Friday, May 4, 2007

Senators 3 Devils 2

Senators Goals
Alfredsson (5) from Heatley (7) and Spezza (6)
Heatley (5), unassisted
Fisher (1) from Redden (4) and Emery (2)

Spezza Blocked Shot Count:
2 last night, 3 total.

0 for 4 on the PP
4 for 5 on the PK

Emery stopped 29 of 31 shots

Arena 3 stars:
1. Heatley
2. Alfredsson
3. Emery

Team 1200 3 Stars:
1. Heatley
2. Alfredsson
3. Emery

My 3 Stars:
1. Heatley
2. Alfredsson
3. Volchenkov

Thanks to Wednesday night's 3-2 victory, the Senators find themselves with a 3-1 stranglehold on the Eastern Conference semi-final series with the New Jersey Devils. The Senators won both games at Scotiabank Place to maintain the home ice advantage they stole from the Devils, after winning the first game in Jersey.

While it might be misguided to claim Senators netminder Ray Emery has outplayed Jersey counterpart Martin Brodeur, game 4 was perhaps a testament that pedigree and reputation mean quite little in the playoffs; winning is all that matters. Brodeur's heroics in game 3 were a sight to behold, to be certain, yet the Senators gained the W. Emery might have bobbled the puck a number of times in game 4, yet he notched his 7th win of the post-season, while Brodeur mounted his 5th loss. Much was made after the game about a comment by Brodeur, when he claimed Emery "doesn't look too good" when heavily tested. Considering this was a rare occasion where Brodeur lost the game for his teammates, any criticism of the man at the other end of the rink might have been ill-timed.

The delay in writing this recapitulation has caused some of the finer points of the game to elude my memory; however there was one clear moment, already touched on in many articles, which stands out above all else. Though it might not have translated as well on television, roughly four minutes into the opening frame, the boisterous and energetic crowd, fresh off "Razor" and "Go Sens Go" chants, twenty thousand voices strong, united in respect and admiration for the Senators' captain, began an "Alfie" chant. "Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!", the crowd roared. And suddenly, it happens. Heatley's tape-to-tape pass from behind Brodeur's net finds Alfredsson in the slot, who proceeds to one-time it past Brodeur. 4:34 seconds in, 1-0 Senators. Though Alfredsson didn't hear this chorus of cheers, it was a special moment for Senators fans. The goal was his 5th of the playoffs, tying him for second in the playoff goal race. By the time the night was over, Alfredsson's presence on the ice for Senators goals was up to a remarkable 10 for 12.

Alfredsson's goal would be the only one Brodeur might not have been shaking his head over. Taking a cue from both Lecavalier and St. Louis from Tampa, Heatley, standing on the goal-line, fired a would-be pass to Spezza past Brodeur. With the success of would-be passes making their way to the back of the net for the Senators this post-season (think of Spezza's wobbly deflected goal in the Pittsburgh series), perhaps the pass-first mentality isn't so bad after all. It was Heatley's 5th of the post-season as well, and, with the assist on Alfredsson's first period goal, he now finds himself in first place in post-season scoring. A remarkable feat, if you consider his achingly slow start in the Pittsburgh series. New Jersey fans (and fans league-wide, mind) might still say that Lecavalier and St. Louis are the more lethal duo than Heatley and Spezza. I'm still not convinced I disagree, but there is not an inch of doubt in my mind that Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson are the deadliest trio in the league, bar none. Any combination of the three should rank within the top 3-4 deadly duos in the league. And that's just the stats. When you factor in their drive, intensity, competitiveness, creativity, chemistry, clutch play, increased physicality and increased defensive awareness, I don't want any three players in the league over these three.

Fisher's goal, credited to his quick release, was one Brodeur should have had. Still, it marked Fisher's first goal of the playoffs (finally), and his second point in two games. After impressing in all areas but the scoresheet through the post-season, it's good to see him contributing in the manner that matters most. The Schaefer-Fisher-Comrie line has now produced two goals in two games, and though the 3rd and 4th lines still need to contribute offensively, at least the two lines most expected to factor in on the scoresheet are doing so.

Neil had a fantastic game, a definite improvement over the first couple games where he looked rather slow and out-of-place. Kelly and Vermette both had good games, yet Neil was probably the best on the line, so credit to him. A third period individual rush by Neil was impressive, and if he could one day finish, he's got some highlight reel in him.

Volchenkov was his usual shot-blocking madman self, and probably had a bigger role in shutdown the Devils' stars than Emery did. A-Train registered 6 blocked shots to take sole possession of the post-season leaderboard, in his rightful place.

I'd also like to take a moment to give some consideration to Meszaros. He had an exceptionally difficult year, not what anyone was expecting after a strong rookie campaign, but he deserves some credit for the things he has done right this post-season. He and his partner Wade Redden have built up a reputation for poor play this year, whether due to injury or lack of confidence or poor decision making or whatever else. People circle like vultures waiting for them to make a mistake, and then lambast them when they do; when they perform well, no credit is given. I won't claim Meszaros has had a brilliant return to form nor has he had a remarkable post-season, but he has been very solid and done many little things right. For example, Wednesday night he was second to Volchenkov with 4 blocked shots. He now ranks third on the team in blocked shots. He ranks third among defensemen on the team in hits. He was +1 again last night, and still sits second in the league with a +7. He hasn't been out for a goal against ALL SERIES, in fact the last goal he was on the ice for was in game 4 of the Pittsburgh series. He is a key part of our PK, averaging nearly 3:00 per game shorthanded. He hasn't had a PP goal scored against him ALL SERIES. In fact, he hasn't had a PP goal scored against him ALL PLAYOFFS. Give him some credit.