had it not been for him the Senators might not have been able to make it to the extra frame. But whether the move by Cameron was one to spark his squad or not, there’s really no other option when it comes to shaking up the roster at this point or providing a boost to his team with lineup changes. The Senators team that has been beaten by the Canadiens in three consecutive outings is the best team the organization can ice at this point. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
No matter if they won their first-round series or not, this wasn’t going to be the Senators’ year. The future in Ottawa looks bright and there’s a lot to love about these Senators. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Curtis Lazar and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are all young guns with great upside. Blueliner Erik Karlsson is continually improving and is one of the best defensemen in the league while Cody Ceci is coming into his own.
There aren’t any teams that want to hang their hats on what they accomplished in the regular season – even Presidents’ Trophy winners are forgotten. However, if one team should be proud of what they’ve done in 2014-15, it’s the Senators, regardless of their playoff fate. After all, they’re the first team in the NHL’s modern era that has made a run to the post-season in such fashion.
At one point in the season, Ottawa was an incredible 14 points out of a playoff spot. By season’s end, they were preparing to face Montreal in the first-round. By overcoming the massive point deficit, the Senators became the first team in NHL history to clinch a berth when so far out of the race.
The job that Cameron has done with this club – a young club with much room to grow – is nothing short of remarkable and, because of it, you wouldn’t have found a shortage of pundits who believed Ottawa was ripe for the upset of their Canadian counterparts.
With favorable bounces in either overtime in Game 2 or 3, the Senators could have made this series much, much tighter, but what-ifs won’t do much good when you’re staring at a 3-0 series deficit. When Dale Weise’s overtime wrister found its way past Anderson, you could virtually hear the hearts of the Canadian Tire Centre faithful sink. While the shot totals tell one story, there are few teams who could have played the Canadiens so tight on the scoreboard and delivered such physical punishment over the course of three games. Unfortunately, the lack of friendly bounces may be enough to sink the Senators.
The series isn’t over yet – not officially, at least. For Cameron, he has to attempt to rally his group and commandeer another unthikable run. Anything short of a miracle, though, and Ottawa will be the first team eliminated from the post-season.