This has been a topic of conversation for the past month since it seemed to become a forgone conclusion that we'd be making the playoffs. After beating Winnipeg last night, that feeling seems to be welling up in me again so I think it's time to ask another question: Who should we be cheering for as our first round opponent? This question has three dynamics at play.
The first of these is whether or not this is Alfie's last season. Since we haven't heard anything contrary and I personally choose to believe that Daniel will continue to play hockey well into his 50's when he will be utilizing a robotic spinal cord and the question "Is he more machine than man?" will frequently be asked, this first factor is not an issue.
The second question is whether you think we have a chance to win it all or even one round against the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference? There are many who honestly think that we can hang with Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York in a seven game series. There are others hoping to face the Panthers or whoever finishes in 7th if we finish 2nd. A secondary question to this is how much is a first round victory worth to you? Is it worth the price of having some of our older players get a shorter off season? Is it worth the price of dropping from 18th in the draft to 24th? These are both questions that could heavily impact the future of the team next year and for years to come.
The third portion of this over arching question is what is more valuable to our prospects; more playoff experience or better playoff experience? Is it good for the young guns to get the taste of winning a playoff series against a potentially weaker opponent or are they better served by playing a hard fought series against a good team regardless of the outcome. Breeding hate between our young guys and the top dogs of the Eastern Conference is something which could be invaluable when our time to legitimately compete.
After evaluating the three reasons above, I have come to the conclusion that the best case scenario is for the Sens to face either the Bruins or the Penguins in the first round. Yes, either of these series will be a grind. Yes, either of these series the Sens will be over matched in one way or another. Yes, we will most likely lose either of these series. The rebuttal to people who say that these are negatives is that your team gets better by playing against better opponents. if the Sens can elevate their game to the level of the reigning Stanley Cup champs or knock off a team with arguably 2 of the top 5 players in the world then we know that we're close. If not, then we know how far we have to go. This season isn't about winning, its about improving and it seems to me that the best way to do that is to play against the top talent. And for people who think that losing could be demoralising instead of empowering I would only point to the fact that no one was demoralised after last season, instead they came back with a vengeance. Again, all of this is predicated on the fact that #11 has one more season in his body. If not, get Silfverburg and Zibanejad over here pronto and let's win the Cup at all costs, full steam ahead.