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

October 13, 2002

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. --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Wade Redden

FAST FACT
The Senators were the only team from a Canadian city to make the
playoffs in each of the last six seasons.

INSIDER

CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY

OFFENSE 9 Fine speed and skill; Spezza, Schastlivy should
contribute
DEFENSE 3 Led by Chara and Redden, unit has no weaknesses
GOALTENDING 12 Lalime keeps getting better; Prusek may push for
time
SPECIAL TEAMS 8 Alfredsson's skill spurs PP; Schaefer top penalty
killer
MANAGEMENT 9 G.M. Muckler made mark by adding Schaefer

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)