Sens Dominate Leafs

By Kevin Forrester  Apr 8, 2004

2004 Playoffs

The Ottawa Senators were considered the "underdogs" before this series started by the fans and the media.
The Leafs may have finally won a regular season series against the Sens but Jacques Martin's crew showed that this series will not be an easy one for the Leafs.
The Sens scored two power play goals and took home-ice advantage away from the Leafs by skating to a well-deserved and comfortable 4-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre last night.

They outplayed, outworked, outhit and outshot the Leafs and won nearly every one on one battle except face-offs.
There was no lack of grit for the Sens last evening. Zedeno Chara was the best player defensively on the ice and Marian Hossa was finally the Marian Hossa we see during the regular season (especially against the Leafs).
In previous years against the Leafs, in the regular and post seasons, Hossa skated well but never really produced any points.
Tonight, he had two goals, the second to make it 4-2 and seal the victory for the Sens.

Chara was Sundin's nemesis all night. Sundin couldn't change his mind without Chara being beside him.
The Leafs had last line change as they were home team.
This should have at least allowed Sundin's line a scoring chance in the offensive zone after one of Sundin's many face off wins but scoring chances for the Leaf's captain and leading scorer in the regular season were limited.
It seemed like Chara was sitting beside Sundin on the Leaf's bench. Sundin had 0 points and 0 shots.

Hossa, on the other hand, was not only scoring, he was also hitting. Yes, I said "hitting".
He was Ottawa's best forechecker and forced the Leafs defence to make bad passes that lead to numerous turnovers in the Leafs zone and at centre ice. Leaf defencemen Calle Johansson and Aki Berg looked confused and uncertain on every shift. The Leafs played "giveaway" all night.
Game 2 healthy scratch to be, Chad Kilger was guilty of two giveaways and a bad shoot-in during the course of one 40 second shift in the second period.

The Senators' speed was too much for the older, slower Leafs.
They forechecked well and even Brian Leetch, who is one of the best in the league at clearing the puck out of his zone was having difficulty against the blanket the Sens threw over the Leafs.
As strong as the Ottawa forecheck was, the Leafs forecheck was non-existent. The Sens D were able to make good breakout passes to the quick skating forwards up the middle and/or on either side of the ice because they were never forced and had room to move.

The goaltending flop that everyone was waiting for from Patrick Lalime didn't materialize.
He was not over-worked, (17 shots) but he was solid.
The decision to start him was a coin toss in the eyes of some, but coach Martin showed his boys that Patrick deserved the chance to prove the critics wrong and he met the challenge.
The previous Leafs/Sens series' have seen Lalime allow a "cheap" or "questionable" goal get behind him to give the Leafs a wake up call but the Buds were not as fortunate tonight.
He stopped Joe Niewendyk, (the Leafs best player along with Tie Domi) on a partial breakaway by coming out and cutting down the angle very well.
He appeared confident and his knee injury has healed as evidenced by his diving catch of a somewhat dangerous Robert Reichel near the end of the third period when the game was out of reach.

Ed Belfour was steady but not spectacular.
Belfour, Pat Quinn and the Leafs may use a couple of "questionable" penalty calls that allowed Ottawa's potent power play to score the tying goal (by Wade Redden) and the game-winner (Hossa) as an excuse, but they were simply the second best team on the ice tonight.

The veteran Leafs must know that discipline is so important in the post-season. In tight, defensive, playoff series, specialty teams can decide a game.
The Leafs have been one of the most penalized and undisciplined teams in the NHL in both the regular season and the playoffs in the past couple of years.
The most blatant example of the Leafs lack of discipline was obvious in this game when Alexi Ponikorovsky took a needless offensive zone roughing penalty on Greg Devries simply because Devries beat him to the puck and finished his check on Ponikorovsky.
Bryan McCabe took a slashing penalty against Hossa to force a Sens 5 on 3 advantage that led to the Hossa game winning goal.
Pierre Maguire of TSN may not have been happy with the penalty call because Hossa's, (who was the victim of McCabe's slash), "why do the players use these new one piece sticks?") broke in half but McCabe has to play smarter when the Leafs are short-handed and can't be overly aggressive against the Sens' speed and puck control in the Toronto zone.

Game one is the only thing decided in this series so far.
Some might say that Pat Quinn and the Leafs are back on their heals and have become the so-called underdogs.
John Ferguson Jr. thinks he has prepared the Leafs for playoff adversity by adding experienced Stanley-Cup winning leadership like Joe Niewendyk, Ron Francis and Brian Leetch.
Now the Leafs's veterans have to take control and prove to the other Leaf players that they have to take the series one game at a time and be much better and smarter to win the "Battle of Ontario 2004".

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