May 2, 2002
In what was definitely one of the most exciting first round series to watch, the Toronto Maple Leafs were taken to seven games by the New York Islanders, and pulled out the win when it mattered. In the most boring playoff series of the first round the Ottawa Senators trapped the hapless Flyers into submission in five games (at least it was short).
This set up a third consecutive year with a meeting between the Sens and the Leafs, but the first in the second round. Ottawa had not advanced past the first round since 1998. The Leafs, however, have gone past the first round each year since 1998.
Things are different between the Senators and the Leafs this year. The Leafs were bruised and banged around by the Islanders, and had a single day off to prepare for this series. The Senators have had six days off, and had ample time to prepare for this series.
Alexei Yashin is no longer with the Senators; yet he fell again to the Leafs in the first round, turning in his first ever inspired post-season. Patrick Lalime, who broke Ken Dryden's rookie unbeaten streak when he broke in with Pittsburgh, has a series win under his belt and tied another record - three consecutive playoff shutouts. Curtis Joseph, on the other hand, looked uncomfortable all series against the Islanders, who directed a lot of shots at his injured catching hand. The Leafs' goalie turned in a solid performance in game 7, and has hopefully turned his game around.
Alex Mogilny, the Leafs' main sniper, decided to play like the main man in game 7. He and Bryan McCabe lead the Leafs with 28 shots on goal against the Islanders. History for Mogilny shows that he scores more proficiently when he has lots of shots on net. He leads the Leafs with 4 goals.
Playing in 2 fewer games, Sens' captain Daniel Alfredsson registered 25 shots on Philadelphia goaltending, three of which found the twine. Alfredsson and Marian Hossa are the only Senators with more than one goal. The Leafs have six players with more than a single goal.
Another addition to the Senators supporting cast this year is Zdeno Chara, a hulking blue-liner who dished out 20 hits in the Philadelphia series, tying him with Chris Neil for the team lead. Gary Roberts had 31 hits against the Islanders, and Bryan McCabe had 27.
This series will be nowhere close to as physical as the Leafs first series, but that doesn't mean this team can be as physical as it was against New York. The Senators play the trap, and one of the best ways to beat the trap is to knock players down. The Senators are also a very opportunistic team, and will pounce on any neutral-zone giveaway (McCabe and Tomas Kaberle had 9 against the Islanders) if they can get to the puck first.
The Leafs will have to get to Patrick Lalime. He has to be confident of himself now, but this Senators team has only won 2 of the past 10 playoff games against the Maple Leafs. If the Leafs win game one, the Senators may quickly find themselves losing their confidence.
Road games could be the swing point for both teams. The Leafs were unable to beat the Islanders in all three games at Nassau, while the Senators took 2 of 3 in the First Union Center. A repeat of those latter statistics will have to happen to ensure a Senators victory against the unbeaten-at-home Leafs.
Your own opinions can be expressed in the message forums.
Editorials are opinions of the author, not this website, the owner of this website or any of its members.