If anything can be said about Sunday Evening's matchup between the Senators and the Lightning, the word to use is electric.
You got the same antics that you've seen all season from the Senators -- Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatly and co. jumping around and giving you fits... But there was an element that was out on ice that cannot be denied:
The 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champions.
After a long, tiring and disappointing season -- after a single playoff game where the Lightning looked nothing of what they were capable of... A switch was flipped. You've heard all about the Lightning needing to heighten their game, and for one evening they did in unmistakable fashion.
The game went back and forth, but the contributions by Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle cannot be denied. St. Louis scored the Lightning's first goal late in the 1st period, but his second goal -- the game winner -- was absolute electricity. Dmitry Afanasenkov rushed into the Ottawa zone and put a shot on Ray Emery. St. Louis had also been rushing into the zone at the same time at the top boards... He swooped in front of Emery and shot in the rebound. The play was pure electric and seemed a fitting followup to Dan Boyle's all-leverage-left shot-while-diving goal that had been scored less than a minute previously.
John Grahame faced 24 shots, stopped 21 of them -- often unbelievably.
But -- and this goes out to both Senator fans and Lightning fans alike -- I had a huge problem with this game. It's a problem I've had with playoff hockey in general for years and I feel the need to rant about it because both teams were robbed with thanks to indolence and incompetence by the NHL and these "referees" that they employ.
Now, despite what the traditionalist will hearken -- that refs shouldn't be the deciding factor in games -- rules are made to be enforced. This is both for the good of the game and for the safety of the players involved. This afternoon was a demonstration of officiating at it's worst -- because there were no rules enforced whatsoever. Players were not being held accountable for their actions (and I want to make this clear -- it's both teams. This is not a sore-winner or sore-loser complaint going on) and what ensued was anarchy on ice. Continuity? Yes. But anarchic? Undoubtedly.
The playoffs are supposed to be a time where you draw in new fans through the glitz and glamour of the leagues best teams squaring off. Why is it that the National Hockey League allows for officials not to enforce the rules? This helps make it impossible to tell what is a rule to begin with and what isn't. Any new fan (and those who had followed the game all season and saw various infractions over and over again) could not tell in the Tampa Bay/Ottawa matchup what was hooking, holding, interference, cross checking, roughing or anything else because the definition of these infractions were thrown out.
Is this "free reign hockey" allowed because of the idiotic "not trying to influence the outcome" crap? If players weren't committing infractions to begin with -- there would be no need to call them for penalties and "influence the outcome". The players on ice are the ones influencing the outcome, by their actions or infractions. Rules are supposed to help maintain sanity and one shred of semblance of a game on ice.
The lack of calls this evening was a joke and an example of how Colin Campbell has been an out and out failure at his job. Tonights game was a grand example of how Gary Bettman's threat of rule enforcement was empty, as hollow as his heart.
4-3 the final in Socitabank Place. The Lightning head home with the series all tied up at 1. Game 3 will be Tuesday at 7 PM.