Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Ottawa Senators

ottFor me, the Ottawa Senators are one of the surprise teams of the year. The 2008/2009 found themselves 10 points out of the playoffs and struggled most of the season. When the season ended Dany Heatley became a thorn in the side demanding he be traded away. In return for Heatley, Ottawa got Jonathan Cheechoo who was been outright awful recording 5 goals and 9 assists in 61 games and Milan Michalek who has proved to be a decent pickup.

Forwards:

The Senators have four (4) 20 goal scorers this season in Fisher, Michalek, Alfredsson and Spezza and Alexei Kovalev is knocking on the door of a 20 goal season so the goals for the Senators are coming and spread out over a couple decent lines. The Senators own the 18th best offense when it comes to goals for but own the 26th best Power Play unit in the NHL. When the Senators have needed extra time to decide games this season, they walked away with a 8-5 record in overtime which includes 4 shootout wins and 4 shootout losses. As usual, this team for me rests around the play of Daniel Alfredsson as he is their backbone and any success that the Senators may have in the postseason will come off the stick of Alfredsson in either goal form or assist form.

Defense:

Chris Philips leads all defensemen with 8 goals and Filip Kuba leads all defensemen in points with 28. The Senators defense currently ranks 18th overall when it comes to goals against. If you filter out the stats to just 5 on 5 goals, the Senators drop down to 28th but it’s their penalty kill that has been outstanding. Through 76 games, they own the 7th best penalty killing squad, which can be a very telling stat once you get to the playoffs.  The Senators don’t really scare me on defense though for 2 reasons. 1) They lack a guy that can absolutely shut down the opposition when needed to do so and 2) if the Senators play disciplined hockey and stay out of the box, the 28th ranked overall 5 on 5 defense isn’t going to get you too far. Fans might like how well their penalty killers have done this season but do you really want to try and win a cup that way?

Goalies:

The is the Senators weakness. The Senators have relied on 3 goalies this season to get them through the season but that’s not a fair stat because of a freak injury to Pascal Leclaire that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. Brian Elliott has seen most of the work this season and currently ranks 20th overall in Save Percentage. The truth is, we don’t really know what to expect of Elliott once the postseason rolls around because Elliott is young and inexperienced. Pascal Leclaire spent most of his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets so he doesn’t have any playoff experience either so should Elliott have a hard time, fans have to hope and pray that Leclaire can deliver.

As I said in the beginning, the Senators have really surprised me this season. If it wasn’t for the Coyotes in the west, they would take the award for most surprising team and I like what the Senators are building but as for chances of seeing Lord Stanley above their heads, I can’t imagine that is very likely this season. In fact, I am not sure they may even get through round one but this season has given them momentum towards getting back to that team from 2007 or even the one from 2003 that was so close to the finals.

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