Senators can't avoid question

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET


 They took turns standing in front of the clusters of cameras, microphones and notepads yesterday, stood there and answered The Question.

 The Ottawa Senators listened to The Question, which to paraphrase, was something like, "Why do you guys think you have any chance at all to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs?"

 The answer, to paraphrase, was "Who?"

 The Senators seem to have adopted the attitude that it is not about them, it's about us.

 Not a bad idea.

 Of course, that's not easy to do when "them" is the Leafs from Toronto.

 Maybe you've heard of them?

 Some say they are the first NHL team in Canada to have their own television network, Leafs TV.

 Some would say they are the first NHL team in Canada to have two. Given that the CBC's wall-to-wall coverage of the team over the years amounted to a dress rehearsal for Leafs TV, adding the digital network doubled the coverage.

 If you need any other hints, the Leafs are the team with one half of its fans being suspender-wearing, tassel-loafered, Chardonnay-sipping Bay Street corporate types.

 The other half are just insufferable bores.

 Anyway, while all of Leaf Nation is fixated on Darcy Tucker's groin and already trying to project who their beloved Buds will face in the next round, the Senators are hunkering down in their dressing room, closing the circle.

 Winger Peter Bondra, a newcomer to the Battle of Ontario, catches on quick.

 "It's going to be a war, I guess," he said.

 STICK TOGETHER

 "We know when we play together as a team, we're tough to beat. Our only chance is to play like that."

 Senators defenceman Chris Phillips, who saves his best hockey for this time of year, summed up the Senators attitude yesterday.

 He stood there amid the clusters in the Ottawa dressing room and said the Senators should be looking inward, not outward.

 "We have a great team and we're focused on what we have to do," said Phillips. "If you focus on them and what they're doing, there's a good chance we won't be as successful.

 "This really has nothing to do with them."

 The Senators are trying to separate themselves from history, from the three previous springs when they fell to the Leafs, from this past regular season in which they won but one of the six games against the Leafs.

 It does them no good, so they are cutting themselves off from it.

 Their vision doesn't go beyond the walls of their dressing room. Just as well, because they probably wouldn't like what they see.

 NO MONKEY SUPPORT

 Even Maggie the Monkey, the sensational simian soothsayer on The Sports Network, spun her wheel last night and picked the Leafs.

 "Look around our room and the talent we have in here," said Phillips. "Look at the opportunity we have here.

 "It's up to us to decide what's going to happen. If we play our game, it's more of a challenge for the other team to stop us than if we worry about what the other teams have."

 For just about everyone outside the Senators' dressing room, this is all about the Leafs.

 Of course, given the body of evidence, it's hard to find anybody who is picking the Senators.

 Maybe that's what the Senators need. Nobody else is giving them much of a chance, so they will have to take care of that themselves.

 "It's not much of a surprise. It looked like this was the way it was going to turn out for the last week of the season," said veteran Ottawa defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn.

 "Our goals are set. It doesn't matter who we're facing."


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