Senators' modern playoff history started before 2003

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

If perception is nine-tenths of reality, there must be many people still wondering how the Senators have managed not to asphyxiate themselves out of the post-season so far.

Furthermore, if you were to believe some of the talking heads within traditional media, you might assume that the Senators lack any modern playoff history prior to May 2003.

It was bound to happen -- this rehash of the melodrama from four seasons ago.

The tale of a talented team on the ropes, the words of wisdom from a dying man and the emergence of a star in the making, held down too long by a coach with trust issues.

A comeback ensued, but was cut short in the dying minutes of Game 7 by devastation personified -- arriving in the form of then-Devil Jeff Friesen. In a blink of an eye, it was over.

These clips have been perpetually replayed since the current Senators-Devils series was announced. Tear-filled eyes, drooped shoulders and awed expressions of disbelief.

Marian Hossa is visible -- Karel Rachunek, as well. Zdeno Chara, Radek Bonk, Martin Havlat, Shaun Van Allen and Patrick Lalime ... the list goes on.

Teammates shown in a moment of monumental disappointment and players remembered as part of a group of failing Senators, adding fodder to the "choker" label.

ONLY EIGHT REMAIN

Of that 2002-03 roster, only eight core members remain (nine, if you include Ray Emery's three regular-season starts): Daniel Alfredsson, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov, Jason Spezza, Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher.

And from that group, Alfredsson, Phillips and Redden are the remnants of another rarely mentioned series where the team's abilities were questioned against the top-seeded Devils: The 1997-98 Eastern Conference quarter-finals. This embattled troika belonged to an Ottawa group that took on and beat the likes of the best in the game -- Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur, to name a few.

Of course, editorial-weighted reporting that paints the picture of an Ottawa team potentially unable to take the next step against Brodeur and his brood doesn't lend itself to recall such history.

But how much of their largely negative post-season history have the Senators repeated this year?

To make a correct assessment, you'd have to recall former weaknesses. A lack of grit? Neil, Christoph Schubert, Fisher and Volchenkov have proven otherwise. Alleged leadership issues? Alfredsson has been one of the Senators' best players so far. Goaltending woes?

The Senators finally groomed their own backstopper, and Emery has been paying dividends. A calm demeanour in the face of adversity? Exhibit A: Game 1, where the Devils were permitted to become goal-happy, but only to a point. Scoring droughts? Prior to last night's game, only three Senators had yet to register a point (Oleg Saprykin, Phillips and Schubert).

No one here is jumping the gun -- the NHL playoffs are a grind of epic proportions, and the Devils present a formidable foe with the ability to force Ottawa to the brink once more. But sooner or later, the media must push aside the past if the Senators continue to press forward.

Observers might obsess over the Devils they know, but it's time to acknowledge this new-school Senators team that many don't.


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