Sens carry 'quiet confidence' into Game 1
Try to keep emotions in check heading to Ottawa-friendly MSG
AEDEN HELMER, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - The Senators want to take a bite out of the Big Apple.
While they’re embracing the underdog role as a No. 8 seed that defied the odds just by making the playoffs, taking on a New York Rangers team that came within a win of capturing the Presidents’ Trophy, the Senators have good reason to be confident.
They won 3-of-4 in the season series, including both contests at Madison Square Garden — where they’ve gone 11-2-1 since the lockout — and they’re starting a goaltender who carries a 6-0-0 lifetime record with a career 1.33 GAA under the bright lights of MSG.
So, would the Senators be satisfied with stealing home-ice advantage from the Rangers by earning a split on the road?
“Not if we win the first one,” said Chris Phillips with a grin. “You want to use that to your advantage. Right now they have home ice (advantage), you want to try to take that. The playoffs are so gruelling, grinding, things are going to go in their favour, things are going to go in ours.
“The biggest thing is to stay level-headed. If we go and take the first game, you don’t want to get too excited, because momentum is a big part of it. We say game-by-game because it is. Whatever happens, if you go down 1-0 (in the series), you don’t sulk, you get excited to play Game 2.”
Captain Daniel Alfredsson admitted “it would be awkward not to be a little bit nervous.
“I know this group is a resilient bunch and it’s a good mix of older guys and younger guys, some in between, and we’ve got a good atmosphere here,” he said.
“There’s a lot of quiet confidence in this room,” added Phillips, “but it’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to show that we’re capable of playing with these guys.”
Coach Paul MacLean said there’s “no mystery” to their success against the Rangers.
“We’ve worked real hard to score on the Rangers,” he said Wednesday after the Senators’ final tuneup before boarding a flight to New York. “They’re a good defensive team, they block a lot of shots, (Henrik Lundqvist) plays real good. You’ve got to work real hard to score goals on him and that’s one thing we’ve done against them in the regular season. We’ve got to work harder in the playoffs because it becomes even harder (to score).”
MacLean acknowledged the bright-lights, big-city playoff atmosphere could be a little daunting for his young team.
“That’s what experience gives you, the fact that you’ve been there before, so it’s not as overwhelming as it is for a guy that’s in it for the first time,” he said. “We feel a sense of confidence in our group that our young players have had the experience in the American Hockey League with the Calder Cup, winning the championship (with Binghamton). Although it’s different from the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s still playoff hockey and our feeling is that’s going to make the adjustment a little shorter than it would be for (another young player) in his first playoff game ever.”
According to Craig Anderson, who has just one playoff series under his belt, ignorance can be bliss.
“Obviously we have a lot of guys in our room who have played a lot of games in the playoffs, and a few guys who haven’t played a whole lot, but sometimes the unknown is a positive and you can just fly by the seat of your pants,” he said.
“We’re going to Madison Square Garden, which is the No. 1 venue in the world, or whatever they want to call it, but it’s a big place and it’s going to be a fun night,” said MacLean.