This is pretty tongue-in-cheek and very much foot-in-mouth. I stand here proudly declaring that I was way off, Samsonite off, when I said the Sens would miss the postseason. On January 11th, mired in a long slump and showing no signs of life, I declared the postseason games to be out of the question on this blog. The good news is I'm wrong and I can admit it.
So let's attack my own work, shall we?
Reason #1: The remaining schedule is tougher than the first half.
We truly did play tougher opponents, but we managed to rise to the occasion. The 11-game winning streak included wins against New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, and Vancouver. If those teams sound familiar, it is because each of them are favoured in the Cup race. If anything, we've managed to play our best hockey against the best teams. We stink against the Leafs, Lightning, etc., but manage to shut down some of those top players in the league. Can this trend continue in our first round series? It isn't a secret that the biggest threat is going to be Crosby. It is hard to tell where Malkin is right now since he just returned from injury, but he's going to be secondary compared to the Kid. Especially interesting to watch will be how Clouston handles defensive matchups on the road. Will Bylsma throw Sid out there against Karlsson and risk getting dummied by Sutton? Or will he go after Campoli and Carkner?
Reason #2: We have NOT solved our goaltending issues.
It's like Ray Emery but he's on time, doesn't rap, and doesn't run people off the road and call them an old bag of bones. Brian Elliott flat out earned the job over the higher paid Snoop-a-loop. Like Emery in 2007, we aren't asking Elliott to be sensational, but rather just make the necessary stops to give us a chance. A buddy and I discussed today whether or not Elliott will have a long leash if he struggles and I honestly think we're going to live and die by the kid. He got us here, not Pascal, and we'll give him the chance to get us to the next round. Pascal is shut down until the Fall, barring injury.
Reason #3: Our top players are missing.
Jason Spezza is on a streak that has silenced his critics. Even more enjoyable is that he plays his best hockey against the toughest opponents when the spotlight is on. He'll need to continue that trend now because he is going to have to go toe-to-toe with the best player in the world. Daniel Alfredsson is ageless and coming off an emotional tribute that reminded him (like he needs it) of just how much this city embraces him. Our best players returned and went on a tear.
Reason #4: Our defencemen suck.
Mr. Karlsson, I owe you an apology. With the injury to Kuba, Karlsson has managed to not only fill the void, but to spark fan insistence that Kuba be cast aside for the younger and more agile defenceman. I'm a tad worried that he still makes some bad mistakes as far as positioning goes, so I hope he simplifies just a bit against a team that will burn us on each turnover. That being said, the kid's gotta eat! Add to the mix Mount Sutton and we're not as bad as the papers would have you believe. We're going to need Carkner and Campoli to hit their stride, as well. Three years ago, Preissing and Corvo were a third pair that was pampered by never facing top forwards and I'm guessing these guys will be in a similar boat this time around. The difference is that Carkner isn't some powerplay specialist like Corvo and Preissing were for us. More committee and fundamental now.
Reason #5: What have we done since the Cup Finals to make you think otherwise?
Our inconsistency is a cause for concern for everyone, but we have become a different team since the mighty Clouston showed up in the nation's capital with his healthy salad and his arena sleepovers. This team competes VERY hard and has a forecheck like we've never seen. Rest assured that the Pens are watching video and planning a breakout, but we have a coach that has probably spent more time watching game film than ole Roger did! The guy is a machine and preparation will not be an issue. This is such a different team than any we've had - a real lunch pail gang. Put on your hard hats and get behind this group - I'm in! This foot tastes delicious!
Quick side note - Pynch informed me that he logged onto the Sens site today and had absolutely no trouble buying tickets for Game 6 back in Ottawa. Why the feck are there still tickets available? We certainly help validate the calls that we're one of the crappiest fanbases in the league. Please let these games sell out.