While the Ottawa Senators aren't in action tonight (they open their season in Nashville against the Predators tomorrow (Thursday) night), I thought I would offer a thought or two on this season about the Senators.
Most of the critics and analysts out there, and I have to say myself as well, don't believe that the Senators will make the NHL playoffs this year. Part of this is due to the tough Atlantic Division they're in, and part of it is due to the departure of Jason Spezza and questions about the goaltending, the defense, and so forth. In my revised way of thinking, I don't know if the Ottawa Senators are going to make the NHL playoffs or not, but it's going to hinge on several things.
First off, it's going to hinge very much on the goaltending. Both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner are excellent goaltenders and make a good goalie tandem for Ottawa, but the question is can they be consistently good every night? They're both great as previous seasons have shown, but both are inconsistent in goal and Craig Anderson's been subject to a lot of injuries the past few years. If the Sens can get great, not good, but great, goaltending from both Anderson and Lehner this year, they might make the playoffs.
Second up, the defense. While Eric Karlsson has been named captain of the team, he's not been a great defenseman the last two years, being more offensively oriented. As captain of this team, he's going to have to be a two-way player, and he's going to have to lead by example. Ottawa's defense was sloppy last year, and it showed in their terrible goals against performance. They had lapses of this during the exhibition season, and with Marc Methot out of the line-up to start the year, the Eric Grybas, the oldtimer Chris Philips, and the Codi Cecis are going to have to be very defensive. But part of that lies with the forwards as well.
And there's the third and final question mark on this team. Bobby Ryan's signing, David Legwand joining the team, and several other players from last year marks the changing of the guard in Ottawa, as the Spezzas and Alfredssons are gone. Ryan, Kyle Turris, Clark McArthur, and Mika Zibanejad will be relied on to score goals, and I have no doubt that the Legwands and the newly acquired Alex Chiasson will contribute to the offense, but this group of forwards will also have to play a solid defensive game in front of their defense corps to be effective, and to make it into the playoffs. Will the Ottawa power play work? Will the Ottawa penalty kill function well? Only time will tell.
But I suspect the run-and-gun style of hockey and offensive scoring that this team has shown in the past is done and gone. This team has to play pesky and feisty to make it into the playoffs, and they've got to cut their goals against way down. Sure, that may make the hockey more boring from the fans point of view, but if this team plays it pesky the way they did two years ago, it'll definitely fun and exciting hockey.
Will the Ottawa Senators make the NHL playoffs? Damned if I know. But I know one thing: I'll be around to cheer them on and watch as many Sens hockey games as I can this year.
Go, Sens, Go! :)