Hey how’s everyone’s emotions out there? Emotional? Great.
Let’s sit down and talk like we used to…c’mon <insert your name>…we used to be pals!
It’s been rough going to watch our favorite squadron get their asses handed to them afternoon after afternoon (seriously, with these afternoon games). It’s one thing when you root for say, the Buffalo Sabres or the New Jersey Devils and you’re watching them struggle. Both of those teams are witnessing an ongoing exodus of their best players and are each pretty much in an admitted beginning state of rebuild….though I don’t exactly knwo what the Sabres are building from…another rebuild? Anyway, we’ve been there for the “buckle up, this is going to be a long year” stuff ourselves. Past tense.
After two consecutive playoff appearances, some trades and FA signings I don’t think I was alone in thinking the rebuild was maybe not yet entirely complete but very much out of the initial stages and it was time to move forward. After all it’s not every year that Bryan Murray acquires TWO top six players in the off season.
I suppose it could be much worse (look at the standings for clarification) but the Senators have been absolutely flat most games; home or away. I would trade that stomping of Detroit for 5 or 6 fewer stompings at the hands of others, thank you very much. Things are looking grim but are there actually some positive takeaways amidst a 5 game losing streak? Ehhhhhh…I’ve come this far, so…yes?
1. Producing offense not the problem for a change. In the past two seasons, often times if the Senators found themselves in a slump it could more often than not be blamed on an inability to put the
Condra in the Condra puck in the net despite solid defensively play and strong goaltending. So far this season, the opposite has been the case. Even though I think goaltending is the hardest position in hockey and acknowledge ease of not noticing defensive success, I still think I would rather the problem lie in those areas than an offensive dry spell. I would much prefer Ottawa avoid the mind fuckery that is a goal drought and the difficulty that is task of overcoming it. We’ve all heard the played out expression “squeezing the stick too tight” well, it’s played out because it’s pretty real! Improving overall system play and positioning can be achieved more easily than being snakebiten I believe. Again, despite problems such as, oh I don’t know, giving up two goal leads REPEATEDLY, you could see Ottawa’s ability to score as the difference between getting zero points and one point yesterday against Dallas. If Ottawa’s going to lose I’d rather see the team get away with any points they can muster. Lord knows they added up this weekend alone.
Even though some players are getting their butts kicked possession-wise (Spezza) or in the case of Erik Karlsson, not doing great at a huge portion of his job as a defender-wise, it’s welcome to see the point getters continue to notch them while they sort out their game. Since Paul MacLean arrived in 2011, the team has been pretty solid defensively. If he can return the team to somewhere near that place and the Sens can keep scoring that should result in some much needed W’s.
The Senators have 4 players who are currently at a point per game or better pace…oh and ONE OF THEM IS A DEFENSEMAN! Think that doesn’t matter? Philadelphia doesn’t even have a player with 8 points including the still goalless Claude Giroux.
2. Lehner gets a look. Despite the scary circumstances of Craig Anderson getting injured (so glad to hear it’s not as serious as it looked!) it looks like Robin Lehner is going to get more than just spot duty until our #1 has recovered. With one of the top 5 save percentages in the league and ZERO wins one has to think if the team could get it’s shit REMOTELY together Lehner could handily help the Sens get them some wins. My guess is as good as anyone’s with the current “stiff neck” prognosis, but if Anderson is out for the next couple of weeks Lehner wont have to worry about riding the pine after a loss. I think he’s been outstanding and am very interested to see what The Lehner could do if given three or four consecutive starts. What’s that? Nathan Lawson will serve as emergency backup? Okay, scratch that I am very interested to see what The Lehner could do if given all the starts until Anderson returns. In my opinion, Lehner’s strong play has earned him a shot at some consecutive starts but because of his status as backup, he’s rarely gotten them. Now, we’ll get to see that.
3. Dat Borowiecki Tho…If Ottawa’s problems can be squarely placed on defensive play, I cannot help but feel pretty good about seeing a promising young defenseman get called up and play a very, very solid game. Before you create an account to comment (which I encourage you to do!) and point out that Boro scored an own goal in that game, give me one second here. Honestly, the own goal does not sway my thinking on Borowiecki’s performance. After the puck trickled into the goal, Denis Potvin, like the archangel of Kentucky bourbon, swooped in and quickly pointed out that he, hall of fame defenseman, captain of four championship teams, once put the puck in his own net in the CUP FINAL. “Better in November than in June,” he joked like a complete prince of a man.
I’m not saying Boro will reach the heights of Potvin, who in my opinion was basically everything you could ever ask for in a D man – an offensive dynamo who played meaner than Bill O’Reilly losing an argument on his show, but these things happen to good players no matter what their stature. Anyone who’s been part of a scramble in front of their own net knows there’s unfortunately nothing to stop the puck from bouncing off you or your stick the opposite way than you want. Aside from Goaltending, shut down defenseman has got to be one of the most difficult positions to step into the NHL and look effective at. Forwards can “miss high and wide” a bunch of times in their first few games. You’re “getting chances” but on defense if you get walked around a couple of times?…everyone notices that. Different jobs but a slimmer margin of error I think. Who knows how long he’ll be up here for but a bullish and effective shutdown guy is what Ottawa needed and they got it from Boro. Cowen take note.
4. Still a lot of road ahead. Nothing like 10 days passing without a win for things to feel excruciatingly slow but there are still 68 games to go in the season. I feel this point so important because I believe Ottawa’s problems are pretty solvable. They’ve played at least DECENTLY defensively the past couple of years and I think they can manage to get back there and even things out. Giving up less than 50 shots (which Lehner can show he can actually fucking stop more than in one game) seems like an easier obstacle then “solve the other teams’ goaltenders more.” We all know this team is better than they’ve been playing there’s still lots of time to get to their potential. Think I’m exaggerating? Look at the standings. The team just lost their last five matches and are only four points back from 5th in the East. What a difference a couple W’s could make. They’re coming.
5. Over the next three weeks Ottawa plays the Bluejackets twice, the Flyers twice and the Panthers. So..
If they can manage to beat the Canadiens at home it could be a good month for the Sens overall. Doesn’t take away from how they pretty much have to win a lot of those games but I have faith. Go out there and give Lehner some support*!
*Oh, speaking of which…let’s uhh….crack open the old wallets and attend a game or two, huh? Attendance is scaring the shit out of me.