Maybe it's a sign that I'm growing up. Or maybe it's a sign that I was already resigned to the fact that the Sens weren't going to survive this series.
But I'd like to think it was because, despite the sadness of watching my team lose in the first round of the playoffs again, I was more proud of them than anything. After going down 3-1 in the series, nobody was giving us a shot against the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
I was proud of my team for battling back, and the fact that they went down fighting allowed me to admire them in defeat.
Who knows what would have happened this Spring if the Sens had a healthy line-up? I really didn't think much about Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek, or Filip Kuba during our run against Pittsburgh, but the fact is, the Sens were playing without two of their top-6 forwards, and one of their top-4 defencemen.
Who knows what might have happened if Daniel Alfredsson hadn't been suffering from a sports hernia, an abdominal pain that he fought through, and will require surgery for in the coming week? From the first puck-drop in this series, we could tell that the Captain was not at 100%. However, he laced 'em up anyways - like a true leader, like a true warrior - and in fact stood out as one of the best forwards in the final two games of the series, as Ottawa battled for their playoff lives. He finished tied with Matt Cullen for the most points by a Senator in 6 games, notching two goals and six assists. Imagine what a healthy Alfie could have done?
Who knows what could have been, had Cory Clouston chosen to go with Pascal Leclaire in nets earlier in the series, or even from the get-go? Leclaire's first appearance in the playoffs was a strong one, and quite different from the dismal season he had here in Ottawa, losing his #1 goalie status to Brian Elliott. And honestly, I didn't blame Clouston for going with Elliott, as he was the one between the pipes during the best times this season, while Leclaire battled injuries and major slumps. I was actually somewhat surprised that he turned to him after the Game 4 debacle (still SO thrilled that that was the game I had tickets for...) But Leclaire proved his worth in Game 5, turning in one of the best performances by a goaltender thus far in the 2010 playoffs, stopping 56 shots through three overtime periods. It also wasn't his fault in Game 6. Let's hope he can carry this into next season.
What might have happened if Mike Fisher's goal late in the second period of Game 6, which would have made the score 4-1, had counted? After a lengthy review, the officials deemed the net was off its moorings, though from the replays I saw, it was far from conclusive. That goal, had it counted, might have killed the Penguins comeback and swung momentum back in our favour. Instead, the Pens continued to chip away at our lead, and then finished us off in OT. We were that close to pushing this to a Game 7...
Who knows? But these are the twists and turns that make up a playoff series. The momentum swings, the ups and downs, the shoulda-coulda-wouldas... If anyone knew the right answers beforehand, then we'd be marching on to the second round.
Instead, another early summer. But gratification in knowing my guys fought hard to get into the playoffs after missing them last season, and then gave the Penguins, who were the last to hoist the Cup, a good run for their money. Memories of one of the most exciting goals in franchise history, when local boy Matty Carkner fired home the game winner in triple-OT last Thursday and force a Game 6. Smiles when I think of the fans at Scotiabank Place, louder than they have been since our run to the Cup Finals in '07, and a sea of waving white rally towels.
It was a good time, while it lasted. No tears at all.
And hope springs eternal that we get the chance to dance again next year.