Even though the Senators once again defeated their playoff opponent in only 5 games, there is no doubt that this was their toughest series and their toughest opponent. You could feel the nervousness in Ottawa as Buffalo won game 4 - was this the beginning of the end for the Senators? Could the impossible actually happen? With 2 days between games 4 and 5, the sports media had more than enough time to dissect the Senators, to determine whether they would crumble in historic fashion. Of course, looking back now, that all seems like the insane ramblings of a desperate sports section.
Why was their fortune so different this year?
Win under pressure: Make no mistake, the Senators of old would not have won the two overtime games. Somehow this year's Senators found a calmness and a collective confidence that eluded previous versions of the team. Where did this resolve come from? Nearly every sports commentator in the continent points to Daniel Alfredsson. The captain has raised his game in the only department that truly matters: goals. With 10 goals in 15 games, Alfredsson has lead the team by example, even when other team-leaders like Dany Heatley and Peter Schaefer were practically invisible.
There is something very special about this goaltender. He may not be the most agile between the pipes, but he exudes the type of confidence and, dare I say, style that the Senators were looking for. This playoffs, I believe more than any other player, he has given the team an identity.
I could write volumes about the impact that Ray Emery has had on the team, the city and the conference. Let's look at the external influences. Emery somehow found a way to wring particular hatred out of the city of Buffalo. Yeah, Chris Neil may have nearly put Chris Drury into the hospital... but Ray Emery said the city was boring! Somehow the "concussion" thing didn't seem so bad. I can't explain the logic.
You can call him cocky, but I simply call it an impenetrable ego... an amazing gift if you can control it. Patrick Roy had the same sort of psyche - how else can you explain a goalie skating out to the blueline with the puck?
Even the city of Ottawa seems to have developped a bit of ego itself. The whole city seemed to come out of the bars of Elgin street to march to Parliament Hill. I expect this to happen after each of the Sens upcoming wins. The entire city celebrates when the Senators win. The city now has a taste of success, and they want more.