Monday, April 09, 2007

Not that there’s any pressure or anything…

The Ottawa Senators head into Wednesday night’s debut on the playoff scene with an elephant in the room, on the pages and in the air.

The lack of success from the Sens at playoff time has brought out a larger than usual group of nay sayers, who don’t want to get their hopes up too high, only to see them dashed once again.

Past playoff eliminations at the hands of the Leafs and Sabres (to name but a famous few) has made for a rather worried lot in the nation’s capital. Leaving Sens Coach Bryan Murray to take the offensive against the nabobs of negativity, that are flooding the city with the end may be nighs again.

Using some colourful language, which can be found on any TSN or Sportsnet sportscast, Murray suggested that the inclinations of the negative nellies aren’t correct. One particular article in the Ottawa Citizen seems to have caught the fancy of many in Ottawa, especially for those weak of heart at playoff time.

With Pittsburgh on the way for Wednesday’s game, there are some in Ottawa that seem to fear a repeat of past Ottawa meltdowns, which has seen the Sens only advance past the second round of the playoffs only once in the last ten years that they’ve qualified for post season action.

Each year brings different circumstance, a different combination of players and a different approach to the playoffs. This year the Sens didn’t make the mad dash for first place in the East, struggles early in the season posed to be problematic as the team found ways to lose games and in some instances never seemed to be in them.

At one point early in the season, the panic truly set in around Ottawa, the talk shows full of contributors calling for a house cleaning, offering up their solutions to the “problems in the dressing room and front office.”

Team owner Eugene Melnyk didn’t pay much heed at the time and since Christmas the Sens have been one of the most consistent teams in the league, providing a solid effort night after night.

There’s always the chance of an upset and the Pens have been a most remarkable squad this season, but with 15 players in the line up that have never seen a playoff game in the NHL before, it seems unlikely that this will be the break out year. (Next year maybe).

While there may be some pitfalls in this years post season play, this team has all the ingredients to make a long run into the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The players seem to be on the same page, anxious to get to work and prove their critics wrong once and for all. Affixing the choker’s label to them before even one game has been played seems rather foolish.

Now should the Sens flame out in the first round, then all bets are off and we suspect that there won't be enough brooms in Ottawa to clean out the dressing room and management offices fast enough. But there's a lot of hockey to go before that might have to be addressed and frankly the evidence provided by this years Sens doesn't really indicate problems on the horizon.

Perhaps those inclined to suggest that the team is done before game one might wish to exchange places, or correspondences with Leaf, Hab or Oiler fans, all of whom have some spare time on their hands and might be ready for an exchange of letters and ideas about team performance.

For those Sens fans with the negative vibes, nervous as they are, the words of Pogo may be profound here.

“We have met the enemy and... he is us”

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