By JUSTIN SADLER, Ottawa Sun
Last Updated: April 17, 2010 11:31pm
As the Senators gear up for their first home game of the playoffs Sunday, many fans are approaching this first round not with the unbridled enthusiasm of say 2007, but with guarded optimism.
Carl Radford, a cook at Fil’s Diner on Wellington St. and a self-described diehard Sens fan, said he’s trying not to get too emotionally invested this year.
“I can just see flashbacks to two years ago when the Sens got swept in the first round,” he said. Friday’s loss, he said, was really disappointing.
Radford recalled the crushing end to the 2002-03 conference final series when the Sens lost to New Jersey in the seventh game after Jeff Friesen scored the game winner in the last three minutes of the third period.
“I think I was 14 years old and that’s like the last time I can distinctly remember crying about a sports event or coming very close to tears,” he said.
“I have optimism, but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high because they’ve been dashed before.”
Though he has to work Sunday, he’s doing his best to book off playoff dates so he can watch the games.
Similarly, Graeme Nichols’ enthusiasm is restrained this year, especially now the series is split 1-1. The team has a chance but many of his fellow fans, he said, feel like this is going to be a really tough, long series.
“I’m pretty loyal, I’ve been with the team since Day 1, but after (Friday) night’s game I’m a little frustrated,” he said.
Nichols — the brainchild behind www.the6thsens.com Senators fan blog — has been committed to the team through thick and thin.
“I’ve been through the ups and downs, the whole cultivation of prospects that came through the system, through to when they became a contender,” he said.
Since the team made its first playoff appearance in 1997, Dave Coulier has attended every single playoff home game. But his enthusiasm has also been tempered over the last several disappointing seasons.
“This year, I don’t know. Nobody thinks they’re going to win. I would give them a 40% to 50% chance in the first round, but you keep your expectations in check.” he said. “They’re not favourites by a long shot.”
Like true fans — and despite their reservations — they’re hopeful of a good outcome Sunday night and down the playoff road.
“I’ve seen the Senators play bad hockey, and they’re not playing that right now. They’re split with the defending Stanley Cup champions and that says something considering we didn’t even make the playoffs last year,” Radford said.
“If they somehow manage to escape Pittsburgh, I don’t think there’s a limit as to what can happen,” Nichols said.