With last night’s 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, it marked the first time since October 13th-18th that the Senators had lost three consecutive games in regulation. In the wake of these recent losses, many fans have been quick to place the blame at feet of referees like Dan O’Rourke and Tim Peel. As easy as it is to criticize les incompétentes for some recent incidents -- the labeling of Erik Karlsson as a diver, a Chris Phillips gloved puck in the crease that led to the incorrect awarding of a penalty shot and last night’s goaltender interference call on Nick Foligno that negated a goal – it simply overlooks the fact that Ottawa has not been playing good hockey of late.
Going back their game against the New York Rangers on January 12th, Ottawa has won four of their past eight games. Although the Senators outscored the opposition 17 to 16 during this time, any honest Sens fan will admit to Ottawa being fortunate to have won as many games as it did. Not only were they outshot 269 to 210 by their opponents, a quick glance at Scott’s (@Wham_City) scoring chance summaries reveals that the Senators were also outchanced 165 to 127 during this span. (Note: In these eight games, Ottawa has averaged 26.5 shots per game while their opponents have averaged 33.6.)
Already a team that has had difficulty scoring goals in the first and second periods, the Sens have fallen into bad habits - giving up the first goal in seven consecutive games now. (Note: Ottawa has scored 71 goals in the third period this season. That is six less goals than they have scored in the first and second periods combined.)
So how has Ottawa been winning?
Fans can thank the play of Craig Anderson and a penalty killing unit that has successfully killed off 26 of their opponents’ last 27 power plays for that. Or fans could thank opposing shooters for doing their best Bill Muckalt impressions – shooting only 5.95 percent over this eight game period.
Frankly, the All-Star break couldn’t come at a better time. Not only does it put an end to the Bobby Butler first line right winger experiment, it gives Craig Anderson and the rest of the players a chance to get away from the rink for a few days. They could certainly use that time to mentally and physically check out. Case in point, Zack Smith hasn’t had a point since January 2nd. Nick Foligno, although he has three assists in his past four games, has one goal in his last 15 games. Erik Condra has one goal in his last 17 games. Since the start of the season, Milan Michalek’s monthly goal production has dropped from 8 to 6 to 5 to 4 thus far through the month of January. Kaspars Daugavins has one point in his last 24 games and Alex Auld has been asked to start once since the December 16th game against the Penguins.
Other News and Scuttlebutt
It turns out that concussions aren’t only an issue in North America hockey rinks. According to @steffeG, Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad will be checked today by doctors for a concussion after he awoke this morning with headaches.
With the conclusion of their western road trip, the Senators have officially returned Mark Borowiecki and Andre Petersson to Binghamton.