Seeking cure for hangover

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

There is one way the Senators could eliminate any Stanley Cup final "hangover" that threatens to translate into a sluggish start and disappointing season.

Have video coach Tim Pattyson make them watch a few replays of the Stanley Cup final.

Which Senators -- besides Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher -- have any laurels to rest on from the series that mattered most, a full-hand slap in the face from the Anaheim Ducks?

Who other than Alfredsson and Fisher shouldn't be just a little embarrassed at how the Senators bowed to a team that was no more than their equal in talent?

Jason Spezza had just two assists in five games. Dany Heatley scored only one goal. Anton Volchenkov was a minus-4. Chris Phillips put the puck in his own net. Wade Redden was mediocre at best. Ray Emery gave up 16 goals, including six in the final game.

Rather than basking in a sense of accomplishment, they should be anxious to make amends.

"I don't think we should have a hangover," Heatley said. "I think we're hungry and we're ready to go.

"We feel confident that when we play our best hockey, we can play strong defence and we can score goals. I think that going into the finals, we didn't know what to expect. We know it's going to be a battle to get there again. The first three rounds (of the playoffs) are tough. But to a man, we don't feel we played our best hockey in the final, and I think we learned from it.

"We realize we can be a very good team, that we can compete and beat the best teams in the league. It's just a matter of having confidence and taking it into the playoffs."

GOING TO BE A GRIND

It's going to be a grind. Teams will be up for games against Ottawa like never before. A victory over the defending conference champs can really put a team's wheels in motion. Hence, victory will be sought at all costs. Plus, the weak are developing some muscle. Washington is on the rise. Philadelphia is bouncing back. Florida's young talent is starting to mature. Atlanta is on the verge of contending. Boston has promise. Toronto will be right in the fight for a playoff spot. And then there's the Eastern Conference elite: Buffalo, Carolina, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Tampa and the N.Y. Rangers.

Talk about a tough crowd.

Write down the eight teams you think are going to make the playoffs. Check that piece of paper April 6. Very few will be 100% correct.

The Senators will almost certainly make the playoffs. There's really no fear of them missing out. But what makes a successful season?

Nothing less than a Cup.

Staying healthy will be key, particularly as the post-season approaches. They were lucky last year in that regard. It's hard to imagine a team being so fortunate in back-to-back runs.

Working in their favour, however, is the change that was made in GMs. Bryan Murray will swing a deal to help the team during the season. Count on it. Also, he is building depth that last year did not exist. The fact that he kept most of the team together for this season is a plus.

"We learned a lot last year, and this year we're coming back pretty focused," said Fisher. "We know we've got a great opportunity.

"It's a long process, but we know we've got what it takes to win. I think we can be better (this season). Most of our forwards are under 30, and Alfie is just getting better at 35 (in December).

"Nick Foligno and Shean Donovan are new additions that are really going to help us, we have two great goaltenders ... It's not going to be easy, and you have to be hot at the right time ... at this point of the season we just have to build habits that are going to give us a chance later on."

They will have a chance later on, if they don't suffer from a hangover. And they shouldn't have a hangover because they didn't drink from the Cup.


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