I admit, not only did I think that January would be a make-or-break month for the Senators, I thought it would break them. They’re a decent home team, but on the road they’ve been pretty mediocre; their string of miraculous, third-period comebacks couldn’t last; Anderson’s had a lot of puck luck; they’ve been seeing a lot of backup goaltenders; and they were set to play the class of the East with two games against the deep and tenacious Flyers, the well-coached Penguins, and the Beastor Rangers.
But with seven out of a possible eight points through four games, and wins over the Devils and Lightning to start the month, Ottawa has points in 12 out of their last 13 games. Incredible.
It’s not over. There’s a West coast road trip coming up, and it ends with a game against the pretty much invincible Boston Bruins. But even if they only win a couple of their upcoming games, they’ve kept themselves afloat in January. That’s huge.
How huge? In my mind, tonight’s shutout of the Rangers was the point at which I stopped believing that this was a non-playoff team enjoying some early season success. I now think we’ll be watching Senators playoff hockey this April. They’re not pretenders. MacLean’s system is real, the talent is there, and what shortcomings exist are covered (at least lately) by luck and work habit.
Craig Anderson is .951 in his last five games. Spezza has six points and an unreal face-off win percentage in the same span. Karlsson is still wizardly. Michalek has recovered well from a concussion and has four goals in his last four. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised; we said way back during our season preview that there was no way every single player would have yet another career-worst season.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…well, fuck the rebuild I guess. On to the hapless Habs!
(Having said that, all of the reports that Murray is a buyer at the deadline, and the brainless Sun editorials calling for trades of Noesen and Puempel for whoever, have got me freaked. How short a memory this group seems to have. I have no doubt that the thought of at least a round’s worth of playoff revenue has got management thinking late-first-rounder-schmate-schmirst-schmounder.)