Welcome to the first Tuesday Sens Report on thehockeywriters.com.
Following the first two games of the season, the Ottawa Senators have a perfect losing record (0-2-0) and are facing the lovable Dany Heatley and the Minnesota Wild tonight at Scotiabank Place. The game will be Ottawa’s home opener, which will also kick off the team’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The game starts at7:30 PM EST and can be seen on TSN and heard on Team 1200 Radio in the Ottawa Valley.
If you recall, most in the hockey universe have pegged the team to fall somewhere in the lower half of the Eastern Conference’s bottom eight; those predictions have been correct thus far with the Sens in last place in the NHL.
Being two games in, it’s hard to find consistencies in a team’s play. After all, with four points in two games, Erik Karlsson is projected to assist on 164 goals this season. However, the Senators are hoping they will continue their impressive play in the goals for column, where they are in a four-way tie for 4th place in the category. Again, most trends cannot truly emerge in two games, but scoring four goals a game will usually result in a win… that is, if you don’t let in more than that. The Sens have allowed 11 goals against since their season opener in Detroit.
Sloppy defensive play and shaky goaltending are to blame for their -3 goal differential. For those who watched the Senators first two games, watching the Red Wings and Maple Leafs break into their offensive zones was an exercise in restraint. The team did not appear to adhere to any system other than letting the opposition score in the slot and below the faceoff dots. Indeed, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs were able to exploit the Senators weak showing close to the net, with two-thirds of their goals coming within 10 feet of the goal line. This is where the services of Matt Carkner, Ottawa’s 6-4, 240 pound bruising defenseman, are surely being missed. Carkner is still out with a knee injury, so the Senators are hoping his fellow blue line giants Jared Cowen and Chris Phillips can employ their muscles to clear the area.
Interestingly enough, the Senators are playing their best offense in the slot, with the vast majority of their goals coming close to opposing goalies. Senators fans have long been complaining about the team’s inability to drive the net; they should be happy with the results the current squad is producing, including the play of Jason Spezza, Colin Greening and captain Daniel Alfredsson.
All four lines have been pushing their way towards the goal line to create chances, a fact exemplified by the 11 players with at least a point so far this season. The big knock against the Sens offense is their literal inability to score in the first two periods.
They have had amazing third periods, but have been completely ineffective in the first 40 minutes of their games so far. If they can force turnovers down low early on in the game, they not only will lower their goals against average, but they will also be able to use their speed to mount a swift counterattack from within their own zone.
Following their dustup tonight against the Wild, the Sens face the Colorado Avalanche at home on Thursday, head to Washington for a Hockey Night in Canada game against the Capitals on Saturday, and return to Canada’s capital for a match against the Philadelphia Flyers. Hopefully, Senators fans will see a better defensive presence and a sustained offensive attack in the week to come.