Sens' 'clean slate' more than a little dirty vs. Penguins

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

The Senators are waiting to take on the Penguins at Scotiabank Place tomorrow -- that means it's time to tackle some topics from the series so far.

Remind me again how a playoff berth was supposed to negate all of Ottawa's woes from the regular season?

We heard the phrase "clean slate" being tossed around a lot -- it's amusing how teams backing in try to spin the second season as a fresh start, while the hot clubs talk about "building on momentum."

The truth is every team has a history it can't escape from. In case you had forgotten, here's the Senators' recent resume in a nutshell: 7-11-2. Sixteen points in the final 20 games of the regular season -- the worst out of any playoff team.

If the franchise had not made the post-season, what would have happened?

Objective observers and naysayers alike would have referred to them as "chokers," and a multitude of players would have been sent packing during the off-season.

Based on what's happened in the Pittsburgh series so far, does anyone truly see things ending differently?

Critics will make similar comments, those same players will be out the door and Ottawa will garner a lower pick in the draft.

I suppose there's that impeccable playoff appearance streak to cling to.

Do they make trophies for those?

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The Senators gained a great deal from their Stanley Cup run last season -- increased revenues and national media attention were a given, but it was the sudden swell of new fan support that caught the interest of many people. Ottawa has maintained a steady fan base for a number of years due to its regular-season success, but perpetual playoff failures prevented most casual fans from becoming swept up in the action. Much of that changed last year, when the frenzy for the Cup began to spread throughout the city. Who could recall the last time the club had experienced a fresh influx of supporters? Bandwagoning or not, these fans represent a source of revenue for the franchise. However, if the Senators can't cut it in the post-season, the interest of these new followers will likely wane. Worse still, their attention may be swayed to greener pastures within close proximity ... like the surging Canadiens.

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What on Earth does Martin Gerber have to do to gain a little respect? Some fans and media are still speculating over the idea of starting Ray Emery in this series. No. 29 has been one of the few bright spots during this ordeal -- his confidence has returned, his glove is hot ... why would you pull him? It's true he has allowed eight goals in two games, but there are few he could be faulted for, and that's a rare statement to make about a goaltender in the post-season (keep in mind Gerber has faced a whopping 88 shots so far). Last week, the Swiss-born 'tender took a fair amount of heat due to his playoff inexperience, and the 33-year-old has leapt at the chance to alter perceptions. Unfortunately, when fans look back upon his current performance, their memories may fade, leaving only hard numbers as evidence. Gerber is 0-2 in this series, but he doesn't deserve to be.He's played like a winner and done everything in his power to keep the team within striking distance. Quality goaltending is such an integral resource to have during the playoffs -- it's a shame the Senators are letting Gerber's great play go to waste.

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They say you're never out of a post-season series until you drop a game at home. The Ottawa Senators showed signs of life on Friday, but it's going to take more than that to get out of this battle with Pittsburgh in one piece. Stay tuned.

photo by Keith Srackocic, The Associated Press

After his performance against the Penguins on Friday, Senators goalie Martin Gerber shouldn't worry who Ottawa's No. 1 netminder is.


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