The Ottawa Senators entered Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal with the potential to regain their positioning in the series. Having scored a dramatic short handed goal in the final minute of Game 3 that acted as the catalyst of a thrilling comeback, the team had the opportunity to push the best-of-seven series to a three-game sprint.
After the first 20 minutes of play on Wednesday night, it appeared as though that's what the Senators were going to do. Then the final 40 minutes started and focus turned from the potential of a new series to less desirable conversations.
Such as the end of the team's season and the conclusion of their captain's career.
Daniel Alfredsson is at the point where every last game of a season becomes more magnified. The 40-year-old captain was candid in his statement after Game 4 that the Pittsburgh Penguins' depth and power play proficiency was going to make a Senators' comeback unlikely. That means the end is nearing on another year.
When asked post-game if Wednesday night might have been his last game at Scotiabank Place, Alfredsson answered as vaguely as one would imagine he would, via Sportsnet:
"Whatever happens happens I guess. I don't know myself yet. It's not something that I'm thinking about. (I'm not worried about) the what ifs."
The comments given by the Senators regarding Game 5 were just as standard. The team is focused on giving their all and not thinking too much about the two-game deficit. From the outside looking in, it appears as though things might not be as simple as that.
Pittsburgh was dominating in Game 4. Had it not been for a defensive breakdown in Game 3, the series might already be over. Ottawa has battled adversity in the past, but this situation is different. The Penguins are a talented team operating at their maximum potential.
Marc Methot said as much in his media availability:
"We're up against a monster here."
The sense that some have gotten is that Ottawa knows Pittsburgh is a stronger team. Meaning, they know the deck is stacked against them. Whether that's truly the case is something only the players know.
In order to keep their season alive -- and to ensure Alfredsson plays at least one more game in front of the home fans --the Senators will need to defeat the Penguins in Game 5. Otherwise, questions about their captain's future will truly start to pick up.