The Senators' recent three game winning streak had some fans thinking they'd turned a corner. They played that corner as I'd imagine I'd play Amen Corner at the Masters (funny that I'd be thinking of golf), which is not well. Not well at all.
The Sens were destroyed 7-5 by Montreal last night. The score was much more one- sided than it appears. The Habs jumped out to a 7-1 lead after 40 minutes then mailed in the last 20, allowing the Sens to sneak back into it.
This one was an excellent argument for the NHL to adopt a mercy rule. The Habs looked like Patrick Roy's son taking an opposing goalie to the woodshed. Ottawa was every bit Montreal's equal, except for goaltending, team defence, puck movement, forechecking, physical play and scoring.
The good news is, it won't mean anything in two weeks. This is dress rehearsal. Elite teams get that moniker because they perform on the big stage, the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The question is, at this late, late stage, will the all-importance of the playoffs bring out the best and purge the worst from the Ottawa Senators? It did last year. But last year the swoon was a distant memory by the time late March rolled around. Now they're knee deep in swoon.
But that doesn't mean the turnaround can't happen.
I know it doesn't look positive. I'm not blind. But momentum and confidence can turn on a dime, particularly if you have the talent. If you're playing badly and have no talent, you're done for.
But with talent, it's very possible and I still believe deeply in the Senators' talent level. What I don't believe in is their committment to hard work and universal team play. When they skip those elements, taking shortcuts, they fall like dominoes as they did last night.
The good news is, these elements can be resurrected quickly with a shock to the system. It could come in the form of an ass-kicking like last night. It could also come naturally with the start of the only season that matters - the playoff season.
We've seen this team mix hard work and team play into its bowl of talent several times this season - in recent 3-0 and 6-1 wins over Montreal (I bet that 6-1 trashing made Habs fans feel like Sens fans do today). We saw it in the win over Detroit in January. And we saw it in massive quantities in October, when they were still unified in their Stanley Cup rage.
So I'm keeping the faith. And you might as well hang in there at this point too. There are just 6 games left before the best event of the year and Ottawa has a ticket. I'd rather be cold and in than hot and out like Toronto and Edmonton. So hold off on your rage and ridicule for now. There'll be plenty of time for that if the playoffs don't resurrect the Sens' passion level.