For the Ottawa Senators, this season has been quite the remarkable one and we’re only at the halfway point. “Survival” has been the name of the game and in this injury-laden post-lockout NHL, they Sens have had to do their fair share.
They’ve dealt with a slew of injuries to their top stars — Jason Spezza was lost for the season almost right out of the gate, Erik Karlsson was lost when Matt Cooke accidentally went all Ginsu on his Achilles, Craig Anderson has been hampered by a sprained ankle, Milan Michalek has missed 10 games with a knee injury. I can just picture players dropping in the locker room, their comrades running around screaming “we need a medic! we need a medic!” It’s been that kind of year.
Still, the Sens have not only managed to stay afloat but currently sit tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. But one has to consider if it’s sustainable. Even the guys in “300″ could do so much damage before finally succumbing.
After last night’s loss to Boston, a game in which they led 2-0 after a hot start, there are questions abound.
Defying all odds and expectations after Karlsson and Spezza were lost, the Sens have suddenly and violently hit the wall. Having lost five of their last six, it may just be a case of the Sens not getting bounces. After all, their last nine games and 10 of 11 have been decided by one goal. Missing two of your biggest offensive weapons could probably account for a missing goal or two.
Take into account the fact that the Senators are struggling to score goals, sitting 27th in the league in goals per game. Yes, some of that is a lack of Karlsson, Michalek, and Spezza in the lineup. Some of that is having a scoring leader with just 14 points (Kyle Turris). But it’s truly stunning that the Sens are struggling to score goals when they lead the NHL in shots per game. Are they really getting quality chances or just peppering outside shots?
But the real question is whether or not they can keep pace as the league’s best defensive team in terms of goals against per game. Anderson, when healthy, has been an MVP and Vezina Trophy candidate with an 8-4-2 record to go with a sterling 1.49 GAA and a ridiculous .952 save percentage.
Surely, Anderson can’t keep up that torrid pace. Not when he’s facing more shots than your average roast. Especially considering teams giving up a comparable amount of shots are the Sabres and the Oilers — not two teams you want to emulate. Unless of course you want to be bad enough to get three straight number one picks in which case that might not be such a bad idea.
The good news for the Sens? They’ll get better (theoretically) when Michalek and Anderson fully recover. Even better news for the Sens? Aside from Montreal, Boston, and Pittsburgh, the East is a real garbage fire. Carolina is missing Cam Ward. Toronto is solid yet is still Toronto. The Devils have gone into a tailspin since Brodeur got hurt. The Rangers are dealing with injury and inconsistency but are starting to heat up. Winnipeg and Philly are comically inconsistent, their play fluctuating like Dustin Byfuglien’s weight.
It will be interesting to see how the Sens respond to their recent streak. It would be easy to use the injuries as a crutch, accept that losing is probable, and pack it in. But with the youth and energy on this team, the Sens will more likely be the undersized dog in the fight; giving it their all until the last whistle.
For the Sens, survival is the name of the game and they hope their season of “The Skating Dead” will have a happy ending.