Over the course of the summer, I might be doing a few posts similar to this, titled “Time Machine.” I’ll be looking back at previous events that happened for the Senators and I’ll try to contextualize everything to show what it was like back then in order for us to rehash old memories. It may be a positive or negative moment, but it will definitely be a memorable one.
The scene: game 3 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I remember having an alarm at 2:00 am in Nice, France in order to watch the game live on my laptop, as I didn’t want to miss anything in an important series. I ended up snoozing a bit, and by the time I had gotten up for good at about 2:25, found an online stream, and put my headphones in, it was already 3-0 Ottawa. Then immediately after I began watching, it was 4-0 thanks to Zack Smith.
I couldn’t stop laughing, as the playoff run was becoming more and more improbable. Thoughts of actually winning the Stanley Cup came into my head. This could really happen.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped only five out of nine shots in the first period, and he was replaced by Matt Murray. We didn’t know it at the time, but that ended up being one of the biggest reasons why the Penguins won the series. I remember thinking that I’d rather be facing Fleury and that although Murray hadn’t played in the playoffs yet, he was their secret weapon in case Fleury faltered.
Once it was 4-0 though, the game was essentially over, and the final score ended up being 5-1. At that moment, being a Senators fan felt absolutely magical. It was nice to not worry about having to win the next game, as it felt like a luxury that game four was not a must-win. Things were looking up.
They had won back-to-back thrilling series against the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, and they had already won six games in overtime. Although they were not the best team in the league, it just felt like they had some magic voodoo going on where they could do no wrong. Even after they played horribly on the road in games three and four against the Rangers, they came right back and won the next two to move onto the Conference Finals.
Teams that win any major sports trophy always have this strange feeling and positive vibes around them, and Ottawa was no different in the playoffs. While watching double overtime of game seven in the early hours of the morning, I felt totally confident that they were going to win, which was an odd feeling. Game three was similar, as it just seemed as if the stars were aligning.
Ottawa got favourable matchups in the first two rounds, plus you could’ve made the case that the Washington Capitals were better than the Penguins. They were getting essential puck luck, and even with Mark Stone not playing his best, Bobby Ryan stepped up his game. Things were going so well that I tweeted this the next morning:
Ottawa has an odd game log:
Every time they've won it's been a part of a 3-gm W streak
I don’t think I genuinely thought Ottawa was going to win in five, but I did believe they were going to win. Incredible.
Interacting with Senators fans online was genuinely fun, as everybody was happy during the playoff run and especially after game three. I was glad that I stayed up for every game in round three, because experiencing the ups and the downs was well worth losing a few hours of sleep. I wanted to wear my Mark Stone shirt outside, even if nobody would have any idea who it was.
The point is, the back-to-back goals scored by Brassard and Smith were probably a moment in time where I was the happiest I had ever been as a Senators fan. Then when Kyle Turris later scored to make it 5-0, it became comical. Yes, the 2013 series against Montreal was fantastic and the 2015 Hamburglar run was outstanding as well, but this was different: I could actually picture a Stanley Cup championship in Ottawa.
As I mentioned earlier, scoring those four goals so quickly in the first period probably cost the Senators winning that series, as Matt Murray would go on to allow just seven goals in almost five games. If Fleury was in net, only one goal would’ve made all the difference in the world, but instead, Murray was a brick wall.
Try to go back in your memory bank and think of what it was like to watch this game three. There were a couple more happy points during the series, but that was the last time that Ottawa was actually ahead. That was the most optimistic I had ever felt about the Senators winning a Stanley Cup, perhaps besides when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres in 2007.
With everything that is going on with the organization right now, it is going to take a long time to get that feeling again. But man, what I would give to have that same feeling of optimism and giddiness regarding the team. It’s a damn shame that they were so close, because they definitely could have beaten the Predators. Nevertheless, here’s one more happy moment to finish off with: