After the Ottawa Senators lost against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, reporters asked Erik Karlsson his opinion about the way his team is playing. “I think it’s better than it looks,” he answered. “It probably looks a little bit frustrating, watching it sometimes, but I feel like we’re there, we just missed those small details.” It is good that he is confident and has faith in his team; he and the Sens will need to maintain that confidence to make it far this season.
Certainly, the Senators showed many good things in the first five games, positives that they have carried over from past seasons. In their three wins so far, they have shown an ability to stay in close games, scoring timely goals to help them come out on top. They have displayed their determination to play a physical and intimidating game, currently fifth in the league with 120 hits.
Half the Battle
An important thing to remember is that the Ottawa Senators are a team in transition. They are not among the league’s championship contenders, despite being its fourth-oldest team. They have been depending on their veterans for goal scoring with the occasional contribution from younger players. Guy Boucher has already switched up every single forward line looking ahead to the road trip, perhaps to build chemistry. When the team is not scoring, much of that is due to spending too much time in their defensive zone. The forwards will have to work to support the defense to retrieve the puck and to carry it out of the zone more cleanly. It is something the coaching staff will focus on in their game plans as they face teams with high-flying offenses.
A Team Still Building
The challenge this year for the Senators will be performing against the league’s consistently good teams while being consistent themselves. The three wins came against teams that missed the playoffs last year, while their two losses so far were against teams among the higher half. They have shown good things in their wins, but the losses lack any positive signs, with scores of 5-1 and 4-1.
While still adapting to new head coach Guy Boucher’s different system, the Senators have a very interesting challenge ahead of them in the next two weeks. They will be going on a Western Canadian road trip, facing off against the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, three teams have defied predictions so far this season. Vancouver and Edmonton are currently sitting atop of the Pacific Division, while Calgary’s offseason changes have not produced positive results. It will be a good test for the Senators as they face teams that are focused on youth in the same way that they are.
This road trip will be an opportunity for the Senators to find some consistency in their game and to try and build a winning streak. Last season, they were only able to build four wins in a row once, which came at a point in the season when it was too late to make the playoffs. It is also a perfect opportunity to acclimate themselves to the coach’s system, being on a trip where they will spend all their time together as a team. Winning against teams with clear talent would help boost the team’s confidence and morale, and it will be interesting to see how it will affect them further into the season.