The Ottawa Senators had one goal this season — to make the playoffs. Under the direction of a new head coach and general manager, the club did exactly that, clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a meeting with the Boston Bruins in the opening round. It was far from an adverse-free season, with the team facing a lot of bumps along the road this season. The team stuck together and only had 28 games where they failed to gain at least one point in the standings — an improvement from last season’s 35 regulation losses.
In the last 20 years, the Ottawa Senators have not missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Pretty impressive streak.
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) April 7, 2017
When Craig Anderson took a personal leave of absence to attend to his wife Nicholle who was undergoing cancer treatments, the Senators were left without their starting netminder. With Andrew Hammond dealing with a groin injury and only getting one start, the Senators needed to make a move and acquire a goaltender. On Nov. 2, 2016, general manager Pierre Dorion traded a 2017 fifth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for goaltender Mike Condon. This was a move that paid dividends for the Senators.
Anderson played games for the Senators up until Dec. 5, 2016, but left the team to attend to his wife. He wouldn’t suit up for the Senators until Feb. 11, 2017. Condon put the team on his back and helped push them to second place in the Atlantic Division. In his 40 starts, he had a career best .914 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average. It’s pretty safe to say that the acquisition and play of Condon is a big reason why the Senators have clinched a playoff berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Long-Term Injuries: Clarke MacArthur
The Senators faced adversity on the injury front even before the season started. During a training camp scrimmage, Clarke MacArthur, who had recovered from a concussion from the previous season, suffered another concussion. This was a big blow to the Senators, who were counting on MacArthur to play this season. After working hard to recover from a concussion for months, MacArthur was told in late January that he would be shut down for the season as he wasn’t given medical clearance to play.
Clarke MacArthur will not play this year, GM Pierre Dorion announces. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) January 20, 2017
The news didn’t stop MacArthur from working hard and get medical clearance to play during the regular season. On April 4, 2017, the Senators were given a huge boost to their lineup and the teams was informed that MacArthur passed his baseline test and given medical clearance to play his first game in over 18 months. Since returning, MacArthur has looked better and better after each game he plays, which is great news for the Senators heading int the postseason.
Here's a very encouraging stat: Since his dramatic return, Clarke MacArthur's ice time is climbing -9:44, 11:15, 16:25. Positive health sign
— Gino Reda (@GinoRedaTSN) April 9, 2017
Throughout the season, the Senators had to battle injuries to key players. Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson, Cody Ceci, Marc Methot, Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith all missed games this season. Fresh in many fans’ memories was seeing Methot, Karlsson and Ceci all go down to injury in the final stretch of the regular season. Losing three of the teams top four defencemen was a significant blow, but the resiliency of the Senators once again paid off and the Senators were able earn enough points to clinch a playoff berth and home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.
Through call-ups such as young defencemen Ben Harpur, trades and playing “the system”, the Senators were able to overcome significant injuries and prove that they are a resilient and consistent team. Now with the team close to being fully healthy for the first time in two seasons, the Senators have an opportunity to make some noise in the postseason, starting tonight in the opening game of the series.