The Ottawa Senators were poised to make a memorable run to the Stanley Cup Final. With the best defenceman in the world on their side, a goalie playing out of his mind, and a forward unit playing as a tight-knit group, the Senators had as good a chance as anyone.
They pushed the defending Stanley Cup Champions to the brink in a Game 7 double-overtime thriller. The Senators gave it their all, but in the end, they lost to the more talented team. All playoff losses hurt, but this one is especially tough.
Regardless of the outcome, their run is well-worth remembering. There were some incredible stories surrounding the team that made it easy to cheer for them, despite some naysayers. Here are a few highlights from the Senators’ Magical Playoff Run.
Let’s just say that nobody was picking the Senators to make a noise when the playoffs started. They were the only NHL team to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential. With a 4-4-2 record in ten games leading into the playoffs, they didn’t exactly enter the postseason roaring like a lion.
Still, they had a winnable match-up against the Boston Bruins, but it’s the fashion in which they won that caught everyone’s attention. Their sleeping stars came to life after some rocky regular seasons.
Bobby Ryan posted 25 points in 67 games, the lowest point-per-game total of his career. In 19 playoff games, he scored 15 points, including three game-winning goals. After the first round, Ryan had seven points in six games.
Derrick Brassard also endured a quiet regular season but woke up with eight points in the first round against Boston. He was the Senators’ leading scorer going into the second round.
One of the Senators’ strengths was that they scored by committee. Ryan and Brassard were quiet in the second round, which is when Kyle Turris stepped up. Turris showed a tenacity that many thought wasn’t part of his DNA make-up. He had four points in six games against the Rangers, including the Game 5 overtime winner.
The Senators were the underdog, but they had no quit all throughout the playoffs.
One guy who really showed no quit was Clarke MacArthur.
After suffering four concussions in a year and a half, many believed that it was time for MacArthur to retire. He was shut down by the Ottawa Senators in January, and he wasn’t expected to play for the rest of the season, if ever again.
With the Senators locking up a playoff spot, MacArthur made a surprising return to the lineup on April 4, just over a week before the end of the regular season. After missing hockey for more than a year and a half, he stepped in and made a difference.
With Game 6 headed to overtime, MacArthur drew a holding penalty on David Pastrnak. With blood on his jersey, he went out on the ice for the power play. Ryan took a bad angle shot from in close, and it bounced right onto MacArthur’s stick before he promptly ended the series.
He was a fitting hero, and his nine points in 19 playoff games signalled that his career is not finished. His perseverance made the Senators that much easier to cheer for.
Pageau Was the Unlikely Hero
There are always unlikely heroes that step up in the playoffs. In the words of Guy Boucher, there wasn’t a more deserving guy than Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
For anyone who thought the Senators were boring, maybe they should go back and watch Game 2 of their series versus the New York Rangers. It wasn’t the type of game the Senators wanted to play, but it was entertaining.
It looked like the Rangers would walk away with the victory, but a deflection from Pageau made it a 5-4 game with 3:19 to go. Boucher had him back out on the ice in a flash, and Pageau potted his hat trick, game-tying goal with 1:02 left in regulation.
In overtime, who else would end the game but Pageau? On a two-on-one rush with Tommy Wingels, he kept the puck and fired it upstairs for his fourth goal of the game.
It was a legendary performance from the 5’10, 180-pound centreman, and one that will forever go down in Senators history. He was a key player throughout the playoffs, averaging over 18 minutes a game.
It was no secret that Erik Karlsson was one of the best defencemen in the world entering the playoffs. The question now is, is he the best player in the world?
Karlsson was undoubtedly the MVP during the first three rounds. If he had made it to the Stanley Cup Final, chances are he would have been the Conn Smythe winner, regardless if Ottawa had won the Stanley Cup or not.
He delivered one of the best postseason performances in post-lockout history by a defenceman. His 18 playoff points rank 7th by a defenceman since 2005-06. Nick Lidstrom (2006-07) was the only other defenceman in the post-lockout era to record 18 points in a postseason while failing to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
He led the charge in every vital moment for the Senators throughout the playoffs. His two goals were both game-winners, and one was a series-clinching goal against the New York Rangers.
In Game 7 against the Penguins, Karlsson was the man who led the comeback. He made a soft dish to Mark Stone to tie the game up at 1-1. It was Karlsson’s booming shot from the point that clanked off the post and landed on the stick of Ryan Dzingel, who tied the game up at 2-2.
There shouldn’t be any more complaints about Karlsson’s so-called defensive deficiencies. He was a beast at both ends of the ice throughout the entire playoffs. There was perhaps only one other player who was more deserving of a Cup victory.
Anderson Deserves a Cup Win
In a challenging and trying season for the veteran goaltender, there isn’t a single human being who doesn’t admire his gutsy performance throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With his wife battling cancer, Anderson made it into 40 of the Senators’ 82 games during the regular season. Even with his family on his mind, he put up performances for the ages.
A year you would think I would want to forget, but I couldn't be prouder of our team! Great year and memories that will last a lifetime!
— Nicholle Anderson (@xonichollexo) May 26, 2017
Anderson’s had some stellar moments throughout his six-year career in Ottawa, but this playoff performance topped them all. When the Senators were a game away from advancing or being eliminated, Anderson played his best hockey.
Against the New York Rangers, he had three mediocre games in a row, yet the Senators found themselves up 3-2 in the series. Anderson stepped up when they needed him the most, delivering a 37 save performance to help the team advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Most people wrote off the Senators after their crushing 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh. What did Anderson do? He stopped 84 of 88 shots in over seven periods of hockey, including some highlight reel saves.
His was a performance that fans in Ottawa won’t soon forget. It was an unfortunate ending for the Senators, but the players in the locker room and their fans should be proud of the fight they put up during their memorable postseason run.