'Pesky' Senators continue to show their resolve
The Ottawa Senators might not be as talented as the Penguins — certainly not on the offensive end — but they do possess several attributes. For one thing, they are known as a gritty, resourceful bunch that keeps beating the odds.
But don't call them overachievers.
“The word we like to use is ‘pesky,' ” winger Erik Condra said.
Coach Paul MacLean probably used other words to his team after the Penguins beat the Senators, 4-1, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday.
Ottawa admittedly was outhit and outhustled. But during a shortened, difficult season and then in the first-round of the playoffs, the club has persevered through numerous challenges.
Trailing in the series, 1-0, even against a club as good as the Penguins, is not likely to faze the Senators.
“We just keep coming,” said Condra, a third-year player. “The good thing about our team is you don't know who's gonna step up.”
Other than captain Daniel Alfredsson, a 17-year veteran winger, defenseman Erik Karlsson and perhaps one or two others, “We don't have too many known guys,” Condra said. “But every night there's somebody else that steps up, and that's what's been great about us.”
Injuries threatened to torpedo the Senators' season. Instead, they won five straight at the finish and seven of nine overall to gain the No. 7 seed. Then they blasted second-seeded Montreal out of the first round in five games.
Center Jason Spezza, a 10-year vet, played just five games before undergoing back surgery Feb. 1 and has yet to play. He is skating again — in Ottawa — and his return date is uncertain.
Goalie Craig Anderson, who led the league in goals-against and save percentage this season, missed 18 of the 48 regular-season games with a sprained ankle. And Karlsson, last year's Norris Trophy winner, suffered a torn Achilles tendon Feb. 13.
Hardly anyone believed he would play again this season. But Karlsson returned for the playoffs after missing the final 31 regular-season games. He has yet to regain his pre-injury form, but such a swift recovery bordered on incredible.
“Obviously, I hoped I was gonna play more this year,” Karlsson said. “It didn't look good for a long period of time, but here I am, and at least I'm standing up.”
Third-year defenseman Jared Cowen (41 games) and veteran winger Milan Michalek (24 games) also missed considerable action. But the Senators got strong contributions from several young players, including J.G. Pageau, Eric Gryba and Mika Zibanejad.
“A lot of young guys have come up and really stepped in and played the right way and played good for us,” Alfredsson said.