Everything has been going wrong for the Ottawa Senators at the worst possible time in the season. They are just now suffering the worst of their injuries, receiving shaky goaltending and have seen a dip in play. These factors caused them to only accumulate seven out of a possible 20 points in their last 10 games.
As a result, the teams directly behind them in the standings have caught up. Although they still have a good cushion with few games left, making the playoffs is far from a certainty. After spending most of the season in second place in the Atlantic, they now find themselves in the final wild-card spot.
In the Rearview
“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear,” is a relevant saying for the Senators when looking at the standings. The weekend was not kind to them, as they saw two teams pass them in the Atlantic Division. The Tampa Bay Lightning collected three points over the weekend, closing their margin on the Senators to only three points. Although the Senators have games in hand on some teams, their margin of error decreased significantly over the last two weeks.
The Senators chose Craig Anderson to be their goaltender of choice down the stretch. However, he has struggled, allowing 3.1 goals per game in his last six starts. Despite Mike Condon filing in for some games and doing much better, he has not been able to steal wins. As much as the Senators are having difficulty keeping shots away from their net, they are struggling to score as well. Since March 13, they rank last in the league in goals with 1.6 per game.
They are currently the only team in a playoff position with a minus goal differential rating. They had a positive differential only a week ago, another statistic showing a progressive decline in their game.
The Erik Factor
Among their injuries during the last week, the captain’s foot injury is undoubtedly the most crucial. Erik Karlsson’s absence was prominent and evident in the team’s play. In the two losses without him, the Senators mustered a 43.75 percent Fenwick rating (unblocked shot attempts). With him, they’re much better at 48.43 percent. Given that he plays nearly 27 minutes per game, that makes a huge difference in how the team dictates play.
Originally thought to be only day-to-day, Karlsson has already missed two games. He is no guarantee to come back in time for either game in the back-to-back sequence against the Detroit Red Wings.
“You never know, it could be Monday, it could be Tuesday, it could be Thursday,” said head coach Guy Boucher. With the likelihood of missing yet another game, Karlsson’s injury risks being more severe than initially thought.
Erik Karlsson is highly doubtful tomorrow. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) April 2, 2017
Now, with injuries to Zack Smith, Cody Ceci and Marc Methot, the Senators have important pieces missing from their puzzle. The more games Karlsson misses, the more the Senators’ defence will be a legitimate point of concern.
Save Our Season
With the injury to Smith, the Senators agreed to an entry-level contract with Colin White. He will likely make his NHL debut on Monday, making up for some missing pieces in the lineup. A welcome addition, White performed strongly with the team’s minor-league affiliate in Binghamton. In three games, he accumulated a goal and two assists. He can slot in within the top six on the wing.
“If he was a defenceman, I’d be happier right now,” general manager Pierre Dorion said. “I think the way he plays the game, he’s such a smart player, he brings a high level of intensity and drive.”
Dorion did not hide his concern over the multiple injuries on defence. The organisation also does not have anyone in the minors able to step up for them back there either. The Senators will need to trust in their system and in each other in order to push on through.