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.
You can look up and down the roster for potential upgrades, but I think the sum of the parts equates to a good team that will probably lose by a close margin in the first round. Ottawa is at least two years away from competing with Boston in a playoff series. To me, the only deals that make sense are Turr-esque where there is a contributing piece with upside coming the Sens way. None of those will bring the Sens a cup this year, so it's best to enjoy the wins for what they are.
I don't think evaluating the team based on how they've played the past 10 days is a good idea. Their schedule has been just plain retarded and they are pretty banged up. Add in some unusually tough travel (not even getting an extra day to adjust to the 3 hour time difference is very unusual) and brutal reffing and you get 3 losses in a row (2 of them by 1 goal).
After they lose to Boston next Tuesday the schedule becomes pretty reasonable, so we'll get a better read of whether or not this team can hang in the playoff race.
The silver lining? Bryan Murray won't feel as much pressure to trade future prospects for playoff rentals or expensive veterans.
@MelnyksHangovers The last 8 games isn't a condemnation of the team at all. The point of the article was to illustrate that 3-game losing streak be damned, the Senators recent bout of poor play predates the Western road trip.
@slavitch That's actually how I was going to conclude the first portion of this piece but I took it out because I figured the stats would be too sobering for most fans anyways.
@Nichols6thSens Playoffs are still on the agenda, unless a Toronto surge bumps them, as I can't see Winnipeg or Montreal catching up. However, unless they face Florida in the 1st round don't expect much in the way of playoff joy.
@slavitch Agreed. Especially if other teams in the Eastern Conference load up as many expect them to. Also, I think Washington will catch the Panthers.