Before the recent 4 game home stand began, I wrote that it would be a defining set of games for the Senators season. I stated that if the Sens took 7 or 8 of a possible 8 points, then they would be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. On the other hand, if they had managed to secure only 3 or 4 points, then they could play themselves right out of a playoff position and it would be tough to get back in with the depleted roster.
Well, Mission Accomplished. The Senators didn’t make it look pretty and it certainly wasn’t easy, but they skated off home ice last night having banked all 8 points that were on the table. They are now 7 point clear of the 9th place Tampa Bay Lightning and in the thick of the race for first in the division and the conference.
Now, the Senators embark on a 5 game road trip and play 7 of their next 8 games away from SBP. That stretch of 7 games includes games against the four teams they just played at home (Islanders, Rangers, Leafs, Habs) as well as a visit to Boston and Philadelphia. The lone home game in that stretch is a return matchup against the Bruins on March 11th.
This will be a different kind of test for the Senators, because Paul MacLean won’t be able to get the exact line matchups he want on the road like he did at home. But at least now the Senators have the points in the bank that will make a .500 road trip palatable and they will still be in the mix. Ottawa also has the confidence that despite whoever is missing from the lineup, the system works most of the time and they have bought in, and it gives them a chance do win every night. They might not have deserved to get the full 8 points in the homestand, but they did and that can only help their demeanour going forward.
The first test will be a visit to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday after a couple of days of well-deserved rest.