Sens fans look for win


, Last Updated: 12:13 AM ET

As the Senators gear up for their first home game of the playoffs Sunday, many fans are approaching this first round not with the unbridled enthusiasm of say 2007, but with guarded optimism.

Carl Radford, a cook at Fils Diner on Wellington St. and a self-described diehard Sens fan, said hes trying not to get too emotionally invested this year.

I can just see flashbacks to two years ago when the Sens got swept in the first round, he said. Fridays loss, he said, was really disappointing.

Radford recalled the crushing end to the 2002-03 conference final series when the Sens lost to New Jersey in the seventh game after Jeff Friesen scored the game winner in the last three minutes of the third period.

I think I was 14 years old and thats like the last time I can distinctly remember crying about a sports event or coming very close to tears, he said.

I have optimism, but Im not going to get my hopes up too high because theyve been dashed before.

Though he has to work Sunday, hes doing his best to book off playoff dates so he can watch the games.

Similarly, Graeme Nichols enthusiasm is restrained this year, especially now the series is split 1-1. The team has a chance but many of his fellow fans, he said, feel like this is going to be a really tough, long series.

Im pretty loyal, Ive been with the team since Day 1, but after (Friday) nights game Im a little frustrated, he said.

Nichols the brainchild behind Senators fan blog has been committed to the team through thick and thin.

Ive been through the ups and downs, the whole cultivation of prospects that came through the system, through to when they became a contender, he said.

Since the team made its first playoff appearance in 1997, Owen Bourns has attended every single playoff home game. But his enthusiasm has also been tempered over the last several disappointing seasons.

This year, I dont know. Nobody thinks theyre going to win. I would give them a 40% to 50% chance in the first round, but you keep your expectations in check. he said. Theyre not favourites by a long shot.

Like true fans and despite their reservations theyre hopeful of a good outcome Sunday night and down the playoff road.

Ive seen the Senators play bad hockey, and theyre not playing that right now. Theyre split with the defending Stanley Cup champions and that says something considering we didnt even make the playoffs last year, Radford said.

If they somehow manage to escape Pittsburgh, I dont think theres a limit as to what can happen, Nichols said.