Senators taking 'Pageau' from past glory
May 02, 2017 3:07 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Reflections and observations through the first week of the second round (division finals) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Here’s a “tip” from Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was actually born in Canada’s nation capital and grew up across the river in Hull (now Gatineau), Quebec. Pageau knows how to firmly plant his rear in front of the net, gaining position to tip the puck, a feat he was able to accomplish twice in the final five minutes of Game 2 to complete the hat trick, as the Senators rallied from a 5-3 deficit to sweep both home games.
The game-winner: Pageau, who tallied his fourth goal of the game early in double overtime, also completing the natural hat trick.
In the Modern Era of Senators hockey, only two players have registered playoff hat tricks. The first was All-Star forward Daniel Alfredsson, who played exclusively in Ottawa for 17 seasons before retiring in 2014, and Pageau, the NHL leader in short-handed goals in 2015-16.
So where was Pageau (1 goal in 7 games) prior to Saturday? He was responsible for successfully defending Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (two goals, only one with Pageau on the ice) while the Sens found offense from other sources to eliminate the Bruins in six games.
Thus, it’s hard to handicap players like Pageau, or Mark Stone and Ben Harper, who are given their assignments and stick to them, which shows why under-the-radar Ottawa coach Guy Boucher is among the best.
Even if the Rangers rally to win the series, this will be a performance by a Hometown Hero that will last for decades.
Now the Senators head to Madison Square Garden, where they are 9-2-1 in the last 12 visits, including three shutouts in the regular season. Both sides average just 1.5 games per season (among 82) in the opponent’s building, so how much weight does it draw when handicapping a postseason game?
I keep hearing this series will be decided by the goalies, but which 35-year-old do you want?
The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist owns the playoff pedigree, but the Sens’ Craig Anderson looks fresher, playing only half the season while tending to his wife. Since her cancer treatments were held in NYC, by now it’s almost like a second home for Anderson.
I originally selected the Blue Shirts, the team with the best road record in the league… oops!
Since I live in the city of Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, I knew the status of injured Ducks defenders, many of whom came back to help sweep Calgary in the first round.
What I didn’t know was the extent of the injuries made the blue-lines look anything but ready as the underdog Oilers returned home with a 2-0 series lead.
Because the Ducks’ “D” were less-than-full speed, the Oilers controlled center ice, easily gaining the Ducks zone. A series of early Anaheim turnovers provided Edmonton with several scoring opportunities to secure the early lead in both games at Honda Center.
It wasn’t like Anaheim’s defenders weren’t expecting the puck. Anaheim led the NHL in face-off efficiency, while Edmonton finished dead last. However, the inability to consistently advance the puck allowed Edmonton to cheat and jump on forward passes in the neutral zone.
Then Anaheim’s top scoring lines were jumbled when Nick Ritchie became injured, forcing change. The new lines’ lack of cohesiveness was quite apparent.
An Oilers player I haven’t “talked” about much this season is goalie Cam Talbot, the former back-up to Lundqvist in New York. Talbot played in 73 games, which is surreal for a Western Conference team.
Talbot is a finalist for the Vezina as the NHL’s top goalie, which is remarkable considering the status of many former Oilers goalies in recent years who all ripped club management for their treatment (most notably Ben Scrivens) as the team rebuilt from the forward lines first.
I originally selected the Ducks… oops!
I’ve become a “Citizen of Smashville” (as they call it) after the Predators ran their composite record to 6-1 (at press time) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Mike Fisher line opened up the tight defensive battle in Game 3, allowing Roman Josi to score and break open the game and series in the third period. Fisher’s line has, by far, been the most consistent in the Western Conference, especially with the injury problems in Anaheim and turnover woes in Edmonton.
Talk about balance, a defender posted an assist in all three goals Sunday, with contributions coming from up and down the bench. A solid example is Preds defender P.K. Subban (still laughing at Montreal’s early playoff exit), who always seemed to be on the ice with LW Victor Arvidsson. Meanwhile, Austin Watson leads the club in hits as St. Louis will again get eliminated due to the lack of physical play.
There is always so much talk about defensive pairings or which wingers should play with any given center, yet Coach Peter Laviolette might be taking game strategy to the next level. With Ryan Ellis assuming the key leadership role on the roster, the coach can place him or Subban on St. Louis’ top line, which makes line-matching on the road much easier.
For the bettors, the ones looking for value by taking a road team at plus-money, Nashville might be the team to skip. Their Stanley Cup winning streak in now seven straight at home in Bridgestone Arena, thanks to sustained puck pressure.
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis (from AOL fame) said all the right things, publically announcing Alex Ovechkin and any other of his European players will be allowed to play in the Olympics for Russia, even if the NHL does not shut down for two weeks to allow all players to participate in South Korea this February.
The Caps earned home ice thanks to not only winning the Metropolitan Division, but claiming the President’s Trophy (most points in the regular season).
Then in the hour leading to Game 1, Penguins goalie Matt Murray was injured in pregame warm-ups, meaning Marc-Andre Flurry, once a Cup winning goalie but now an expensive reserve, must tend the net for the entire series. Flurry goes against Braden Holtby, who is in position for a second-straight Vezina Trophy.
Pittsburgh also lists a few additional injuries – and not just three-time Cup winner Kris Letang (he’s been out since mid-February; the team has long since adjusted).
Four points: Advantage Washington in motivation, logistics, roster and experience. However, the Penguins know how to win, extending the Caps’ playoff drought.
The Pens will easily eliminate the Ottawa-N.Y. Rangers series winner, and no one in the West is truly playing well (except Nashville).