Sens must pay price

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:27 PM ET


 Keep your hands away from that panic button.

 That's the message Senators GM John Muckler wants to send out to all those nervous Ottawa fans who are looking at the club's playoff record against the Toronto Maple Leafs and wondering if their heroes stand a chance this time.

 In fact, Muckler sounded a little surprised when he heard that Team 1200 morning show host John Rodenburg told listeners yesterday "expectations in Ottawa have never been lower" going into this series.

 "I don't know what everybody is worried about," said Muckler yesterday. "People should be excited. This is an exciting time of year and there's nothing better than playoff hockey. If you don't enjoy the hockey at this time of year, then you don't like hockey."

 Muckler wasn't around for any of the Senators' three previous playoff eliminations at the hands of the Leafs. But he's well aware of the mountainous task facing his team.

 It's a scenario Muckler remembers from his days in the 1980s with the Edmonton Oilers, a team that had demons of its own to conquer.

 "I would say we had a tough time with the Islanders and Calgary. They always made it difficult for us," said Muckler. "What we have to do is look at this as a challenge for our hockey club. To be the best, you've got to beat the best.

 "That's what is going to happen here. We're going to face one of the best teams (in the East) and it should be a pretty good series. We should be excited about that challenge and we should look forward to facing it."

 Muckler said the Islanders taught the Oilers a valuable lesson in 1983 -- one that propelled them to their first Stanley Cup a year later.

 New York had just won its fourth straight Cup in the final against the Isles and Edmonton star Wayne Gretzky wanted to see the celebration going on in the other dressing room.

 "He wanted to see the atmosphere of what it was like to be a winner and go into a dressing room where they were celebrating a Stanley Cup. I was there too, but they always seem to forget to mention that," said Muckler with a laugh.

 "When Gretzky walked in there, he didn't see much of a celebration going on. There were guys with injuries, cuts and bruises. They were sitting there in their equipment and they were just drained. Gretzky turned to (teammate) Kevin (Lowe) and said: 'I know why didn't win this series ... We didn't pay the price.'

 "The Islanders had paid the price. The next year we beat them in the finals because we knew what it took to win."

 The Senators learned a lot about what it takes to win in the playoffs last year. They were within minutes of advancing to the Stanley Cup final until New Jersey's Jeff Friesen dashed their hopes with a heartbreaking goal late in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.

 While the Leafs have history on their side, Muckler said that means nothing now and the Senators simply have to be at the top of their game to come out on top this time.

 "You've got one team that had 103 points (Toronto) in the regular season and the other had 102. That's not a big difference," said Muckler. "It's unfortunate that one of those two teams is going to end up out of the playoffs because they're both very good teams, but that's the way it works.

 "If we're going to be successful, we have to have our best effort from everybody. We have to play the best that we can play because this is going to be a tough challenge. We need dedication from everybody. They can't think about anything else other than winning this series. This has to be the top priority in their life.

 "You've got to have that dedication to win a series. You've got to pay the price."


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