The Ottawa Senators became the first team from the Eastern Conference to advance past the second round earlier this week, knocking off the favored no. 2 seed Montreal Canadiens in a convincing fashion in their physical first round matchup.
In doing so, the Senators made a pretty large announcement. They’re a team to be taken very seriously. Despite their status as one of the bottom two seeds in the East, they’re as big a threat as anyone to make a serious run this spring/summer.
The Senators were one of the worst scoring teams in the league during the regular season, but found their offensive touch in that first round series, scoring six goals twice in the series and four in Game 1. They have some depth up front that will make them difficult for teams to handle.
That element of the team is overlooked. Yes, they struggled offensively, but were also decimated by injury. This team boasts the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Kyle Turris, Milan Michalek, and Cory Conacher, among others. Better yet, Jason Spezza is getting closer to his return.
What makes them really dangerous is their defense. This was the second best defensive club in the league during the regular season, allowing just 2.08 goals per game. Their penalty kill was the best in the league, as they killed 88 percent of penalties that they took.
Then there’s the matter of that whole “having the best defenseman in the league” thing. Defending Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is back in the fold after missing most of the season with that torn Achilles, giving them a tremendous weapon from the blue line.
Then there’s the goaltending. Craig Anderson had a fantastic regular season, even if he was limited to only 24 starts. That play has carried over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he allowed only nine goals in five games in that first round. He has a 1.80 GAA and .950 save percentage in five starts.
This is a team that was hit hard by the injury bug for much of the season. They’ve had veterans and youngsters alike, both up front and on defense, as well as in goal with Anderson being injured for most of the year, go down with injuries at various points throughout the season.
Now that they’re almost back to full strength, we’re getting a taste of what this team is actually capable of. They may not win it all this year, but they’re going to make life very difficult for everybody that they end up meeting in these playoffs.