I think it is fair to say that not too many fans envisaged the Senators sitting second in the Atlantic Division.
Last season was not only a disappointment for Ottawa but all Canadian teams. Failing to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, finishing fifth in the division eight points off the Red Wings. Changes made, new personnel arrive and a fresh outlook on the league.
What has Guy Boucher changed from last year?
The PK has drastically improved, this wasn’t hard given that it was ranked 29th last season. Penalty Kill now stands at an extremely healthy 10th (83.1%). Linking the obvious connection, Ottawa have conceded far less goals sitting in 14th as opposed to 28th. These are playoff numbers.
In point scoring the team is essentially where it was last term, Karlsson a tad behind the pace. The main difference is defending and keeping the puck out of the net. Anderson has better numbers this year, although playing less games. (.924-.916%). Having only played a third of the games, it’ll be interesting to see whether he can keep those numbers up.
One major difference is reigning Karlsson in offensively. His swashbuckling rushes forward, although still present, less frequent. Am I a fan of this? Absolutely! It’s been great seeing Erik pick up a couple of Norris’s but he has left the team vulnerable at the back. Boucher appears to have found the middle ground and it works. He’s still the best offensive defenseman in the world.
Shorter shifts have been implemented in this system, raising the intensity while keeping fresh legs on the ice. It appears to have stopped the leak at the back and they now scream of a competent play off team. The playoffs are all about defending, stop the opposition scoring, stop momentum, create frustration, draw penalties, capitalise.
The organisation appears to be in much safer hands, with commitment behind the bench, the players are performing. The playoffs are coming back to Kanata (baring any major mishap) it sounds rash but they are a much more composed team than others in the Atlantic. The likes of Boston and Toronto as much as their attacking talent dazzles, can be far too erratic some nights. Ottawa haven’t quite fallen into this trap just yet. Boucher’s defending systems have aided the Ontario outfit greatly.
Questions do remain. By no means am I suggesting that they have been without fault. Lazar has been a bust, Ryan’s contract is a crime against hockey and it’ll be intriguing to see these prospects next season. There’s still thirty-two games to play this season however, hold on to your hats!