“What I like about our club is that we’re more business-like than in the past,” Muckler said Saturday on a conference call.
The Senators took care of business in their first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh, beating the young Penguins 4-1 while outscoring them 19-9.
Now they must wait for an outcome to the New Jersey-Tampa Bay series to discover their next opponent. If the Devils win, they will face Ottawa, but if the Lightning come back to take the series, the Senators will play the New York Rangers.
After a short break to let aches and bruises subside, the Senators are to resume skating on Sunday.
“They’re all good hockey clubs,” said Muckler. “I’m not concerned about the other teams.
“I like our team. I know that we can compete and that we will compete.”
But if it is the Devils, the team that beat them in the 2003 Eastern Conference final, Muckler is confident Ottawa can get past perhaps the league’s best defensive club.
“If it is New Jersey, they’ll play the style they’ve played for 15 years,” he said. “They play it very well.
“We have our own way of doing things. We play very well defensively. We can score. We have more depth than ever in the past. We get goals from everybody. That’s our style and personality and we’d just have to see which wins.”
Perhaps it would be easier if they knew which team they will face next and could start work on a game plan, but that isn’t keeping captain Daniel Alfredsson awake at night.
“We’ll know in due time and we’ll have time to prepare,” he said. “Right now, it’s just getting your body ready and, when we know, we’ll get our minds ready as well.
“Both teams play well defensively. Both have pretty good goaltenders. New Jersey has made a name for themselves by trapping and the Rangers are better offensively when they get going.”
Ottawa got goals from 11 different players in the first round, with checking winger Chris Kelly tying Alfredsson for the team lead with three.
Goaltender Ray Emery held up fine under playoff pressure, earning a shutout in Game 5, while on defence Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips proved to be a formidable shut-down pairing.
They also showed toughness and a commitment to team defence that was not always present on past Senators teams.
That’s why many in Ottawa are cautious about the club’s impressive first round. They ousted Tampa Bay in five games in the first round last spring, only to fall in five games to Buffalo in the conference semifinals.
“We have a different team this year, I think,” added Alfredsson. “Especially in Pittsburgh, there were games where they took control and we were able to bounce back quicker than in the past.
“But Pittsburgh was one challenge and whoever we meet next will be another challenge and we’ll just have to adapt.”
Muckler said his team has better leadership and more confidence than a year ago, and was also able to develop more depth during the season when players like Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher recovered from injuries.
“And we have new players who came in and found roles on the team,” he said. “And they came to trust each other and love each other.
“They are now a solid, well-knit club.”
The upside of a short first round is the rest, which will be important if the Senators can make it through four rounds of playoffs.
“It was important to have a short run in the first series,” Muckler said. “We do have bruises and minor injuries.
“It’s important to get a little rest. It’s a tough mental strain. But I think everybody now will be anxious to get back and play again.”