If you’re a Senators fan waking up on Thursday morning – the morning of Game 7 – you’re likely feeling a mix of excitement and dread.
Your team, to the surprise of many perhaps, survived to live another day by squeaking out a come-from-behind win in Game 6. Game 7s, as this article from The Score is kind enough to remind everyone, have not been kind to the Sens in their franchise history.
But here are three reasons why the Sens will punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.
1. They’ve got nothing to lose
Few expected to the Sens to be in the Eastern Conference Final at the outset of the playoffs, and maybe even fewer expected them to be one win away from Stanley Cup Final. The Sens are playing with house money without a doubt but, as cliché as that sounds, it’s true. In the previous round, the Penguins fended off a Capitals’ team playing on home ice with all the pressure on them to win. They’ll be in that spot this time around.
2. They’ve got special teams confidence again
Bobby Ryan’s slump-busting power play goal in Game 6 was obviously huge in the moment but what was even more significant in the bigger picture was the Sens going 3-for-3 on the PK after going 1-for-5 over the previous two games. Special teams were fairly even over the first three games of the series where they Sens won two games (Ottawa went 0-for-7 on the power play but killed off 9-of-10 Pittsburgh power plays.
The Sens found a way to beat the Rangers in six games despite only going 1-for-17 on the man-advantage, but their penalty kill was a big part of that killing off 22-of-24 New York power plays. If their belief in, and their execution on, their penalty kill is back, it will go a long ways towards contributing to a series-clinching win.
3. Karlsson will deliver
The Sens have had many heroes so far on their improbably playoff run including the likes of Ryan, Stone, Turris, MacArthur, Brassard, Hoffman and Pageau. But the one guy that’s been key to their success, besides netminder Craig Anderson, has been stud defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson hasn’t quite had the iconic moments in this series as he did in the previous one against the Rangers, but with everything on the line, expect him to seize the spotlight and show why he is the best in the league at what he does.
Cover image: By C.P.Storm from near Ottawa, Canada (Rink of Fire) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons