THE SENATORS ARE ‘FAR FROM DONE,’ KARLSSON SAYS
Reaching the Eastern Conference final is cause for celebration — but not satisfaction
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?”