The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin two weeks from Wednesday. It’s traditionally an exciting time for Ottawa Senators’ fans, barrelling into the playoffs with dreams of glory. This year I’m still excited but mostly just antsy and uncomfortable. Nothing in sports leaves me feeling worse than witnessing the Senators’ elimination, usually through some catastrophe or other.
It’s like being on the road again to Disneyland. So much anticipation and just a few miles to go. But the ride ends with disappointment every time. Disneyland is always closed. So we go home, take the summer off and begin the trek again with renewed hope. You think, “Maybe this is the year.” But it never is.
April 17th will be the 10 year anniversary of Ottawa’s first playoff game. It falls far short of Boston’s record of 29 consecutive playoff appearances (1968-96). But in today’s parity-laced NHL, 9 straight seasons is still a mark to be proud of. The Sens are always good. Always. But then something happens. Tugger can’t squeeze Derek Plante’s overtime slap shot. Sami Salo gives it away to Steve Thomas. Tie Domi is hit by Rico Persson. Jeff Friesen. Sundin in overtime. Patrick Lalime. Dominik Hasek’s adductor. The ’06 Game 1 Buffalo collapse. Jason Pominville. It never ends.
But maybe this uncomfortable feeling isn’t all bad. Karma doesn’t care for overconfidence and there’s certainly not much of that left in this city. Perhaps, like the Indianapolis Colts, success will finally come when we’re least expecting it. Both the Sens and Colts have been masters of the regular season and masters of playoff failure. The Colts were a flawed team with the worst run defence in football. All they did was win it all this year. Maybe lowered expectations will help the Sens too.
Or maybe I’m grasping at straws.
In any event, I can’t wait. And the well of hope isn’t completely dry. But Ottawa sure could use some Stanley Cup reign to end this drought.