Foligno's game winner against the Lightning was one of many highlights for #71 lately (PHOTO: Andre Ringuette NHLI via Getty Images)

Senators at the 30 Game Mark - The Ups and Downs

Things appear to have settled down, and the Ottawa Senators are to be where I thought they would be, and that is in the mix, fighting with a pack of teams for a playoff spot.  The conference standings have now begun to show some separation, with the top 5 teams starting to get some distance from the pack.

Here is a quick snapshot of how the Senators have done in the last 10 games (click on opponent for a detailed recap in case you missed it):

Game # Opponent Result Quick Synopsis
21 @VAN L 2-1 (OT) Auld good in surprise start but Sens fall in OT
22 @PIT L 6-3 Ottawa scores first, Pittsburgh responds with 5 unanswered
23 CAR W 4-3 Runblad’s 1st career goal in close game
24 @WPG W 6-4 5 lead changes in back and forth game, Smith scores winner for 2nd straight game
25 @DAL L 3-2 Ottawa chokes away lead with less than 10 minutes left
26 @WSH L 3-2 (OT) Karlsson’s blown tire leads to 2-on-1 Laich OT goal
27 TB W 4-2 Anderson’s 31 saves sets the tone against Stamkos et al
28 WSH L 5-3 Ovechkin spears Neil, then scores goal to put Caps ahead for good
29 NJD L 5-4 (SO) Ottawa blows 3-0 lead, ties it in last 3 seconds but lose SO
30 VAN L 4-1 Kelser’s 3 points too much in a spirited affair

 

COMPARING THE SEGMENTS

W L OT/SO L PTS GF GA PP PK
GAMES 1-10 5 5 0 10 29 39 10/34 (29.4%) 34/47 (72.3%)
GAMES 11-20 5 4 1 11 29 26 4/35 (11.4%) 35/40 (87.5%)
GAMES 21-30 3 4 3 9 30 33 4/39 (10.2%) 38/46 (82.6%)

These last 10 games demonstrate that there is still some work to do.  They are still a legitimate top 6 forward (is Peter Regin the answer?) and defensive depth away from being a legitimate playoff hopeful.  The power play numbers have sagged, especially since the injuries to Kuba and Gonchar have messed with the chemistry.

The noticeable difference in the latest set of games is the extra time contests.  While they were 3-1 in games that required OT or shootouts in the first 20 games, they lost all 3 matches that went beyond regulation this time around.  If they could find a way to win even one or two of those games, they would be right on pace to where they need to be to see the playoffs.  That’s how slim the margin for error is in the NHL today.

Biggest Surprise

Zack Smith has matured into the third line centre that made Chris Kelly expendable last season.  His 5 goals (including back-to-back game winners) in the 10 games was an offensive bonus to his stellar penalty killing and improving faceoff play.  He is gaining more of Paul MacLean‘s confidence and his ice time and situational play reflects that.

Biggest Disappointment

Nikita Filatov and the soap opera surrounding him that culminated in Monday’s reassignment to the KHL.  Filatov was recalled and suited up for 3 games this segment and managed only 1 shot on goal despite playing an average of 15 minutes in the two full games he played, mostly alongside Jason Spezza.

 

SEGMENT STARS

3. Jared Cowen –   Four points (1G, 3A) for the rookie defenseman, who with the injuries to Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba, has stepped into prime time on the blue line.  He saw his workload increase to around 25 minute per game (he was over 31 in the SO loss to NJ) and he has shown the ability to be a shut-down defenseman already, and also to handle the increased workload.

2. Daniel Alfredsson – The captain has found his game after the concussion that sidelined him in late October/early November.  He had 2 goals and 6 assists in the segment and was even forced into duty on the point for the Senators’ power play, which he hasn’t done in a while.  The magical number of 400 career goals is getting clsoer, as he sits just 4 away from the milestone and could reach it before the year is out based on the chemistry he has recenty achieved with Foligno.

1. Nick Foligno – Moving to centre agreed with the winger, as he put up points in 7 of the 10 games this segment, which included a 6 game point streak.  His 4 goals included a couple of highlight reel markers and he added a physical dimension to his game in the late stages.  He added 5 assists and a solid fight with Vancouver’s Dale Weise to round out his solid stretch.  Hopefully he can build on that with the return of Regin and not regress.

 

SYNOPSIS OF THE LAST 10 GAMES

The Senators fell off their pace in this segment, netting only 9 points.  Through 30 games they have 30 points, which is miles ahead of where many thought they would be, but just off pace for a playoff spot.  Their current pace will see them end with 82 points, which will not be enough to qualify for post-season play.  Sitting in a tie for 11th in the conference, they are in a 7 team battle for the last 3 playoff spots.

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT 10 GAMES

As they near the midway point of the season, the Senators have a very challenging 4 game homestand against some elite teams following tonight’s one game road trip against the Sabres.  They have 7 home games in total that takes them into the new year, surrounding 3 one-game road trips.  They see the struggling Sabres three times this month, have a visit from the surging Bruins, the Crosby-less Penguins and the very surprising Panthers come to town, before they visit Raleigh to face the last-place Canes.  There is a couple of all-canadian matchups as the Habs and Flames come to town between Christmas and New Year’s and after another trip to Buffalo to end 2011, they complete the segment with a hame game against the Devils.

Looking at the opponents in the near future and their standings, the only games on paper that they “should” be overmatched occur in the early stages, being the Bruins, Pens and Panthers.  All the rest of the games are ones that are very even or slightly inferior to the Senators.  If they can sneak a win in a game that they probably shouldn’t win, and go 4-2 or 5-2 in the games they could and should  win, then Ottawa will get themselves into a good situation heading into the New Year and the All-Star break.

 

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