When the NHL Schedule was announced, everyone knew it would be a tough start for the Senators. Starting off with 6 games on the road, including the always dreadful and usually unsuccessful 4 game road swing through California and Arizona, it wasn’t going to be easy to come home with a winning record.
Add to that the weird and curious pre-season schedule that didn’t allow for the Senators to assemble an NHL team to play a game prior to the season opener, and it was a recipe for disaster.
But who would have thought it would be this bad. Its not that they are losing (getting only 2 point in the last 4 games), but how they are losing. Allowing 50 shots in consecutive games is unprecedented for this franchise, even in the early years, and not keeping an opponent below 30 shots in any game so far has to be concerning. Sixteen goals against in 5 games is a far cry from the 2.08 goals per game that the club allowed last season. They seem to be in disarray defensively, and not just the defensemen. The forwards are turning the puck over in bad places, and they are flying the zone too early and hanging their blueliners out to dry.
If it weren’t for Robin Lehner, who has made 92 saves on 97 shots in the last two games, the club’s save percentage could be a lot worse.
Offensively, it isn’t much better. Through 5 games, only Bobby Ryan has scored more than once, and he has the club’s only 2 power play goals. It is quite remarkable that the Senators have been in as many games as they have, given the slow starts and lack of discipline both in terms of style of play and ill-timed and often pointless penalties.
Is this something that cannot be reveresed? Of course not, and I am sure Paul MacLean knows what needs to be done, it is simply a matter of getting the players to buy in. Maybe the players looked at the success of last season and figured it would be a cakewalk with the return of so many big names, but the work ethic and attention to detail on the ice to a man is a far cry from what it was last season.
Here are the top 3 things that need to be reversed for the Senators to avoid a plummet in the standings:
1. Better starts – In the last 4 games, the Senators have found themselves trailing in the first period by scores of 1-0 (twice) 2-0 and 3-0. They managed points in 2 of those games, but the last 2 have seen them get behind in the first minute. Despite valiant efforts, always playing from behind is taxing and it forces you to take chances that could just as easily lead to scoring opportunities the other way.
2. Stay out of the Box – Ottawa is traditionally, for whatever reason, in the negative in terms of PP opportunities. But through 5 games the PP against – for ratio is 27-12. If that pace were to continue over the entire season, that would mean 246 fewer power play chances. Three extra PK’s per game make a difference, and although you can argue the validity of some of the penalties the Senators have been whistled for, or have not been called against opponents, many of them have been within the Senators’ control and they are not part of a winning system.
3. Cohesion – With some new combinations throughout the lineup, it is going to take some time to become familiar with their new linemates or defensive partners. On paper it should work, but time in developing chemistry and learning tendencies is necessary. It will come, and eventually talent and hard work will make it happen.
It’s tough to be patient , and if you have stayed up late to watch the last few games you are no doubt frustrated watching the performance on the ice. But remember, they are still only 6% into the season and they have a long way to go . They now have 54% of their remaining schedule at home, and have probably the toughest trip out of the way already.
I’m not saying it is smooth sailing ahead, but hopefully the worst is behind them and maybe with a win on Tuesday night in Glendale against the Coyotes they will come home with a .500 record and in decent shape. Before the trip started, I think many of us would have been satisfied with 6 of 12 road points on that trip, regardless of how the team has looked.
Its not time to hit the panic button.