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8 OTTAWA Senators
Mark Beech
October 14, 2002
They're young and dynamic, but they can't get over a postseason hump
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October 14, 2002

8 Ottawa Senators

They're young and dynamic, but they can't get over a postseason hump

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Fine speed and skill; Spezza, Schastlivy should contribute



Led by Chara and Redden, unit has no weaknesses



Lalime keeps getting better; Prusek may push for time



Alfredsson's skill spurs PP; Schaefer top penalty killer



G.M. Muckler made mark by adding Schaefer

The Senators play postseason games like a team that has one hand wrapped around its windpipe. Leading the Maple Leafs three games to two in their second-round series last May and holding a 2-0 advantage in the first period of Game 6, the Senators appeared on the brink of advancing to the conference finals for the first time. Inexplicably, Ottawa let the game, and then the series, slip away. It was the third straight year in which Toronto ended Ottawa's season and the sixth consecutive year that the Senators failed to get past the second round. No killer instinct? Some observers grab their throats in response.

Despite the team's record of postseason failure, new general manager John Muckler is committed to Ottawa's core of talented young veterans, including forwards Radek Bonk, 26; Martin Havlat, 21; and Marian Hossa, 23; as well as defensemen Wade Redden, 25; Chris Phillips, 24; and Zdeno Chara, 25. "Every young team stumbles," says Muckler, who was hired after Marshall Johnston stepped down in July. "You have to learn how to handle adversity to learn how to win."

While Muckler shops for players with more postseason toughness, coach Jacques Martin will count on solid production from a quick and efficient group of forwards—led by Bonk (25 goals, 45 assists), Hossa (31,35) and right wing Daniel Alfredsson (37,34)—who should benefit from the league's promised crackdown on obstruction. The speedy Havlat (22, 28) will move from the right side to the left and join wing Peter Schaefer, who was acquired in a trade with the Canucks. Last year Schaefer played in Finland after refusing to sign with Vancouver; he scored 36 points in 2000-01, when he led the team with four shorthanded goals.

Ottawa is steady in net with the improving Patrick Lalime, but its strength is on the blue line. Chara, Phillips, Redden, Curtis Leschyshyn, Brian Pothier and Karel Rachunek are as good as any group of defensemen in the league. With such a collection of talent on offense and defense, there's little doubt that the Senators will make the playoffs again this year. But how far will they go? For now, it looks as if the second round's still the limit.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]