PITTSBURGH -- The Ottawa Senators, the lone Canadian-based team to make it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, played their final game on Friday evening. But was this the final NHL game for their dependable and popular captain Daniel Alfredsson?
Alfredsson and his Senators dropped a 6-2 decision in Game 5
to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who became the first team to march to the conference finals.
It wasn't the way the Senators wanted to end such a surprising and impressive season, in which they overcame a tremendous amount of adversity because of long-term injuries to key players. But they were thoroughly beaten in this series. The high-flying Penguins outscored Ottawa 22-11 and outshot them 197-170.
As Alfredsson remarked afterwards, they just could not slow the Penguins down.
"They were better than us in each and every game," he said. "I still believed we could have done it ... [but] they were a class above us."
Alfredsson was on the bench for the final 70 seconds. When the final horn went, he sat there a tad longer than his teammates before he joined the rest of the team on the ice around goalie Craig Anderson.
Alfredsson was the second Ottawa player in the handshake line. He spent some extra time talking to Penguins defenceman Douglas Murray, a fellow Swede. Then the Senators captain skated off the ice and headed down the tunnel to the Senators dressing room.
He was asked about what he thought about as the clock ticked down on the series.
"In the last few minutes, not much really," he said. "If I had decided to retire it would have been different. It's always tough when you lose out.
"This season has been crazy, hectic. There has been no time to reflect on anything really. It always feels empty when the season is over."
Alfredsson went on to say that his decision to continue playing or not will come down to family. He'll meet with general manager Bryan Murray over the next few days to get a timeframe for when the Senators would like him to make his decision.
The next step
There also will be many discussions with his wife Birgitta to see what she thinks the next step should be. They have four young sons, who don't mind one bit if dad continues because they like fooling around in the dressing room pool, but Alfredsson doesn't like the time away from his kids.
"I love to play," he said. "I love to practice. I love the game. It's tough to travel with four kids at home."
When you think of the Ottawa Senators hockey club, you think of Alfredsson. Or so you should. Sure Erik Karlsson is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. Anderson was one of the game's top goalies this season.
But Alfredsson has been the face of the franchise for 17 years. He's been a true leader. He's been pure class.
Trust me, he's a popular guy all around the league. Remember last year's NHL all-star game in Ottawa? It became an all-Alfredsson affair. The game's best toasted one of the game's best and most thoughtful players.
Alfredsson turns 41 on Dec. 11. He also becomes an unrestricted free agent this season. If he decides to return for an 18th season it will no doubt be with the Senators. They still want the player they drafted in 1994 in the sixth round (133rd overall).
And why not?
He's still productive. He still can skate. He's healthy again. The Senators are a contender and have depth to further improve. If he returns for one more year, he could play in his fifth Olympics in Sweden. He also remains one of the best leaders in the game.
Sure he took plenty of heat this week for his "probably not" answer
to a question moments after Game 4, when he was asked if the Senators could bounce back in this series after a 7-3 thrashing to go down 3 games to 1.
He followed up that remark with a promise that his team would travel to Pittsburgh and play their best game of the series. Unfortunately, his teammates didn't get the message.
Especially Sergei Gonchar. The 39-year-old defenceman also may have played his last NHL game and his final two were far from his best.
There is something to build on in Ottawa. Karlsson wasn't the same since he returned from lacerated Achilles tendon. Jason Spezza was nowhere near his top form after missing almost four months due to back surgery. With those two in peak condition, a couple more pieces, who knows what the Senators will be capable of under head coach Paul MacLean.
It just won't be the same in Ottawa if Alfredsson decides to end his days as a player.
"I know when I make the decision it will be definite," he said.
Back to accessibility links