The Ottawa Senators have cooled off after a hot start to the season. Every game so far in February has been decided by one goal, and the Senators are just 1-3-1 this month. The offense has struggled a bit, Craig Anderson has come back to earth, and middling play has dropped the Senators in the standings.
This week they host the Buffalo Sabres, before visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins one night later. The upcoming back-to-back should be a great indicator of where the Senators truly are at this point in the year.
The Buffalo Sabres are one of the more difficult teams to understand in the NHL. They have top-line talent, the leading scorer in the NHL, and the Team USA’s starting goaltender. Their defense has been poor in front of Ryan Miller, and the recognizable names on the blue line continue to disappoint. Buffalo tried to get tougher in the offseason, but may have done so at the expense of offensive skill. The Senators may be able to exploit a vulnerable defensive unit, but given recent offensive struggles, Tuesday’s game with the Buffalo Sabres will be tough. Given Buffalo’s new persona as a physical team, Ottawa may limp into Wednesday’s game against the Penguins.
In the second game of their back-to-back, the Ottawa Senators must travel to Pittsburgh to take on one of the best teams in hockey. The New Jersey Devils were able to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins twice in a home-and-home series this weekend, but the Penguins played much better on home ice. Desperate for a win, and possibly a bit ornery, the Pittsburgh Penguins will likely be a tough test for a tired Senators team on Wednesday, but they’re certainly beatable.
This is a difficult two games in the schedule for the Ottawa Senators. They’ll need a big win on Tuesday to take pressure off a tough game in Pittsburgh the following night. Unless the Senators immediately pick up their play, this could be a challenge they simply aren’t prepared for. Injuries and middling play have the Sens slumping through February, but a few key wins can get them back on track.