At this point in Ottawa’s recent and continuing swoon, it’s best to look at the silver linings.
For example, in the first game of a four-tilt Western road trip, the Senators once again looked inferior to the Anaheim Ducks. Silver lining? They won’t have to face the Ducks again this season and hey, at least it’s not snowing there.
But the real acid test for the Sens comes this weekend, when they take on the bottom end of the Pacific Division, the Kings and Coyotes. Should Ottawa fall to either of these teams – who, this year at least, lack the pedigree of the Sens – don’t expect the increasingly pilloried Senators to make it out of the second round of the playoffs.
While the John Paddock firing seemed astute, given the apparent apathy of the team at the time, perhaps GM-interim coach Bryan Murray waited too long. The malaise seems to have gotten into the marrow of the Sens and rousting them out of this funk hasn’t quite worked since Paddock’s dismissal.
Ottawa needs to get its groove back. Forget talking about secondary scoring; in the past six games, the Sens haven’t scored more than one goal against any team not named Pittsburgh, who themselves aren’t exactly the poster children for defensive responsibility. With catalyst and captain Daniel Alfredsson battling back spasms, the Sens must reach down and find a gear they haven’t displayed in quite some time.
If there is a cautionary tale out there for Ottawa, it’s the story of division rival Buffalo. The Sabres had a fantastic window of opportunity to win the Stanley Cup in the two years following the lockout, but a wicked spate of injuries felled them against Carolina, while a collapse versus the Sens last year denied them once again. In that time, the Sabres lost both captains (Daniel Briere and Chris Drury), their top offensive defenseman (Brian Campbell) and the rumblings are already out there that goaltender Ryan Miller is next.
After this season, the Sens could lose Chris Kelly and Wade Redden, while attempting to deal one or both of their virtually untradeable goalies.
As for help from prospects on the way, Ottawa ranked a paltry 22nd in the league in The Hockey News’ annual edition of Future Watch, which is on newsstands now.
The window is closing, folks.