Ottawa veteran Alfredsson on mission for Cup
By Rob Rossi
Saturday, April 14, 2007
OTTAWA - Say Mario Lemieux had never delivered the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.
Imagine Lemieux's great Penguins clubs of the early-1990s had never realized their enormous potential and knew only the bitter taste of postseason failure.
Hear Lemieux explain how he feels healthy heading into the playoffs -- healthy and motivated.
See Lemieux start an opening-round playoff series against the NHL's next would-be dynasty by skating with intent, shooting the puck from seemingly everywhere, contributing defensively and finishing checks.
Think that Lemieux might be a difficult player to handle four times over seven games?
Welcome to the problem facing these Penguins entering Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series this afternoon: Daniel Alfredsson is to these Ottawa Senators what Lemieux was to those Penguins -- the face of the franchise.
And the look on Alfredsson's face during Game 1 suggested he is a man on a mission to join the likes of Lemieux as players that have captained their clubs to a Stanley Cup.
"He's been our leader here for a long time," Ottawa center Mike Fisher said of Alfredsson, who just wrapped his 11th regular season with the Senators. "As years go by and you don't win, you want to do all the little things possible to win. We're all doing that, and 'Alfie' is leading the way."
In the opener against an awe-struck Penguins squad, Alfredsson did not record a point until early in the third period, and that came in the form of an assist on Dany Heatley's goal to extend Ottawa's two-goal cushion.
Still, when the three stars were announced following the Senators' 6-3 victory Wednesday, Alfredsson was the clear choice for No. 1.
"Look at how many shots 'Alfie' took. He was firing from everywhere," Ottawa center and linemate Jason Spezza said.
For the record, Alfredsson was credited with eight shots in Game 1. However, he fired at least three pucks wide of the net after finding real estate in the offensive zone.
"If he gets as many opportunities (today) as he did (Wednesday) -- well, he's not going to miss," Spezza said. "At least, I would not count on him missing."
What the Senators seemingly do count on is Alfredsson leading by example both on the ice and in the locker room. His is the role of a captain, and he serves in classic form.
"Listening to him before (Game 1) and watching his start ... he was one of the ones we looked to set the tone, and he certainly did," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. "He is a lot like (former Washington Capitals' captain) Rod Langway. Rod said very little on the ice. When he said something, he was very demanding.
"Daniel is a lot like that. He's not afraid to tell me what he thinks of practice or the team. He's not afraid of work."
Alfredsson is equally unafraid of the enormous pressure to bring the Stanley Cup to Ottawa. Perhaps because he shows no fear of that expectation, teammates view this particular chase for the chalice as a chance to provide their captain with an opportunity to cement his legacy.
"I don't think it worries him too much what people think of him, whether or not he is a great player or whatever," Ottawa defenseman Christoph Schubert said. "But I know he wants to prove to everybody that this is a team that can win the Stanley Cup, and he wants to be the guy that leads us to that goal.
"If he is on a mission, so are we -- to get him that Cup."