Sens vs. Tampa, Playoff Preview.

OOOOOHHH YEAAAHHHHHHHHH.

The Playoffs are here, the Sens are in first in the East, playing well, and their road to the Cup starts with the defending Stanley Cup Champs.

Props to Buffalo for defeating Tampa and allowing the Sens Cup run to start with a chance at the Cup defenders. And all you gushy Devils fans can thank the Sens for defeating the Rangers and delivering you an Atlantic title in the last game of the season…. but i won’t wait for that one.

The Senators remind me of the ’96-’97 Red Wings who went through a few years of being a top team in the league and Cup favorite and enduring first round loses, a finals spanking and lots of questions about Steve Yzerman’s leadership and ability to take his team to Cup victory. In “96-’97, against the Blues in the first round, Game 7 overtime, Stevie Y silenced everybody as he stepped over the blueline and ripped a shot home and the Dynasty that is now the Wings began. After leading the Wings to the promised land, Yzerman is thought of as one of the greatest Red Wings of all time, and one of hockeys greatest leaders of all time.

I really believe the Sens have learned from the past, Alfie is ready to take this team to the promised land. The past history of playoff loses is just that, history, and has only made the team more determined then ever to finally get it done. I honestly believe the Sens are going to put together some of the greatest hockey ever played in the next 2 months and win one of the greatest Stanley Cup playoffs in years.

TAMPA vs. OTTAWA.

What a series this is going to be. The defending Cup champs, going to give it everything they got, playing well going into the playoffs, have won some big games under pressure at the end, have 3 of the best players in the game in Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards.

All the coaching B.S. of Tortarella aside, Grahame or Burke, their tough season, the Bolts are playing great going into the playoffs and have had the luxury of having to play games that mean something at the end of the season, and also getting a few days to relax knowing they were in. They’ll come at the Sens hard, they will score goals in this series, but the Bolts just don’t have enough depth after there top line and top Defence pairing to beat the Sens.

WHY THE SENS WILL WIN….

PENALTY KILL and POWER PLAYS.

The Sens have amazing speed on their penalty kill, and it will neutralize what Tampa can do on their power-play. The Bolts know that they cannot let the Sens super fast Penalty Killers go in alone on their goalie, or it will probably mean a goal. The goaltending scene for the Lighting will limit the chances they take on the power play and make them play tight. Ottawa will pressure them all agme long, and it will be the key to the series. Tampa just sat on their Power-Play in the last playoffs and Richards put on a clinic from the point and won the MVP. Not this time, if the Sens can neutralize the Bolts power-play and make them play tentative and take away their confidence, it’ll be a quick series.

Tampa does have great penalty killers as well at forward, and the same goes for the Sens thinking on the point, not wanting to turn over pucks with the talent the Bolts put out on the Penalty Kill. With Hasek in net, the Sens would take more chances. But the Sens will work it down low where their forwards have huge advantages over the Bolts defence, and keep it simpel. Spezza cannot start turning over pucks on the Power Play or the Sens will pay, and if the Bolts sting the Sens on Spezza turnovers, it’ll really slow the Sens attack down and the Bolts will get a huge booost.

The power play and penalty kill with the goalies being equal will decide the series.

TEAM SPEED AND POWER.

The Sens team speed and power will be to much for the Lighting Defence to handel. Dan Boyle is going to be a sore unit after this series, and won’t make many passes without going backwards after he does. The Bolts move the puck as fast as any team in the league, and can neautralize alot of the Sens speed and power if they can play their style of hockey. The Bolts themseves have a super fast group of forwards, but their Defence isn’t as talented and I think they will have troubles with the Sens forwards. Both teams will be hitting anything that moves, but the Sens hold onto the puck better then any team in the league, and will wear the Bolts down. Chara and Phillips on Lecavalier will take away alot of offence and make Tampa a one line team.

Havlat is back from injury and is flying. A puck possesion team like Tampa that doesn’t have a huge physical edge, Havlat just eats up. Whoever is in net will have a hard time controlling Spezza and Heatley, who are going to put on a clinic this playoffs and become the new premier 1-2 punch in the league, and I think will be the talk of the playoffs.

AREAS OF CONCERN FOR OTTAWA.

THE FANS – Fans in Ottawa drive me nuts. Some of the fans on this site should be ashamed of some of the comments they’ve posted here in the last few days about the Sens folding and getting rocked by the Habs or Tampa. Relax, we have the most talented team in hockey. Don’t be such wimps, be proud of your team. If the Sens lose game 1, it’ll be like the end of the world in Ottawa.

INJURIES AND FATIGUE – Lot’s of Sens are hurting, Chara’s hand isn’t totally fixed, Emery has a bad hip and has looked a little tentative in the net, Phillips isn’t in the line-up as of right now and may return for the playoffs. A hurting Phillips and Chara is a big concern, although they’ll play lights out 100% once the playoffs begin. Heatley, Alfie, Spezza and a total of 12 senators went to the Olympics and fatigue may be an issue. But it wasn’t for the 2002 Detroit Red Wings. The management said they wanted to get some players a game or 2 off to rest, but hvaen’t been abel to. Lot’s of Sens have played lots of minutes every night with all the injuries the team has hadit could be a concern, but we’ll never know about it. The Sens never complain or make excuses, just the fans do.

PENALTIES – the Sens are a pretty undisciplined team and take lots of penalties. Suddenly becoming a disciplined team is hard to do, and this could cost them a game or two as they go through the tournament. Hopefully the reffing isn’t bad and makes them play pond hockey. But the Sens do have an incredibly fast team and the Bolts won’t be abel to handle their team speed, and will probably take alot of penalties themselvestrying to slow guys down. Both teams have great counter attacks, and the Bolts are the best team in the league at springing guys on breakaways. Rayzor will have to make some huge saves, because if he doesn’t, any sign the Bolts have a step on an Ottawa defender will probably lead to an ottawa player taking a penalty to negate the scoring chance.

COACH and GM.

This Sens team is not the Sens team of Radek Bonk, Lalime, Todd White, Marian Hos and last but definetly not least….. Jacques Martin.

John Muckler (My Hero) has upgraded every area the Sens needed upgrading. They have a bigtime scorer in Heatley, in net with Hasek and Emery, leadership from rookies like Eaves and Kelly, a mentality to toughness and has them believing they are the best team in hockey. The 2005/2006 Sens are definetly the best Sens team ever put together, and win or lose, it will be a different style of hockey. They’ll go down swinging and will throw everything they have at the other team, instaed of sticking to the system and playing game 7 as if it is game 1 of the regular season.

Bryan Murray (Hired by my Hero) has changed the way the team plays, and the teams confidence. This team goes into the playoffs knowing they can come back from deficits late in games, has leadership on defence and offense, can make a mistake and be aloud back on the ice, and whatever the score, Coach Murray will send his team out to fight and do whatever it takes to win. Bryan Murray has been the biggest addition to the team, and has this team focused and believing it will win. He has a balanced attack, guys know their roles, the team plays with energy and has great confidence, and its not a shallow thin confidence like it was in the past. Murray has these guys focused and believing they are the team of destiny.

The Sens will just overpower the Bolts and get on a role. They’ll be so dominant at home that it will break the spirit of the Lightning and make it a quick series.

Sens lose game 3 or 4.

SENS win series 4-1