Well, it’s been a hell of a week, hasn’t it?
Although the Ottawa Senators have played some of their most inspired hockey of the season since late December, they are still fighting desperately for a final wildcard spot against a plethora of hot teams.
After a strong offensive 5-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Ottawa, the RABHA dropped a 6-3 stinker to the Leafs (thanks to a few key breakdowns and a cheap Kadri hit) and picked up a point in a 2-1 OT loss to Pittsburgh last night.
Despite nabbing the point, the Sens looked a little ruffled at times against the Pens, and allowed 48 shots against Craig Anderson (who basically singlehandedly helped them make the OT push).
Stephane Da Costa, who is tired of hearing people say he’s not fit for the NHL, notched his 3rd goal of the season on a nifty backhander, but the RABHA could nary dent the twine again.
But to give you an idea of the Queensway-west-rush-hour-esque tightness of the standings, here’s a quick peek at the wildcard race (thanks to our crack team of in-house F4S graphic designers):
|7||NEW JERSEY||M||57||23||21||13||59||23||133||142||-9||12-7-7||11-14-6||0-8||4-3-3||OT 2|
|8||NY ISLANDERS||M||57||21||28||8||50||15||159||191||-32||8-12-8||13-16-0||6-4||3-6-1||LOST 3|
As you can see, the Sens have no easy task ahead of them. The quicksandy terrain of the wildcard playoff race seems to be pushing some teams behind one week and ahead the next.
Statistically speaking, picking up wins against both the Pens and the Leafs would have put the RABHA right behind Montreal for the second wildcard spot, but in reality, it would have only put them one point ahead of the team on their heels.
In order to make any headway, the Sens (or any teams in the wildcard race) need to rip off a streak – and I’m not talking two or three wins. I’m talking about a solid eight or ten wins.
It’s too neck-in-neck for any team to hope that ‘the other guy’ will lose. It’s go time. There are 26 games left in the schedule and unfortunately, because of a slow start, the RABHA do not have any padding. It’s pedal down from here on.
If the playoffs are going to be a thing of reality for this team, the breakdowns have to stop, the Spezzas and Ryans need to consistently put the puck in the net and a spark needs to be found.
THE LONG AND THE SHORT:
When you look back at the short-season 2012-13 Senators club, no one thought what they accomplished would have ever been possible. Making the playoffs? Beating the Habs in five games in round one? No way.
Here’s the good news: I like the current Sens team more than last year’s team. Sure – we don’t have Alfie but we have some more firepower. We don’t have Gonchar but we have some young guys who are constantly improving (Cowen, Ceci, Wiercioch) who want to play well and who want to win. Our goaltending is finally starting to sparkle.
The pieces are coming together – but it’s not going to be an easy ride. I’m no soothsayer, and it’s too hard to say whether or not the Sens will make the postseason yet.
There is, however, one thing I do know; it’s gonna be a close one.
With the Olympic break approaching, the streaky Sens need to test their playoff metals and use every game to demonstrate their will to win.
The Sens are taking on the haughty St. Louis Blues on the road tonight at 8:00 PM EST and hopefully, they can get a bit of puck luck and a bit of spark for a much needed two points.