The Ottawa Senators and the NHL Season Preview, Part 2 of 4: The Defense + Goaltending

Chris Phillips Cory Murphy #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning gets knocked to the ice while trying to skate between Ryan Shannon #26 and Chris Phillips #4 of the Ottawa Senators during a game on March 11, 2009 at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ryan Shannon;Cory Murphy;Vincent Lecavalier;Chris Phillips

Today in our second part of the week long season preview for the Ottawa Senators and the NHL, we look at the defense and the goaltending, and look at how it will perform as a whole this year. Should be interesting.

We start of with a bit of news. It was announced today that defenseman David Hale is the last cut from the roster, put on waivers and if clears as expected will head down to Binghamton in the AHL. Shocking, at least for me. We all thought we had made the team over Jared Cowen as the 6th defenseman, but it looks like Brian Lee will do that. Lee, really? Damn that contract of his.

On with the rest, though!

Last year’s defense had a tough mentality. Blocking shots, makign the big hit, and protecting their team-mates. Longtime Senator Anton Volchenkov left and Andy Sutton also was not re-signed, meaning Bryan Murray and the Sens would go in a different direction. Different they did, signing offensive dynamo from the backend Sergei Gonchar. The back looks set to be responsbile in their own zone and also jump into the play quite often.

The first two pairings originiated from training camp. Chris Phillips sticks on the first pairing, look to build on a solid season of his. Without a Volchenkov or Chara anymore, we’ll see how effective the Big Rig really is, and in my mind should start to groom into the captain’s role, well into Daniel Alfredsson’ looming retirement in the future. His partner is sophomore Erik Karlsson, who trailed off in the beginning as a rook, but took the bull by the horns and played lights-out hockey in the last half of the season. I expect an increase in points, and with experience comes responsibility, something he’ll be able to do. This is why he was drafted in the first place.

The second pairing starts with Chris Campoli, entering his second full season with Ottawa. Camper didn’t have a fine season last year, a bit streaky and a huge dip in goals. He played well in the playoffs and great in the pre-season, and with a contract year, I expect career numbers from him. His partner is the aforementioned Sergei Gonchar, who will lead the team on the power play and also provide a stability role on the back. I see him as a mentor to the Karlsson and Campolis, something very helpful to the squad as whole. He’s 36, so maybe he’s slow, I’d be shocked if he does not get 50 points min.

The third pairing make-up has changed throughout the summer and into Training Camp. It all starts with Matt Carkner, who looks to continue his ways after last year’s great season. He’s not a goal-scorer, but he’s an important guy on the team. Biggest thing should be if he and Colton Orr square off early into the season. His partner right now looks to be Brian Lee, who makes the team despite a less-than-decent camp. Brian still has the potential, but needs to show it NOW. Or else, he’s screwed and heading to Russia. I’ll be watching that early in the season.

Now starts the goaltending, which has been a graveyard of sorts in Ottawa. Both Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott performed at times very well, but were not at all consistent. Leclaire had trouble with injuries, and couldn’t get into the groove after public and media backlash. I believe he should bounce-back, but some of that will be if the fans can hold back on him. On the other side of the pond, Brian Elliott looked to steal the starter’s job before a bad showing  in the playoffs. He’ll likely have to do the same thing here, and his relationship with Cory Clouston should help that. I like to see competition in the net, but at times it could be too much. I have no clue who will start on Friday, but my guess is Leclaire.

Thanks all for reading, and be sure to voice your opinion on defense and the goaltending in the comments section!

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Tags: Alex Auld B-Sens Brian Lee Chris Phillips Craig Anderson David Hale Defense Erik Karlsson Goaltending Matt Carkner Ottawa Senators Preview 2010-2011 Sergei Gonchar

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