Seldom has a professional team in a respectable sports league deteriorated as acutely as the Ottawa Senators.
Eastern Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup championship series last season, the Sens barely qualified for the playoffs this season. And, according to NHL television analysts Don Cherry, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, they won’t progress past the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of this year’s post-season, which opens tomorrow night.
“Ottawa won’t come out of this,” Milbury said in a conference call yesterday. “They’re in disarray. I don’t think (goaltender Martin) Gerber has it…”
“The biggest thing haunting Ottawa is that they lost their defensive identity this year,” McGuire said. “Wade Redden hasn’t had a good year, Andrej Meszaros has had a terrible year, Anton Volchenkov has fallen off the map and the addition of Mike Commodore hasn’t helped them.”
And from Cherry: “Gerber has never done well in the playoffs. (The Sens’) two leaders (Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher) are out (with injuries). This team hasn’t been very good since December. In fact, they’ve been lousy. So it doesn’t look like much of a contest. One thing (the Sens) have going for them is … they scored more goals than anybody and a team that scores that many goals can be dangerous. But I’m still going with Pittsburgh.”
Me, too. The Pens over the Sens in five.
• Cherry and Milbury agree the San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup.
“(Sharks star) Joe Thornton will step up and do the job,” Cherry said. “If (the Sharks) don’t win this year, they never ever will. If they don’t get to the final this year, a lot of heads in that organization will roll.”
The Sharks are heavy favourites to subdue the Calgary Flames in their first-round series, which begins tomorrow night.
I smell a four-game sweep by San Jose.
• Canada’s top hopes, unquestionably, are the Montreal Canadiens, who have become capable of dominating and dazzling opponents with their quick-paced attack. They launch their opening series Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, whom they defeated in all eight of their regular-season tilts.
Still, “this won’t be a rollover, like everyone thinks,” Cherry said, adding Boston could compete by taking advantage of injuries to the Habs’ Saku Koivu and Mike Komisarek.
I disagree. Montreal in five.
Tomorrow: My sleeper teams in the playoffs.