At his morning press conference, Senators coach Cory Clouston made reference to the attitude of a team that has rediscovered its winning touch.
"It feels good to be in that dressing room now," said Clouston, speaking of where his players tie their skates.
For the Senators, in fact, it must feel good to be in that building again.
Better than ever, actually.
Last night's 3-2 triumph over the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place was a franchise-record ninth home win in a row for the Senators.
The previous high of eight was compiled from Nov. 14-Dec. 14, 2002.
"We have confidence here," Clouston said after the momentous victory, without realizing it was one. "The guys feel good about their game."
But destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997, they're also not getting too caught up in numbers.
"That's nine in a row at home for you guys," goalie Alex Auld was told.
"Really?" said Auld. "I didn't know that."
It matters very little now, since they botched the first part of the season. But this solid stretch drive, with Clouston behind the wheel, has to bode well for next season.
STARTS AND STOPS
The GM (Peter Chiarelli) and coach (Claude Julien) call Ottawa home. So does a defenceman (Aaron Ward), while one of two ex-Senators blueliners (Zdeno Chara, not "Sheriff" Shane Hnidy) still owns a house in Kanata. Two centres are from here (Marc Savard, Stephane Yelle) while another (David Krejci) played for the Gatineau Olympiques, as did a winger (Michael Ryder). Who are you going to cheer for with your Senators out of the playoffs? The answer is pretty obvious .... "Mike Baby" Fisher had a decent night at even strength, but he was also the game's best penalty killer. Along with his shorthanded goal, the Senators had a 3-on-1 while short-handed (how does that happen?) in the third. Anton Volchenkov's shot was stopped by Manny Fernandez ... Savard was not happy with Chris Kelly for what he obviously felt was an embellished fall into the boards. He was even less impressed when Dany Heatley scored what turned out to be the winner while he served his boarding penalty ... After scoring his second game-winner in as many nights, Heatley went speed-bag on a Chris Stevenson story in yesterday's Sun, disputing some of the "observations" of our colleague. Neither player nor writer took the exchange too seriously.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Hitting, hustling, penalty-killing and scoring, Christoph Schubert had an outstanding first period ... On the spectacular scale, the play that saw Heatley drive to the net, cut between Chara and Ward, then wrist a shot off the post as he flew through the air ranked a 9.5. Would have been a perfect 10 had he scored ... Ryan Shannon had the afterburners turned on last night ... How come fans cheer so loud when two older folks are caught smooching on the Kiss Cam? Big deal. Give me two young babes sharing a similar, intimate moment on the big screen any time ... One of Auld's best saves was a grab off Chara in the first after the big man broke in alone from a set play off a faceoff outside the Ottawa blue line. Another was off Chuck Kobasew, with his right pad, with just five left in the third ... Daniel Alfredsson completed his day of work by beating someone on the team ping-pong table minutes after the game had ended. How do we know Alfredsson won the match? He always does.
Chara says discipline is a key to the Bruins' success. "We don't let guys off the hook," said the B's captain. "It doesn't matter what kind of season he's had. If you do something you shouldn't be doing, you're going to hear about it. Making mistakes is one thing, as long as you don't make mistakes being lazy or careless." ... Chara's Bruins are close off the ice. "Everybody gets along," he said. "Families visit each other, we buy presents for a guy's birthdays, and showers and stuff like that. It's all about discipline. We have things, and you have to follow the rules. You have to respect each other." ... Winchester has a definite plan for what he has to do in the off-season to get better. "I've got to work on my shot," he said yesterday morning. "I've had trouble settling on a stick I really like. I feel other parts of my game are there. Working on my shot can help me score more goals." ... Asked about the stick issue, Winchester reluctantly admitted he used a Mark Recchi-patterned curve in college. When a smart-alec scribe suggested he borrow one off the veteran Bruin for last night's game, Winchester pointed out that Recchi shoots left and he shoots right. I said smart alec, not smart ... It's been 12 seasons since Julien coached the Hull Olympiques, but his parents remain season-ticket holders at the Bob Guertin Arena. "If we're playing, they'll watch that," said the Bruins bench boss, "but otherwise they don't miss (an Olympiques) game."
They chatted a couple of times, but we did not have the pleasure of watching Chris Neil and Milan Lucic engage in a rematch of their terrific tilt last month in Boston. And Brian Lee didn't flatten anybody with a punch to the back of the head last night, either. For 2009-10, what say we go back to having Stuntman Stu announce the first AND last name of the Senator who has scored. Relying on the fans to chip in isn't so cool anymore ... The CIS champion Carleton Ravens basketball team was in the house. Of the people at the game to see Chara, they could actually do it eye-to-eye ... At least one Ottawa team has realized some playoff success this year. The Ottawa West Golden Knights completed a sweep of the Alexandria Glens last night to claim their sixth Eastern Ontario Junior B Hockey League championship.