Dog day afternoon

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

This Senators-Penguins series hasn't even started yet and it's gone to the dogs.

Choking dogs.

Underdogs.

Sleeping dogs, disturbed.

Until they actually play hockey tonight, the dogs have the run of the place, from a room at Scotiabank Place to a ballroom at the Brookstreet Hotel.

The game is lobbing the "pressure" bone back and forth and trying to grab the underdog label, a meaningless but nonetheless somewhat entertaining game of fetch in which the Senators and the Penguins try and convince everyone -- perhaps most importantly themselves -- the pressure is on the other guys.

Yesterday morning, Senators coach Bryan Murray threw it over the Penguins' fence.

Yesterday afternoon, Penguins star Sidney Crosby took a sniff, refused to bite and walked away, leaving it for his coach, Michel Therrien.

He picked it up with both hands.

He's got a strong back, that Michel.

When asked if he agreed with Murray that the Penguins were the favourites in a lot of people's minds, Crosby said quickly: "No."

What did he think of Murray saying that?

"I don't think it's true. That's what I think."

Penguins veteran Gary Roberts considered Murray's assessment.

"Everybody has an opinion, but he must be watching a different channel than I'm watching," said Roberts.

"Most of the people I've seen are picking Ottawa."

Therrien didn't know about underdogs, but he knows pressure.

"You guys put the favourite or not, it's not us. It's not the coaches," Therrien said after the Penguins arrived in Ottawa and met with the media at the Brookstreet. ''They got one thing for sure. The Senators have got a lot of pressure.''

He then pushed the "hot" button around here and by "hot" I mean the "choking dogs" button without saying "choking dogs."

Said Therrien: "They're capable of putting some great hockey teams on the ice the last few years. They've got a lot of success during the regular season, but one thing, for unknown reasons, they got bad luck when it gets to the playoffs."

Ouch.

Unknown reasons?

Bad luck?

Sure sounds like code for a tight collar.

Therrien clearly wasn't interested in letting a sleeping dog lie, giving it a little nudge with the toe of his shoe.

"Again this year, I'm sure they feel that pressure. They feel that pressure to be successful in the playoffs," he said of the Senators.

"The pressure comes from fans, it comes from media, it could come from ownership. They got a lot of pressure. I don't think this year is going to be any different because they play against a young team."

PLAYOFF DEBUTS

Okay, so this is going to be the first playoff game for about 15 of the players on the Penguins roster tonight.

Therrien referenced the youth of his team a couple of times.

"Some of our guys are teenagers. You'll see through the course of the series some of the guys will try to have some beards and you're going to see some of those guys won't be able to grow some beards," he said.

"That's our team. We're a young team. They're kids. That's the way it is."

Crosby and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, 22, would have a very slow race to grow a beard.

How's that going, by the way, Sid?

"You tell me. I don't know. I'm working on it. That's a fun thing about playing in the playoffs is seeing that stuff and for me, I'm still waiting," said Crosby.

"Hopefully we'll be in here long enough and I might get a little growth there."

For sure, the Penguins are young in key spots. Their top three goal scorers -- Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal -- are 19, 20 and 18, respectively.

But according to the game notes, the average age of the Penguins is 27.8.

The average age of the Senators?

Yup, 27.3.

For sure, the Penguins' average age is skewed upwards by the presence of the 40-year-old Roberts and the 39-year-old Mark Recchi.

But the Senators aren't exactly a bunch of Old Yellers.


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