You’d think a team sitting just one point out of the playoff picture two months into the season would be seen as moderately successful. That is, unless, you’re talking about the Ottawa Senators.
Coming off a spirited run through the postseason, where they destroyed the Montreal Canadiens before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins, expectations were high for the Senators this year. This will happen when you have the amazing Craig Anderson between the pipes and make a big offseason trade with the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan. Sure, they lost longtime star Daniel Alfredsson after the free agent signed with the Detroit Red Wings, but at 41 years of age, he was viewed as expendable. Yes, things were going up for Ottawa.
Or not. Yes, they do sit on the outside edge of the playoffs, but they sure aren’t looking pretty doing it. Anderson, attempting to earn a spot on the American roster for the Sochi Olympics, is having an off year, indicated most by his ballooning 3.37 GAA. Ryan is tied for the lead on the team for points, but the Senators just can’t win consistently. They haven’t won back to back all month. In fact, the last time Ottawa won consecutive games was on November 9. It’s enough to frustrate the most even-keeled players out there, and after last night it appears the pot is starting to boil over.
Despite beating the St. Louis Blues in overtime on Monday, they followed it up with a 5-2 loss against the New Jersey Devils last night. Afterwards, the club held a closed-door meeting, one that featured the presence of team GM Bryan Murray. Defenseman Chris Phillips claimed the meeting “wasn’t friendly,” while team captain Jason Spezza elaborated, saying the team’s inability to win consistently is wearing on everyone.
“We’re clearly frustrated with our lack of being able to follow up a win with another win,” said Spezza. “That comes right from the top from every guy on the team. As an organization we’re all disappointed with our inability to string together some games and get any traction.”
It’s definitely a confusing situation in Ontario right now. One would think a thrilling win against St. Louis, one of the better teams in the NHL, would give Ottawa enough momentum to play well for at least a handful of their next few games. Instead, they flopped on the ice against New Jersey.
If there’s anything positive in spite of this, it’s the fact that the Senators definitely have the talent to dig out of this quicksand they’re stuck in. Ryan and Spezza are both having solid years, as are all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson and center Kyle Turris. As for their goalie situation, you have to believe a netminder as talented as Anderson is just stuck in a funk and will eventually right the ship.
Of course, you can paint a pretty picture about Ottawa’s chances all you want. Yes they have the talent, and yes they’re hardly at a point where fans need to hit the panic button. At the end of the day, though, they need to figure out how to go on a hot streak. If things stay on this path, that minimal point differential keeping the Senators out of a playoff spot is only going to get bigger.