Senators haven't bagged Buds yet

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 4:24 PM ET

 TORONTO -- Bust out the brooms.

 The Senators are going to sweep the Maple Leafs from the NHL playoffs Wednesday night at the Corel Centre -- if they can simply make triplicates of their dominating Game 1 performance.

  So who's up next, anyway?

 Of course, people had similar thoughts May 2, 2002. Remember that night? Remember, Ottawa, how the result of it pushed you too far ahead of yourself?

 The Senators opened their best-of-seven, Eastern Conference semi-final at the ACC even more impressively two years ago when they beat Toronto 5-0, thanks primarily to 12 power-play chances that produced three goals. Remember how you thought the Buds were in the bag?

 After that game, the Leafs complained about the officiating, just as they did Thursday, when the Senators were awarded eight man-advantage opportunities to their three.

 (Note: Whether their whining worked or they suddenly became angels, the Leaf parade to the box began to look more like the express line at a grocery store. The Senators only had 19 power-play chances in the final six games -- or just more than three per game -- compared to Toronto's 24.)

 Meanwhile, the Senators could never get more than one step ahead of the Leafs, and their failure to do so cost them the race. They lost Game 2, 3-2, handed back the home-ice advantage by splitting at the Corel Centre (3-2 win, 2-1 loss), regained control of the series with a 4-2 victory in Game 5, but then choked away 4-3 and 3-0 losses in Games 6 and 7.

 Must be why, in bar talk around The Big Smoke on a Good Friday, you were hearing that the Leafs have the Senators right where they want them.

 "We have to feed off all our past experiences," Ottawa centre Todd White said following practice. "A lot of this group has been together for a bunch of years. We realize it's going to be a long series, whether we had won the first game or lost the first game. We realize there's a long way to go, and you have to get better each game because you know the other team is going to be."

 White was one of Ottawa's unsung heroes in Game 1. He didn't pick up a point, but along with working the power-play and penalty-killing units, he provided a physical presence when he drilled Tomas Kaberle to set the tone for the Ottawa forecheck. Later in the game, he limped off the ice after blocking a shot with his foot in a short-handed situation, but he didn't miss a shift. Was it the same foot he broke in February, an injury that sidelined him for 22 of the team's last 23 regular-season games?

 "No, a different one," White said.

 "Come playoff time, everybody tries to do a little bit more every night," he added. "Whether it's blocking a shot or finishing a check. Guys are willing to pay the price to get the job done."

 Also laying everything on the line in Game 1 was Peter Schaefer. Like White, he is listed at 194 lbs., and he tossed it at every Leaf he could. After Marian Hossa, Schaefer was Ottawa's second-best forward. On the night, he made two points -- the first an assist on Bryan Smolinski's early goal and the second with Gary Roberts late in the third.

 Twenty lbs. and three inches smaller than the Leafs' muscleman, Schaefer challenged Roberts in a battle along the boards that also included Mike Fisher.

 "(Roberts) is the most competitive guy. He plays hard and we've got to try and match that," said Schaefer, sporting a red welt from a jersey burn on his neck as a souvenir from the tussle. "Fishy came in after I hit him, and I went back in there after he went after Fishy. It's a team game and we've got to try and stick together."

 PROVE THEM WRONG

 White made a similar point this week, observing how most prognosticators have favoured the Leafs in this series. He has even mentioned it to teammates who didn't notice, almost like he was spreading the rally cry.

 "I think until we prove people wrong ... we always have confidence in the room, and that's what counts the most," said White. "We feel that we have to play our game and not worry about what other people think, or how the other team is playing. We've got to play our game."

 And tonight, that will mean turning it up a notch.

 "They're going to be a lot better," said Schaefer. "They're going to be real physical and they're going to play smart. We're going to have to match their work ethic."

 And try to get two steps ahead of the Leafs, without getting too far ahead of themselves.


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