Senators’ Gradual Improvement in December is Noticeable

The Ottawa Senators are 3-1-1 in the month of December, and after a rough start, there is hope that they can still turn this season around. Money Puck is giving them a 25.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, but a successful month of December would likely raise that number.

This team is starting to accumulate points in ways they were not early in the season, and playing like this would go a long way in improving their long-shot odds at a playoff appearance. So how exactly is the process slowly improving, if at all?

Alex DeBrincat, Drake Batherson Getting Back on Track Is Crucial

Alex DeBrincat and Drake Batherson both scored goals in the third period of a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday, Dec. 10. Batherson had recently snapped a seven-game goalless drought and was effective at generating chances for the majority of the contest. DeBrincat was no different as he snapped a five-game goalless drought, despite getting four assists in that time.

Drake Batherson Ottawa Senators
Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s obvious that these star wingers are crucial to any success the Senators will have this season, but now that they are on the same line centered by Shane Pinto, the results need to follow. The top line of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, and Claude Giroux has a staggering 66.8 percent expected goals percentage, while the second line is trailing behind at 50.8 percent. While that is still a good percentage, it is not good enough for a line of that talent.

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Confidence is clearly not an issue for Batherson, who pulled off the “Datsyuk” breakaway move to give the Senators a two-goal lead against the Predators.

This remains a young core, but it’s only a matter of time before they take another step and they are no longer given the “young” benefit of the doubt. That may not be this year, but they can get ahead of those labels this season by producing at a high-level and making a respectable run at a playoff spot.

Senators Starting to Earn Crucial Points to Stay Afloat

Dating back to Nov. 25, the Senators have been able to walk away with 11 of a possible 16 points in this crucial part of the season. Every team suffers injuries, but it seems as though the Senators have gotten it worse than others. Josh Norris remains sidelined, and Artem Zub is now projected to miss a month of action after taking a puck to the face, an injury he suffered shortly after returning to the lineup from a previous injury.

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With a top-six forward and top-pairing defenceman out for a long period of time, it is more important than ever that the Senators find ways to earn points while these players rehab their injuries. Without them, they could even build continuity as a group and work their way back into the playoff picture, making the postseason that much more realistic if those players can return shortly.

Senators Are Capable of a Hot Streak & They Need It Soon

We have yet to see it, but this Senators team has the offensive talent to go on a hot streak and win multiple games in a row. Their next four games come against the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and Minnesota Wild. These are not unbeatable teams, and the Senators’ ability to generate offence should give them a fighting chance in all four games.

The Sens are managing to control 52.6 percent of the expected goals this season, and their issue has come with finishing off those chances. They have the second-lowest shooting percentage at 6.89 percent and have the second-highest percentage of blocked shot attempts in the NHL at 28.43 percent. Combine these numbers together, and it seems as though the Senators are due for some positive shooting regression, but the question remains, when will it happen?

Ottawa Senators Celebrate
Ottawa Senators Celebrate a Goal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg are starting to find a groove, and the offensive and defensive pairings seem to be building chemistry, but they cannot finish off their chances. The process is improving, and the results are slowly starting to come. A drastic bump in points would be nice, but unrealistic to ask for given the recent injuries. All this team can focus on over the course of December is fighting tooth and nail to acquire every single point they can get, and hopefully get some fortunate luck in the wild card standings.

They have crucial games in December, including three against the Red Wings and two against the Washington Capitals, both teams they are chasing in the Eastern Conference standings. Win those games, and the Senators will have the chance to make a playoff push a reality.

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