It was a recipe for disaster.
Only home game stuck in the middle of an extended road trip.
Riding high after posting a tremendous points streak.
Game one of a back to back, with the second against a major rival.
An opponent desperate for a win.
Anyone who didn’t see that flat performance coming was ignoring the inevitable, and this teams recent (Montreal) sloppy play. The loss wasn’t a guarantee, but it was as close as can be, considering the circumstances.
In an earlier post I ripped this team for their home loss to Montreal (which I stand behind, wholeheartedly), but in so doing I also said it is important to acknowledge the team is made up of human beings, not machines, and, at times, they will stumble. Good fans/management/players know this happens, and won’t over-react…this is one of those times.
I’ll give the Sens that one, especially after all they have accomplished in the last 15 or so games. But good teams take the grace, and use it to motivate themselves to do better, not as an excuse to sit back.
Good teams let a loss burn a slow burn, they don’t let it get out of control, instead they keep it smouldering until it can be extinguished with a good rebound effort. Nothing eases the wounds of a bad game like a solid second effort, and the Sens get that chance tonight, against the Leafs.
Like the Jets, Toronto comes into this game feeling a sense of desperation. With their own losing streak the Leafs find themselves outside looking in for only the second time this season, but this time the pressure around them is increasing. The games in hand are gone, the gap over teams behind is narrowing, and the play of those above is improving…Toronto is feeling the heat, from all sides.
And Toronto’s uncomfortable situation could just as easily be Ottawa’s.
Yes Ottawa remains in 4th in the East (P%), but the standings are so close every loss makes a major difference…last nights loss let the NJD, FLA and PIT get back into the hunt for 4th, allowing them the ability to catch (or pass) Ottawa if they win their games in hand…just like that.
A loss tonight is not acceptable, to either team…welcome to the second half of the NHL schedule.
Now the pressure is on for this young squad…can they handle it, or will their in-experience show, as so many pre-season pundits predicted it would?
Tonight sees Ottawa write their mid-term exam…let’s see if they’ve truly learned anything.
Follow Sensay on Twitter at @GNSensay