So a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation.
While Ottawa’s second half has been downright dreary compared to the first, no one thought anything less than a fourth seed in the East would be the outcome.
Now, on the heels of a second straight game in which the usually high-powered Sens were shut out, the mathematicians in town are starting to put together some rather disturbing numbers.
For example, there’s an outside chance the Senators could complete their collapse and miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
After dropping a 3-0 decision to Montreal Tuesday, the Sens have two games remaining and 92 points to their credit. Toronto, a team who would love to throw a monkeywrench at their provincial rivals, is up first, followed by what could be an elimination game against the Bruins, currently sitting in seventh and just a point behind Ottawa.
Hard-charging Washington is the team that would essentially replace the Sens, with Philadelphia needing to hold on to eighth with two games to go.
Now, more than likely, the Sens will make it. Everything would have to go wrong for them to be leapfrogged by three teams by the end of the week.
But an interesting development in the past week has been the promotion of rookie defenseman Brian Lee and the signing of college boy Jesse Winchester.
At this time of year, it’s the also-rans that generally trot out their young bucks in order to get them a couple games of experience; Los Angeles did it last year with defenseman Jack Johnson and this season with goaltender Erik Ersberg, while top prospect Kyle Turris has left the University of Wisconsin hockey team in order to make his debut with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Is this really the right time for the Sens to do the same?
Lee has played in four games to date, averaging about 18 minutes of ice time, including spot duty on the power play, while Colgate alum Winchester played 14 minutes in a 4-0 loss to Boston.
Now the Sens expect big things from Lee in the near future, but when key games with playoff implications are on the line, it’s no time to be auditioning players who are likely to be healthy scratches once the regular season ends.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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