Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I'm stupid... 

...or so says Al Strachan at least. Strachan's latest column starts with this opening volley:

"When it comes to the Senators, even Ottawans aren't stupid enough to think that this time will be different."

In that case, he must still consider me a Maritimer, or perhaps even a Barrhavenite, since obviously I'd be the only Ottawan who still believes that the Senators have a prayer.

The TV pundits at TSN and Sportsnet, John Garrett, James Duthie and a fence-sitting, coin-flipping Bob MacKenzie aside, have unanimously picked the Leafs to take the series. Their predictions place the Leafs anywhere from slight to overwhelming favourites.

That's not to say that the Leafs shouldn't be picked as favourites at all. It's the overwhelming unanimity of the picks that surprises me. These are two very evenly matched teams. A single point seperated them after an entire 82-game season.

However, as the media loves to remind us, the Leafs are in the Senators' heads. Their Gritty-Proven-Veteran-with-Heart Jedi Mind tricks are far too powerful for the psychologically fragile Senators.

But are they really?

The 2004 Senators are a vastly different team than the 2000-2002 editions that were bounced by the Leafs. Over half the roster has changed. The core that remains has improved, and has learned from earlier playoff runs, including the long one last year.

The team now knows what it takes to win. It's a matter of executing.

Even if the Sens execute, this will be a tough series. Toronto could still win. However, it won't be the cakewalk that the Strachans of the world are predicting.