Coming into the month of March, things were getting crucial with the Ottawa Senators. They’ve gone through more downs than ups this season, but weren’t out of the playoff picture just yet. All they had to do was regroup, play as much mistake-free hockey as they could and string together a good chunk of wins.
Then they proceeded to win two of their last ten, a slump that includes their current four-game losing streak. Their latest attempt to right the ship came last night against the New York Rangers. The Senators entered the second period with a 2-1 lead, and left the game with an 8-4 loss. If you’d like to see a good example of how Ottawa was feeling after such a dreadful game, look no further than captain Jason Spezza’s postgame quotes.
“It’s embarrassing,” Spezza said. “That was a must-win game for us. To give up eight is unacceptable. It’s been the same thing all year for us. (This) was a microcosm of a lot of things.”
Yes, it’s safe to say Spezza’s first year as a captain is not going too well. The Senators have just made way too many mistakes this year. Technically, seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they’re not out just yet. But, if you want to see a team looking capable of a miracle run, you’ll have to search somewhere else. Last night’s rout by the Rangers ought to all but eliminate Ottawa from postseason contention.
In the long-run, there are just too many issues the team has had to deal with this year. You could point to the loss of former captain Daniel Alfredsson to the Detroit Red Wings. He’d been the locker-room leader since 1999, so his departure may have left a void with the team to start this year.
Another hurdle has been the steep decline in performance from their starting goalie, Craig Anderson. Last year, he was a huge reason for the Senators’ postseason run, with a sparkling GAA of 1.69. This year? Said stat has ballooned to 3.10. Sure, he’s played more games this year thanks to last season’s lockout, but still, that’s a huge year-to-year increase.
Along with these problems, the club has also seen underwhelming performances from both Spezza and offseason acquisition Bobby Ryan. Spezza’s goal total (18) is the lowest it’s been since the ’05-’06 season. Ryan started the year off pretty well, but only has five goals in the past three months. He scored that many in December alone.
All in all, where last year saw many things go right for the Senators despite the club dealing with crippling injuries, this season has practically been the exact opposite. For the most part, they’ve stayed healthy, but the results have left a lot to be desired.
Again, Ottawa isn’t officially eliminated yet. Who’s to say a humbling defeat like last night’s doesn’t come off as a “final straw” type situation, forcing the club to give it one last push? However, it’d come off as a surprise to pretty much anyone who’s been watching the Senators this year.
Unfortunately for them, odds are strong last night was the final nail in the coffin. It’s looking more and more like Ottawa is dead in the water, prepping for an offseason that will be loaded with question marks.