|Senators would do well to draw on Neilson for Cup inspiration|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 May 2007 10:55|
The NHL's ``Captain Video,'' for pioneering the use of game video as a coaching technique, and a hockey Hall of Famer, Neilson's presence is still held in high regard in Ottawa four years since the Senators assistant coach died after a long battle with cancer. There's a portrait of Neilson that hangs in the Senators assistant coach's box at Scotiabank Place, and another one in the players' room.
And defenseman Wade Redden still gets goose bumps recalling the inspirational locker room speech a frail but ever-willing Neilson provided during the 2003 Eastern Conference finals that nearly vaulted Ottawa past New Jersey.
``Rog had a big effect. For sure, there's a lot of things here to remind us,'' Redden said, earlier this postseason. ``The presence he had and the effect he had, it's pretty special. ... I know he's here somewhere.''
The Senators certainly need some kind of a boost after falling behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals against the Anaheim Ducks that resumes at Ottawa on Saturday.
Despite losing the first two games by a goal, including a 1-0 loss on Wednesday, the Senators have been fully outplayed by the fast and physical Ducks. Anaheim has made Ottawa look nothing like the high-flying team that lost only three games in the first three playoff rounds.
The Senators' two goals this series have both come on the power play, although they've failed to score on two 5-on-3 opportunities. Their top line - Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza - has been contained and, at times, shuffled. And the only one preventing things from getting out of hand has been goalie Ray Emery, who has stopped 59 of 63 shots.
``Well, it's disappointing to not get a win down here,'' defenseman Chris Phillips said following Game 2. ``But we can't hang our heads. There's a lot of pride in this room and we're going home now. We've got two games at home to even out the series.''
Saturday's game will be Ottawa's first at home in more than two weeks, since their 3-2 loss to Buffalo in Game 4 of the East finals. The Senators are 5-2 at home this postseason and preparing to get a lift from their rabid fans, thousands of whom packed the grounds of their suburban arena to watch the first two games on a large outdoor video screen.
``I know one thing, we'll work hard. We'll play hard. We'll be competitive,'' coach Bryan Murray said. ``Our fans are great in our building and I think that they're so supportive that they'll give us a lot of energy going back.''
Murray, who was the Ducks general manager, recalled how Anaheim lost the first two games to New Jersey in the 2003 Cup finals before winning the next two at home in a series the Devils won in seven games.
It was that same spring when the Senators nearly knocked out the Devils. With Ottawa down 3-1 in the East finals, Neilson's speech was credited for inspiring the team to win the next two games before losing Game 7.
The loss devastated many Senators players, including Phillips, who cried at his stall, lamenting how the team squandered an opportunity for itself and Neilson, who had never won a Cup despite coaching 1,000 games.
There has been an understated feeling among the Senators' veterans that this spring was their chance for redemption.
``We'd certainly like to think that if we could achieve what we're trying to achieve this year, there's a few guys in here that were with (Neilson) that would like to think he has a part of that as well,'' Phillips said. ``I definitely would like to think he's watching down.''