When the game ended last night, I admit that I was seriously depressed. The Senators had put up such a good fight in the game, and it was only the goaltending of New York's Henrik Lundqvist and the defensive abilities of the Rangers that gave them the win, withstanding flurry after flurry of Ottawa attacks in the third period. I listened to some of the tv and radio talk where Ottawa fans attacked the team, claiming that Jason Spezza needed to be traded, that he was lazy, that he wasn't good leadership material, and all sorts of other stuff. All sorts of complaints were levelled at various Ottawa Senators, at the team management, and so forth, and the fans were angry.
But that's not my take on this Ottawa Senators' season at all. The fact of the matter is that we go through this (supposed) Senators' fan anger every year, especially when the bow out of the playoffs early or, heaven forbid, don't make it into the playoffs. But they've all missed the point about this season. This Ottawa Senators team of 2011-2012 wasn't expected to make the NHL playoffs at all, and were expected to come in 15th in the East. The team had too many rookies and young kids, too little leadership (or perhaps not effective leadership?) to make it into the playoffs. But a team with heart took to the ice in September and October, and despite starting the season at 1 and 5 (wins and losses), they rallied together, they got a closeness, and they made a trade for Kyle Turris when Peter Regin went down with a season-ending injury, and finished 8th in the East and made the playoffs.
And then in the first round of the NHL playoffs, they had to take on the top team, the New York Rangers. This was a series that Ottawa should have had no chance to win to begin with, let alone take the Rangers to the brink of elimination in game 6 and then to a winner take all game 7. Sure Ottawa lost this final game to the Rangers and the series, but to be honest, it was an entertaining series, it showed that Craig Anderson in the Ottawa net could match Henrik Lundqvist (one of the best goalies, if not the best in the NHL) game for game, it showed that the Senators had heart even if they lacked that final killer instinct, and it showed that this Ottawa team has a good bunch of rookies and kids that gives the fans of the team a bright hope for the future.
Overall, this NHL season, the Ottawa Senators fans learned that their goaltending situation is secure with Craig Anderson in the nets (with Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner waiting in the wings for the future), it showed that captain Daniel Alfredsson could have a good season even at age 39, that new coach Paul McLean could get the Senator players to play to a system and have fun, that a rookie crop of players will just get better and better as the next few years go by, that Jason Spezza has matured somewhat as a player and that he can lead the team when Daniel Alfredssson retires, that Erik Karlsson is going to be a truly great defenseman if he can learn to play a little defense, and that Kyle Turris has the makings of a superstar. But most of all, that the Ottawa Senators have a bright future and will be playoff contenders over the next few years. And with the rookies in the farm system, the future is even brighter as it goes forward.
If there is a down side to the season and the final outcome of the playoff series between the Senators and the Rangers it is this: Has Daniel Alfredsson played his last game as an Ottawa Senator, or will he come back and play again for one more season? Personally, I really hope that Alfie comes back for another season and that the team makes another run for the Stanley Cup with Alfie leading the way. Whether it happens or not is anyone's guess. But for now, the NHL hockey season is done for the Ottawa Senators, and they can only dream of the glories that might have been - and the glories to come.
Go, Sens, Go! :)