The Senators leave the ice after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

The Ottawa Senators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. But they weren’t really losers at all.

Not this year.

The Sens fought through injuries to most of their star players, leaving them in a situation that should have not had them in the playoffs at all. When their stars went down, pundits said they were done. The Sens had a few veterans and a raft of rookies who were eager, talented and way too inexperienced.

But they bought into coach Paul MacLean’s system and started practising playoff hockey during the season. They were enthusiastic and very, very entertaining to watch. In fact, they were inspirational. Youngsters trying so hard to play the only hockey they could, defensive, to win. Bryan Murray has assembled a young, talented bunch of players who will be successful for years to come.

And then there was the ageless Daniel Alfredsson who continued to perform at a level that often made him the best Senator on the ice.

The Senators on paper should not have made the playoffs. They should not have beaten Montreal, again on paper. But games are won on more than stats.

Ottawa should not be ashamed at losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have too much for any team can handle. It will be a surprise if they do not win the Stanley Cup. The Sens came close to being run out of the rink in the last two games of the Pens series. The Pens will do that to a lot of teams.

The Senators played over their heads for most of this season. Beating Pittsburgh was asking too much.

But the Sens are a team with a great future, youth and a superb attitude. Their day will come and perhaps sooner than people expect.

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