"Anyway, this series is really interesting to me as a Sens fan. If you read the hockey blogs and chat boards, there's absolutely no middle ground here. The Ducks fans are convinced the Senators are a significantly inferior team, while the Eastern Conference and Sens devotees are seriously asking whether Anaheim can even win one game in this series. I've never seen such a difference of opinion on a playoff series."And at least from my perspective, he’s right. I’ve spent this entire season pretty oblivious of what is going on in the eastern conference, as it really has been irrelevant thus far to the Ducks’ playoff chances, and I imagine a lot of the same is happening on the eastern front.
To help combat this mutual ignorance, Ben from Sens Army contacted me to do a little cross-interviewing, so fans from either side can learn a bit more about what the opposition’s team is all about. Basically, I created 10 questions I had about the Senators for Ben to answer for me, and he is creating a set of questions about the Ducks (haven’t gotten it yet, though).
Anyway, for Duck fans, here’s Ben to help us Better Understand the Senators.
(Sleek) 1. The "Spalfredheat" line, as you have called them (Spezza - Alfredsson - Heatley) has of course been tearing up the playoff scoring charts. Which member of that line, in your estimation, has been most valuable? Or maybe alternatively, which would you least like to see injured by an outraged Pronger?
(Ben) There is very little doubt that Daniel Alfredsson has been the team’s MVP during these playoffs. He leads the team in scoring and netted the series-winning goal against the Sabres. Each guy has a role: Spezza (the Spez dispenser) is all about assists, Heatley loves the one-timers sits by the goal line waiting for a tap-in, Alfredsson has been hitting people alot lately (on the ice!) and does both of the above quite well. I’m not going to answer that last part for fear it might come true.
2. Talk to me a bit about Ray Emery, as I'm pretty sketchy on the guy. Compare him to a more famous goaltender, and tell me what his real strength in the net is.
If I had to compare him to a goalie, I would say Patrick Roy - I know that’s high praise and it might sound like boasting, but they’re both big (kinda slow) goalies who seem to be in the right place at the right time. Rayzor has been solid for the sens, maybe that’s all they’ve needed so far. If he’s tested by the Ducks, he definitely has the skill to shine.
3. I am really impressed by the caliber of teams that Ottawa has been knocking out--Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Buffalo were among the best teams in the league since Christmas. (Incidentally, so were Minnesota, Vancouver, and Detroit). Which series would you say was the toughest of the three, or maybe which series would you least like to see the Sens play again? Which team was closest to beating the Sens?
The team that was closest to beating the sens were the Sabres. After one loss the city had some anxiety, we were aware of how deadly the Sabres are, and so was the team apparently. The sens beat them by pulling through some tough times with mental toughness. If they had to play a team again, I would say Pittsburgh because of Crosby – that guy’s good.
4. I can name all six (or seven) Ottawa defensemen, but I don't really know how they are played very well. Give me the defensive pairings and a little bit about their particular role. Also, which defensemen play the power play and which kill penalties?
#1 - Phillips-Volchenkov – You might say ‘who?’, but these guys have been our shut-down pair for the playoffs. They played against Crosby, Gomez and Briere, ultimately beating them all.
#2 – Corvo-Preissing – These guys were picked up in the off season to give the sens some puck-movement and offense from the point. They’ve done just that. Watch for Corvo darting up the ice on powerplays. He’s fast.
#3 – Redden-Meszaros – These guys have struggled to find their roles on the team this year. Some people put them at #2, but I personally think they’re our shakiest pairing. Despite what I think of them there was a streak of 7 or 8 games where they weren’t on the ice for an opposition goal.
5. Based on what you know or have heard about the Ducks, what weakness are you excited about the Sens exploiting? Where do you think the Senators have the biggest edge in this series?
I’ve only heard good things about the Ducks, though today I read that they take some dumb penalties. The Senators’ power play has been smoking lately and the PK has been everything a coach could ask for. If the sens want to win, they must dominate on special teams.
6. Based on what you know or have heard about the Ducks, what strength scares you the most? Where do you think the Ducks have the biggest edge in this series?
Pronger and Giguere are the only players that I can’t write-off. Giggy can be terrific, though I did see the third period of game 6 against Detroit, and that gave me some hope. Pronger is a monster on the ice, perhaps second only to Chara in pure physical force and I would keep my head up if I were the Sens forwards. One aspect that doesn’t scare me? Ducks’ offense. We’ve got the top 3 scorers in the playoffs and you’ve only got one player in the top ten... and he’s plays defense, and he’s Pronger, who I already watch out for.
7. Talk to me about Bryan Murray the coach. Specifically, how rigorous is he at line-matching? Does Ottawa often change forwards immediately after faceoffs?
Murray’s done a good job of keeping Phillips-Volchekov against the other teams’ top lines, I expect that to continue. As far as forwards, it’s get Spezza-Heatley-Alfie out there whenever we get the opportunity to score, and roll the other 3 get some chances and body check as much as possible.
8. I don't think this is probably going to happen, but what if Sammy Pahlsson and his checkers are able to shut down the "Spalfredheat" line? Who on the Senators is next-likely to score for the team?
The Sens have got a ton of what you might call ‘role players’ who can be either goal-scorers or body checkers. Look for Mike Fisher, Chris Neil, and Dean McAmmond to step up if the top line doesn’t produce.
9. Random question--but if you could have one former Senator back for this series (one who left within the last year or so), who would it be and why? I think I'm asking a "Chara or Havlat" question, but if you have another guy in mind that works too.
Chara and Havlat each have their niches, and my initial response was Chara – he’s such a presence on the ice. But we had them both last year and were beaten out in the second round, so I’m going to skip them and say Brian Pothier, he was a free agent who left last summer – he got 12 minutes a game with the sens, and now playing in Washington he gets 20+ minutes per game. He was a gem with the right attitude that the sens could put to good use today.
10. Who's the best "unsung hero" story on the Sens this season or postseason? Who's doing a lot of things right and not getting enough ink for it?
Chris Kelly (#22). I’m a huge supporter of what he does. I call him the heart and soul of the team because he’s the complete team player. All he does is kill penalties – seriously. With the sens only allowing 2 PP goals against the Sabres (both were 5 on 3), he’s gotta be doing something right. In fact, he’s doing everything right.
So there you have it, 10 questions and 10 answers, content untouched. Feel free, Senators fans, to clarify anything you see here, or Duck fans, to ask anything I might have forgotten. I'll make sure and post my answers to Ben's questions once they become available.