|Ottawa Senators head coach Bryan Murray is proud of his team for making it to Round 3, but he's focused on going all the way. Photo: A. Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
The Ottawa Senators have reached the Eastern Conference final for the second time in club history. Ottawa will meet the Buffalo Sabres in Round 3, and coach Bryan Murray is excited about the opportunity.
"To get past the second round is a great accomplishment. I said to the players they should be real proud with themselves," Murray says. "They should be proud they worked this hard, sacrificed as much as they have and now have a chance to be in the final four and take a run at something real meaningful.
"It's a nice achievement for myself, too. It's exactly what I came home (to Shawville, Que.) for. I wanted to be in a market like Ottawa where it really mattered. It's a sense of pride for the community, not only the city of Ottawa, but the whole area."
The Senators' other trip to the Eastern Conference final resulted in a 4-3 series loss to the New Jersey Devils in 2003. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 and the Devils in Round 2 this year, Ottawa will be looking for revenge against Buffalo, the team that knocked them out of last year's playoffs in the second round.
"It's an opportunity for us to get back at them for putting us out last year," forward Chris Neil says. "I think it's going to be a good series. We have to be ready to go and continue playing the way we've been playing.
"We're the two highest-scoring teams in the league (from the regular season), so I think it makes for a very interesting series."
Including last year's playoffs, the Senators and Sabres have played 21 times. Ottawa centre Jason Spezza has a pretty good idea of what to expect in Round 3.
"We know what they're going to bring, and they know what we're going to bring," Spezza says. "They've got a guy on every line that can beat you one-on-one. They have some pretty good puck-moving defencemen and (goaltender Ryan) Miller is pretty solid. You have to be focused all game because they always have those late comebacks."
Murray says his team is ready to move on after last year's disappointment.
"History doesn't mean an awful lot other than you have to learn from it. It is a different team on our part this year. We match up pretty well. We understand that you have to attack them a little different, and they're a little deeper in skilled players than any team we've faced so far."