Senators aim for fast start again
Saturday, April 14, 2007
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
OTTAWA -- Fast and furious earned the Ottawa Senators a win in Game 1 of their opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Penguins. It's possible that pace could serve them well again in Game 2 today.
Between games, the Senators have deliberately slowed things. They have been careful not to get ahead of themselves.
"We've got to make sure that we're better and ready and not too loose just because we won one game," center Mike Fisher said. "That doesn't win the series."
It takes four victories to do that.
To get to the quarter pole, the Senators used their torrid early pace to take a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes on their way to a 6-3 win.
A repeat would be nice, they said, but no amount of preparation or hopeful thinking can guarantee that. Perhaps, it will be the Penguins whose skates grow wings for this game.
"I think every game's going to be different in this series," Ottawa winger Dany Heatley said. "You might see a very low-scoring game. You might see a game where it opens up. Both teams have great firepower, and both teams play solid defensively."
And all or none of that could shine through today.
A win and a 2-0 series lead going into Game 3 tomorrow at Mellon Arena coupled with the early domination in the opening game could swing things decisively toward the Senators, who have much more playoff experience than most of the Penguins.
"Well, [that could happen] if we work like we did [Wednesday] night. Those are always the qualifiers in hockey," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "Emotion is a big part of it. Confidence is a big part of it. Experience certainly is part of it. If we can continue to work at a high level, then I think we can do some good things."
Despite the Penguins' youth, inexperience and status as something of the Cinderella at this ball, Ottawa expects NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby and others to awaken at some point.
That would make a rerun of Game 1 nearly impossible.
"We're not thinking about Game 1 anymore," winger Mike Comrie said. "They're going to come out hard, and we've got to come out the same way we did last game."
Murray has seemed cool and confident since Game 1, but he is not making any predictions about any of the remaining games.
In fact, he practically concedes it won't end in a sweep.
"Their coaching staff is going to make some adjustments and going to talk to them a great deal, and I think they'll come out knowing full well that they have to, right from the drop of the puck, do what they do best, and that is skate and move the puck," Murray said. "And they've had two days to refocus.
"It's one [win so far] only. We're playing at home, and there's an advantage to playing at home. So we'll talk about getting ready for a single game [today] and just to play accordingly. We know it's going to take some games to win this series. We hope we're the one that lasts the longest and wins."
A split in the first two road games of a series would be more than acceptable for most teams as they head home to play host to two games.
The Senators are careful not to turn that around and make this the pivotal meeting in the series.
"We can't say that it's a must-win at this point," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We just have to play the same style of game, limit any mistakes that we made, tinker with a few things. Then, the results will take care of themselves."
And then do it again about 24 hours later and after both teams travel to Pittsburgh.
"The biggest thing I've learned is to take every game as a singular game," Ottawa center Jason Spezza said.
"If you win, you've got to be happy about it, but you have to leave it, and if you lose, you can't let it be the end of the world because you have to lose four games to lose a series.
"If you let up a little bit, teams can come back and you can lose your focus. They're long series. It's not easy to do."
In the meantime, Murray and crew no doubt have a few things up their sleeves for Game 2, regardless of whether the Senators can come out flying again.
After all, just because things went well for the Senators in Game 1 doesn't mean they won't be refining and looking for improvement.
And those would be?
"Oh, I can't tell you that," Murray said. "I'm not coaching Pittsburgh. I'm coaching Ottawa. I'll just keep that to myself."
Until this afternoon.