Most elite-level athletes know when it's time to skate away from a career, and you have to wonder if 39-year-old Daniel Alfredsson doesn't hear the retirement bell tolling for him.
Like some of the other older NHL stars whose years have ended in the past three weeks - see Teemu Selanne and Nik Lidstrom - Alfredsson has said all along he will take some time after the season before he makes a decision on his future.
But the Ottawa Senators captain simply wasn't himself in the 3-2 loss in Game 6 to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place the other night, and there were other signs that were difficult to ignore.
His sons Loui and Hugo were the youngsters chosen to circle the ice with Senators flags as part of the pregame festivities to U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.
Then the game started and after the Senators snatched a 1-0 lead, the Rangers took over and Alfredsson didn't like the fact his club failed to win the first-round series on home ice.
Uncharacteristically, he returned to the bench and outwardly exhibited his frustration. He broke a stick. He stomped on a plastic Gatorade bottle. He slammed a door.
Sure, Alfredsson is a competitor. But usually he acts like Stevie Y, not Steve-O. He was angry with head coach Paul MacLean for not sending him over the boards for the first power play in the third period. He was angry that he left himself open for a hit along the boards from Rangers forward John Mitchell. Alfredsson's head hit the glass and this was his first game back after missing three with a concussion.
The Senators captain can be forgiven for his out-of-character episode. He didn't have an explanation for his tantrums, but did he need to? He and MacLean have talked and have made up, and you know he'll be a factor in the finale on Broadway.
Alfredsson's actions affected his team. You could tell by some of the looks from his teammates on the bench that they were confused to what was going on with their leader.
But it can't end like this for Alfredsson on Thursday, can it? After all his injury problems last season, this has been a comeback year for the veteran Swede. His teammates and peers around from around the league feted Alfredsson at the NHL all-star weekend in Ottawa three months ago.
He was nominated, along with Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, for the Masterton Trophy, an award given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The Senators haven't won a playoff round since Alfredsson led them to the 2007 Stanley Cup final. So why not add another memorable chapter to his storied career? Why not see another upset, another No. 8 beat a No. 1.
Under MacLean, the Senators have been the Cardiac Kids all season long. They have authored in-game comebacks. They have stopped losing slides with timely win streaks. But do they have one more comeback in them for their captain?
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