Torts won't like 20% rule, either

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

Those fashionable Senators impressed a lot of people on their recent four-day business trip down south.

And not just with the fancy suits, either.

"They're not animals," Frank, who drives a hotel shuttle bus and thus chauffeurs pro players from all sports around Tampa, was saying early yesterday morning. "They're real gentlemen. When they leave the ice, they leave it on the ice.

"And they're not cocky or anything like that, like football players. I was driving some of them over to the arena and I asked how they thought they were going to do that night. They just sort of hemmed and hawed and said 'I don't know, we should be all right.' I thought then and there, these guys are in trouble with that attitude."

On the contrary, it is the boys from the Bay who are in a fine kettle of fish, down 3-1 in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series with the Senators.

The last squad to hoist a Stanley Cup is reeling after two straight losses at home, and now it looks set to become one of the first to be booted out of this post-season tournament.

In the grasp of the mighty Senators, the Bolts are crumbling so bad that, one week into the playoffs, star centre Brad Richards says it's time for them to "go back to the drawing board.

"I don't believe we can't beat this team," Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, said following a 5-2 schooling by the Senators on Thursday night. "It's a matter of doing it.

PLENTY OF CHATTER

"Talking about it and doing it is different."

Truth of the matter is, there's been an awful lot of interesting chatter going on this series.

A popular quote in the Tampa dressing room stopped the ink in pens. It was repeated by a couple of players, and echoed once more by the man with the last word: Coach John Tortorella.

Right as he was throwing goalie Johnny "An Occasional Save Would Be Nice" Grahame under the bus, too.

"NOTHING TO LOSE"

"We've got nothing to lose," said Tortorella. "We've just go to go up there and play, then see where we go from there."

Pardon? The Bolts actually have everything to lose, don't they? One more defeat and they're done. A single mistake and both their season and two-year reign is over.

Unlike the start of the season, Torts, isn't all the pressure on your team now?

The reality is, it's the Senators who could take the nothing-to-lose approach into tonight's game at Scotiabank Place. Should they go down to defeat in Game 5, they would simply take another comfy charter flight to the land of sunshine and babes for another skate at the St. Pete Times Forum, where they are now 4-0 this season and have outscored the Bolts by a convincing 21-7 margin.

And should they happen to lose that one, the odds would still be in Ottawa's favour here for Game 7. Heading into tonight, the Senators are 4-1 against the Lightning in 2005-06 at Scotiabank Place, having scored 15 while allowing 10.

And if the 8-1 record and 36-17 season scoreboard aren't enough to make a Senators fans breathe casually, they should also consider this: Only 20-of-205 times has a team that trailed a best-of-seven series 3-1 come back to win it.

The Senators, meanwhile, continue to say all the right things.

"We want to finish them off in Ottawa," Chris Neil stated Thursday. "They're going to be ready to go (in Game 5) and they've still got a lot of firepower."

Maybe, but they don't have anyone producing at the rate of a Martin Havlat or Jason Spezza.

They don't have anyone playing like Wade Redden, who's easily been the best defenceman in a series being held around his mother's death and her funeral.

They don't have anyone stirring it up like Neil.

EMERY BEST GOALIE

And they don't have a goalie as good as Ray Emery, who has also been the best-dressed player in a series that has seen Grahame get undressed by his coach.

"I'm really tired of the 25% rule," Tortorella said after watching Grahame -- who Tampa reporters believe has played his last game for the Bolts -- give up four goals on 17 shots.

We're guessing he's probably not going to be too big on the 20% rule, then, when his team ends this series with just one win in five.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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