No fans of the Ottawa Senators, as die-hard as they may have been, would have guessed at any point this team would win 6 straight games. Hell there were fans saying they may not win 6 games. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. With a roster that had more “Who’s that?” than one would like, it was expected this team be near the bottom of the league.
To no ones credit but the Senators players themselves, they managed to rattle off 6 straight wins, including the most recent against rivals Toronto. How is this team doing it?
Simple. They’re playing as loose as I’ve ever seen a team play.
Case in point. Game 2 of the season. Trailing 5-1 to these same Leafs entering the third, Ottawa made a game of it. Despite losing 6-5 the effort carried over in the locker room, and since, the team has played with the same mindset. Just play. Mistakes or not, play until the final buzzer goes. One would understand if this team came back home to Scotiabank Place today and fell flat, I mean they again managed to comeback yesterday in New York, this time trailing 4-1 in the final frame. They won the game 5-4 in a shootout. They’ve manage to win 6 straight, even after sending down stud rookie Mika Zibanejad. The future is surely bright.
There’s a combination of players stepping up that have lead to this streak.
Firstly, the veterans. You don’t win 5 straight 1 goal games without some sound leadership in the room. Last year Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba were an abysmal -41 combined. Not the type of impact your veterans should make. To their credit they have both been 2 of the better Senators this year. Their consistent play has allowed Erik Karlsson to emerge as a future star on the blue line. He currently leads the league in points by a defenceman with 12 in 12 games. The Senators have a legitimate first line as well Jason Spezza is tied for 2nd in the league in points with 15, and Milan Michalek is just a couple behind with 13. Where this team has been surprising though has been on the powerplay. They currently lead the league in power play percent, scoring on a ridiculous 31% of them. While it is extremely early, it’s worth nothing Ottawa finished 15th in PP% last year at a mere 17.5%.
Despite all of the above statistics, their is one difference to this Sens teams to those of the past. Goaltending.
In Craig Anderson they have themselves a legitimate number 1 who wants to prove he belongs in that role. Anderson is 6-2 so far this year, and despite the team giving up a league worst 3.75 goals a game they’re winning. They’ve proven in the past that they’re able to score, this year was not going to be different. In previous years however there has been no consistency to allow for winning of close games. I mean this team last year alone played the following goalies:
6 goalies in one year. Ouch. Doesn’t look like it’ll be the case this year. Ottawa committed to Anderson last year in the likes of a 4-year $12.75 million dollar extension, and there is no looking over the shoulder anymore. In waiting they have phenom Robin Lehner who will be the goalie of the future. But now, it’s Anderson’s team.
Will it continue for Ottawa? For fans sake I certainly hope so. But like the Maple Leafs, I don’t see how they overtake the current crop of Eastern Conference teams with this roster. The wins are great right now, but how long before the kids break down, or the veterans break down. Is the depth on this Senators team really enough to make you believe they’ll make the playoffs?
Sometimes, though, it’s about more than that. It’s about a team with a genuine desire to play with and for eachother.
Ontario is blessed to have two teams with that mindset right now, and right now, the kids are alright.