The Ottawa Senators Wednesday Report – October 19, 2011

It’s hard to remember the Ottawa Senators season is only six games in. The young squad is facing the grim reality of their situation; they are in second last place in the league.

Following their feel-good comeback win against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday, the team apparently did not learn anything from the hard-earned win and lost three straight games. Their heritage jersey debut against the Colorado Avalanche last Thursday appeared promising when Senators forward Milan Michalek scored the game’s first goal early on in the first period. Unfortunately for the team, the three minute lead they held until the Avalanche buried them with seven straight goals has proven to be their only lead so far this entire season.

Milan Michalek and the Ottawa Senators need more than a three minute lead to win (sophnsoph9)

A 2-1 loss against the Washington Capitals on Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday was bittersweet (thought mostly bitter). Centre Peter Regin showed flashes of the brilliant play he displayed in the 2009-2010 playoffs, which included a beautiful, impossibly angled shot that beat Tomas Vokoun late in the first period. However, the Sens ultimately lost the battle while also losing defenceman Sergei Gonchar to a bruised ankle.

The Philadelphia Flyers were in Ottawa last night, while the host team was nowhere to be found until they appeared in the second period of game trailing four goals to none while only managing three shots on goal. Matt Read, a 25 year old undrafted pivot out of Bemidji State University, scored a goal and added three assists as the Flyers powerplay picked the Senators apart. The game ended with the Broad Street Bullies winning 7-2, the second seven goal loss the Senators have ceded in less than a week.

A common theme has appeared in the Senators game play. With starting goaltender Craig Anderson having allowed 22 goals against in just five games, it’s not hard to single him out for the team’s poor play. Looking unconfident in net, Anderson has been playing far too much between the pipes and not challenging the opposition by stepping out of his crease. Last June, hockey fans witnessed Roberto Luongo play similarly to Anderson now (though with his talents, he was not nearly as bad); the Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas, though, was in the Canucks’ faces. We all know how that series ended.

Chris Phillips and company need to play with more grit to win Ottawa some games (Wikipedia)

However, the biggest detriment to the hockey club has been in front of the net. The veteran defence has been largely ineffective against the opposition, yielding far too many goals and space around their own net, and not putting enough pressure on the puck carriers in all zones of the ice. With Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba having collectively played nearly 3,000 games, the leadership displayed on the ice by the thirty-somethings has left much to be desired. A player-only meeting was held after the loss to the Flyers. Senators fans can only hope the team’s veterans spoke of the need for correcting glaring defensive weaknesses and lack of aggressive play.

The Senators welcome the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night, followed by a Jeff Carter-less Columbus squad on Saturday. The team then travels to Raleigh, North Carolina to face the Carolina Hurricanes nest Tuesday.