It’s been an outstanding October for the Ottawa Senators.
And, to hear them tell it, there’s no reason it can’t be followed by a November to remember … and a lot more beyond that.
“We don’t feel we’ve played our best hockey yet,” centre Jason Spezza
said Monday as he reflected on the Sens’ 9-1-0 start to the 2007-08 season. “And we’re winning games.”
A bit of a chilling thought, indeed, for the rest of the National Hockey League, most of which isn’t close to matching the Senators’ sizzling early season pace. But don’t think for a minute that this group of players is going to take too much time to admire what’s been accomplished so far. Not with a much busier schedule awaiting them in the month ahead.
“I don’t think you ever want to be content, or think you’ve gotten as good as you can get,” said veteran defenceman Wade Redden, whose improved play this season is gaining plenty of deserved attention. “There’s always room for improvement …We know the games are going to get tougher as the year goes along. (The season) has only started.
“We’re got a lot of games coming up and we want to get rolling and stay rolling.”
Head coach John Paddock credits his players’ improved maturity, in large part, for their early successes. It’s been obvious from the first days of training camp that just reaching the Stanley Cup final last season wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy this bunch.
“That’s what we tried to nip in the bud immediately,” Paddock said in reference to the so-called "Stanley Cup hangover" that’s plagued other finalists in recent seasons. “That’s where the players’ attitude and maturity they found from playing in the finals kicked in.”
While Paddock admits the team’s 9-1-0 start is “a really good pace,” he sees no reason why the Senators can’t maintain it over the long haul. He’s also not one to buy into the theory that a team can peak too early in the season.
“If you do the little things right, you have a chance to win all the time,” he said. “I think we won the game on Saturday (at New Jersey) because we did enough little things right and we ground it out. That comes from their attitude and approach to it.
“You’re supposed to win every game, aren’t you? If you’re not trying to be 82-0, you’re not trying. (A perfect record) is impossible, but that has to be every team’s mindset … We know there’s going to be tough times, but hopefully we’ll keep them to a minimum.”
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
seconds that line of thinking.
“You want to go out there and give yourself a chance to win every night,” he said. “I think if we do, with the people we have, that we should be a tough team to play against. We don’t take anything for granted and that’s the key.”
Even with a six-day layoff between games, the Senators turned in a clinically effective performance in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over New Jersey. On a night when the Devils played their first game in the new Prudential Center, there was a pervasive sense of calm and control on the visitors’ side.
“We approach games the right way,” said Spezza. “We’re not trying to win games 5-1 or 6-1 … we’re quite content to just win hockey games now. We’re comfortable with the lead. We’ve gotten better at the little things, and everyone’s contributed.
“Everyone’s stepped up, and that’s why our record is what it is.”
Added Alfredsson: “We talked about the way the schedule is, and tried to make the most of the early games. Now is the time to build for the remainder of the season.”
Sounds like the Senators are getting quite the solid foundation in place, indeed.