Sitting in my hotel room a few hours before the Senators wrap up their latest sojourn, reflecting on the past five days. Interesting things happened both with the team and myself …
-The Senators should not have lost in Dallas. They were catching a team playing its first game after their own trip, and you know the trend in those situations.
Generally, players take losses hard, but these guys were very dejected after this one. As they should have been. They blew a lead and a good performance by Robin Lehner ….
-We arrived in Tampa a day later than scheduled, so instead of having two nights here we had one. Went to watch basketball Sunday night at a downtown bar close to the hotel. WS wanted to head back to the hotel before I did … I have Arizona in my bracket and wanted to make sure they won. So I was left alone at the bar, sipping my beer, when two locals came in and saddled up beside me. They were young guys, in their late 20s it appeared. They were wearing suits and they were feeling no pain. We started chatting. They don’t like basketball much. When they found out I’m from Canada, they asked if we carry guns in our country. I said no, not usually. I asked the guy beside me if he does. He turned slightly, lifted his vest to show me the pistol jammed in the back of his pants. His buddy had one in his sports jacket. They had to be coy, because they have “concealed” weapons permits, and there was a couple of cops hitting hamburgers behind us.
I thought it was a little disturbing that these drunk guys had loaded weapons, but such is life in Florida.
An hour or so later, I left and so did they. I started walking to the hotel, and they drove up beside me in a jeep. The guy in the passenger seat rolled down his window, smiled, waved his gun at me and said “see ya later.”
I’m glad they weren’t Senators fans who don’t like some of the stuff I’ve written about the team.
-The reaction to the end of the losing streak Monday night told just how much of a toll the last few weeks has taken on the players. When Lehner stopped the final shootout try, he banged the butt end of his stick in the ice a few times, clearly relieved. First off the bench to join him was Chris Neil, and they hugged like they had just won a big playoff game.
You could that a huge load had been lifted off their shoulders when you saw the players in the dressing room. There was laughter and a lot of chatter, for the first time in a long time.
-So now they face the lowly Panthers, and this is a game the Senators should very definitely win. But they don’t always take the “shoulds”.
All of us realize they’re not going to make the playoffs, but it would be nice if they made the last few weeks interesting. Nine points behind Toronto, which is in the last wildcard spot, and the Senators have a couple of games in hand. Senators also have one more game against the Leafs.
If Washington, Columbus, New Jersey and Carolina weren’t also in between them – and with the Buds are fading – I would say this thing is not over yet.
Only two players met reporters outside the hotel this morning, as the Senators stayed away from the rink in favour of an off ice workout.
Erik Karlsson was asked if there is still hope.
“We want to string a few together here, I think,” he said. “As of lately we’ve been playing better and better. It’s nice to get the win yesterday even though it was in overtime and we needed shootouts. But I think we’re getting more and more pleased about the way we’re playing. Hopefully we can build off that.”
Asked what he liked most about the team’s game in the 4-3 shootout victory over Tampa, Karlsson said:
“I think we played better defensively, and didn’t give up as many chances. And I think we created a lot more offence, got some more zone time. We’ve just got to keep spending time in the other team’s defensive zone, and put a few more pucks in the net.”
I know, gripping stuff.
“(The win) should give us more jump,” said Kyle Turris. “We played well last night, we’re happy with the result and now we’ve got to keep it going.
“All round we played a good game. We were smart at times, we killed the penalties we had to, we had lots of offensive opportunities,. Lehner played great. It was just a collective, great team effort. Now we’ve got to follow it up.”
“Everybody really wanted to be determined to win their individual battles as well as the big team battle. Obviously it went a long way.”
Watch for Lehner to get the start again tonight.