THE SEN­A­TORS ARE ‘FAR FROM DONE,’ KARLS­SON SAYS

Reach­ing the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal is cause for cel­e­bra­tion — but not sat­is­fac­tion

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - BRUCE GARRIOCH bgar­rioch@post­media.com twit­ter.com/sun­gar­rioch

Af­ter book­ing a ticket to the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal in the city that never sleeps, the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors spent Wed­nes­day get­ting some needed rest.

It’s only the third time the fran­chise has reached the NHL’s fi­nal four and, for the first time since 2007, the Sen­a­tors have moved within one step of the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. Though they were thrilled to fin­ish off the New York Rangers with a 4-2 win Tues­day at Madi­son Square Gar­den, they say the jour­ney isn’t over.

“We didn’t go this far to not want any­thing more,” cap­tain Erik Karls­son said. “We know what’s ex­pected of us. It’s go­ing to be even harder next se­ries, who­ever we get to play, and it’s go­ing to take more out of us.

“We’re go­ing to cel­e­brate this — or en­joy this — for a lit­tle bit, but we’re far from done. We want to go as far as we pos­si­bly can, but we know we need to be a lit­tle bit bet­ter and we have to keep grow­ing.”

Per­haps that’s why the cel­e­bra­tion in the dress­ing room fol­low­ing the se­ries clincher against the Rangers wasn’t over-the-top. The Sen­a­tors know they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them if they’re go­ing to hoist the Stan­ley Cup in June, and that’s be­come the sole fo­cus of this group.

“We’ll en­joy the mo­ment, but we’ve just got to look for­ward and move for­ward. The job’s not fin­ished,” goal­tender Craig An­der­son said.

The Sen­a­tors strug­gled down the stretch get­ting to the play­offs, but they’ve picked the most op­por­tune time to catch light­ning in a bot­tle. They’ve had a highly suc­cess­ful play­off run be­cause dif­fer­ent players have stepped up at dif­fer­ent times.

Though Karls­son has been Ot­tawa’s best player, he’s had a strong sup­port­ing cast with Bobby Ryan, Kyle Tur­ris, Dion Pha­neuf, Clarke MacArthur, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Der­ick Bras­sard and An­der­son among those play­ing the role of hero.

“Through­out the course of this se­ries, we re­ally paid the price,” Karls­son said. “We did the small things right and we stuck with it no mat­ter what (the Rangers) threw at us, and they made it re­ally dif­fi­cult for us to do what we wanted to do well, but we did it for long enough, and that’s why we’re stand­ing here.”

The fact the Sen­a­tors are stand­ing is no sur­prise to any­one in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion added Alex Bur­rows, Vik­tor Stal­berg and Tommy Win­gels be­fore the trade dead­line be­cause he felt good about this group’s chances.

Head coach Guy Boucher went to the con­fer­ence fi­nal with the Tampa Bay Light­ning in 2011 and knows the path doesn’t get any eas­ier, no mat­ter who the Sen­a­tors face next.

“I’ve lived it be­fore. I think there’s a lot of emo­tion in the first round — teams are mostly healthy, they’re ex­cited and they’ve got a lot of en­ergy,” Boucher said. “I think you start see­ing in the mid­dle of the sec­ond round that ev­ery game more guys are banged up, more guys are tired.

“There’s a men­tal, phys­i­cal and emo­tional wear-down. It’s noth­ing like the third round. If I remember cor­rectly, it’s re­ally tough. When you get to the third round, I think a few days of rest makes a big dif­fer­ence.”

Boucher was quick to play the un­der­dog card be­fore fac­ing the Rangers. He was asked if he’d do that again be­fore tak­ing on their East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal op­po­nent, the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins.

“I don’t even think I need to an­swer that one,” Boucher said with a laugh. “As long as we’re dogs, we’re fight­ing in the ring. At least we’re there. Over- or un­der­dogs, let’s leave it at dogs. How’s that?”

Erik Karls­son

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