Sens are 'dogs, after all

Head coach Bryan Murray talks to media following the Senators practice at the Scotiabank Place in...

Head coach Bryan Murray talks to media following the Senators practice at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

Pressure?

What pressure?

Ottawa coach Bryan Murray put his spin on things yesterday, saying it's the Senators, not the Penguins, who are the underdogs in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series that kicks off tonight at Scotiabank Place.

Murray, who claimed that superstar Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are being picked by a lot of experts to win the first-round series, tried to throw cold water on the fact the Senators are the ones with big expectations this spring.

So, are the Senators the ones feeling all the heat?

"I don't think that's true at all. Pittsburgh (has) lots to lose, too," said Murray. "I think when you get to a playoff series, you want to learn from every one of them and you want to benefit from every one. But I think they've had a terrific year.

"I've listened to lots of observations and many, many people think Pittsburgh is the team that's going to beat us, without a doubt and, so I think, they've got lots to lose. If they're regarded as the best team and they don't win, then what happens?"

PAST FAILURES

Still, not many are buying what Murray is trying to sell. The Penguins weren't even expected to make the playoffs at the start of the season and they wound up fifth in the East. And they certainly aren't carrying the post-season baggage that has plagued Ottawa for the last decade.

"We don't have any extra pressure because it's the playoffs," said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien. "I don't feel my players feel any extra pressure. We're playing against a team that has a lot of pressure. Ottawa's a team that has the pressure to win the Stanley Cup.

"We're probably going to be there in a few years, dealing with that kind of pressure, but right now our team's having fun being together. We don't feel any pressure."

Senator captain Daniel Alfredsson said the focus has to be on winning the series and trying to limit the chances the powerful Penguins have.

"The way I look at it is: If we don't go past the Penguins, then I'll be very disappointed," said Alfredsson. "If that's extra pressure, then so be it. We expect to win this series, but we do respect them and we know we have to play our best to beat them."

Senators centre Jason Spezza said both teams will be feeling the heat, but also tried to characterize his club as the underdog because Ottawa isn't the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"Both teams were good regular-season teams and both teams have pressure to win," said Spezza. "They probably have pressure, but so do we.

"I guess we could call ourselves underdogs ... this as close as we've ever been to being underdogs. We can play the underdog role because a lot of people want to see Pittsburgh go on and their young talent flourish. Hopefully, we can stop that. But I really don't care what people want to consider us. We just want to win. We can't let this stuff distract us."

Murray told the Senators that if they lose Game 1, panic shouldn't set in.

"It's an opportunity for each and every player in the organization to step up and play the way they can play," said Murray. "They don't have to do anything phenomenal. I'm not asking anybody to do anything out of character. As I said to them (Monday): A loss is not a cliff, it's just a crossroads."




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