Idle Thoughts While Waiting
posted Apr 21, 2006 at 12:32AM
Like Hitchcock said after a playoff loss to us: there is a huge advantage to getting through your first round quickly. That certainly applies here...as we will, barring a Montreal upset over Carolina, be playing either Philadelphia and Buffalo. Hopefully theirs will be a long series where they really have to pound each other.
I am in that camp that thinks if Ottawa is ever going to win the Cup, it has to be this season. With the liberalization of free agency and the market cap set to rise, it is doubtful whether Ottawa will be able to field a team with so many elite players, and so much depth at both forward and defence. Toronto is out so that albatross is not there. Montreal should be taken care of by Carolina, so we won't have home ice advantage stolen by alien legacy fans. Except for New Jersey, no team ended the season on a particularly strong note.
So if things go well we will get through Tampa fairly quickly, an advantage we should leverage to our great advantage over our second opponent. I know the pundits will be calling for a close series with either Buffalo or Philadelphia, but when we are doing things right I think the series will be a laugher. The first real test will be the conference final. But the reality is that it won't be until we meet a Detroit or a Dallas, that we meet a team that can match us talent wise.
Am I getting ahead of myself. Not really. That is the way it should go. Will it? I hope so.
Ok, so first we have Tampa Bay, a match-up most people wanted. And why not, they don't play the trap, they usually try to play run and gun which suits us just fine. They do have some good forwards for sure. But our best forwards are better than their best forwards, and we have far more depth. Our defence corps is vastly superior, and they didn't back into eighth place because they have show-stopping goal-tending. Emery is not the Dominator, but I don't cringe every time someone takes a shot at him, the way I was doing with Lalime last season. We have owned them for the past three seasons.
So all in all there shouldn't be too much to be worried about. Hopefully Emery's hip holds out, we don't get too many bad bounces, the referees won't be biased....standard stuff. But I am worried, and that is mostly about Murray. As I have said many times I believe Murray will be the biggest obstacle in our path to a Cup.
I did make a mistake earlier in the year. I once wrote that Murray probably never had a team as talented as the Senators. Today watching some preview commentary on TV, I found out that is not exactly true. He was in charge of some excellent Detroit Red Wings teams and excellent Washington Capitals teams, all who had premature exits.
Of course my beefs all boil down to his masochistic approach to forming lines.
Imagine the Tampa Bay brain trust. They look at Ottawa. The Big Line has murdered them all season. How can they stop them? The reality is they can't stop them. Imagine their pleasant surprise if Murray does it for them by breaking the Big Line up?
On top of the Big Line, Ottawa has four 20 goal scorers. How can they stop them all? Very difficult. However it is made a bit easier if Murray puts one of those 20 goal scorers on a line that won't get played. That is just one less to worry about. More than that, the talent gap between the two teams just got narrowed a bit.
Again with Havlat back, you could almost draw names out of a hat and come up with line combinations that should be strong enough to beat Tampa. But they won't be as strong as they could be. It might mean that a series that should have lasted 4 or 5 games may now last 6 or 7. We won't get that rest advantage going against Buffalo or Philadelphia. It might mean a game that shouldn't be close, will be close, close enough so that one stupid mistake, or one bad bounce makes a difference, where before it wouldn't.
Will he break the Big Line up? Will he put Smolinski back between Schaefer and Havlat? Is Vermette going to be effectively taken out of the mix? Is he going to start changing line-ups between periods? Within the periods?.
No doubt about it, thinking about what Murray might do makes me cringe.