Thursday, November 8, 2007

Senators rewrite history book with 13-1 start

The Ottawa Senators have certainly proven their 2007 Stanley Cup Finals appearance was no fluke. Remember when seemed Toronto would always get in their way from going deep into the postseason?

They may have fallen three wins short of their first championship in modern franchise history, the Senators seem to be quite motivated to get another shot. Not only have they defied naysayers, they've caught the attention of the hockey world with an amazing start to the 2007-2008 season.

Until they can do it in the playoffs against Toronto, the consolation prize in any success Ottawa can have in this Battle of Ontario rivalry is dominating during the regular season (15-4 in their last 19 post-lockout meetings). That trend remained the same on Tuesday night with a 5-1 pasting of the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place to improve to a league-best 13-1 on the season. Ottawa also set a new club record by extending their winning streak to eight games.

The Senators' 14-game start set a new NHL record for most wins and points in that span, eclipsing a 12-2 mark held by the 2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings and the 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres. Both of those teams earned 25 points as each had one non-regulation loss.

Originally signed last year to be their starting goalie and lost the job to Ray Emery, it appears that Martin Gerber has earned it back for now. With Emery sidelined by injury, Gerber is poised to take full advantage of his second chance. He made 30 saves on the night with only Nikolai Antropov scoring against him in the second period. The Senators setting a new league record would not be overshadowed by Mark Bell making his Toronto debut after completing a 15-game suspension.

Will this 13-1 start mean another trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals? That remains to be seen, but the two teams that shared the old record had mixed playoff results. The Red Wings were knocked out by the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round two seasons ago and the Sabres lost to these very Senators in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Sometimes, it gets tougher to maintain this high level of success over a marathon 82-game schedule without running into any obstacle along the way. But I can truly say that barring an injury to a key player, the deterioration of a sound system implemented by head coach John Paddock or a dropoff in Gerber's or Emery's play, the Senators should be in the mix all season to come out of the East next spring.

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