In the battle to be a positive Sens supporter and an objective sports writer, it’s often difficult to live in the place where those two worlds intersect.
On the one hand, it’s excruciating to watch your team come so close to victory in so many games, and come away either empty-handed or with only a point.
But when you step away from the hot zone for a minute, and let the cool waters of reflection wash over you, it’s easy to see things in a more positive manner.
Yes – October was treacherous. 4-6-4 is not how I imagined the Sens would start the season.
On the other hand, this isn’t a shortened season and it’s only October. Playoffs start in May.
I agree that the Sens have a long road ahead of them (to at least get back above .500 and then start making big noises), but before moving forward, it’s important to look back at the trail of jewels that the Sens have left in the wake of a hard month.
ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE
First off, everyone who is overly negative about Ottawa’s chances at this point in the season can (as my lovely Grandma Betty used to say) go suck a lemon.
Remember when you all complained about Bobby Ryan not scoring two games into the season? Yeah. I remember that too.
Well, he now has 14 points in 14 games (8 G, 6 A), and he basically forced the overtime singlehandedly against the Stars, netting a game-tying, stick-breaking goal with a mere 9.6 seconds left in the third.
Ryan was also quoted in a Citizen article, saying that the team has ‘focused too much on the negative’ of the season so far, and that a team full of young guys is more prone to worrying about making the first mistake, as opposed to just relaxing, playing well and making those centre-ice, stretch passes.
Yes – they let the last two games slip by them (Stars and Islanders) and they are tied for 26th in the NHL for goals against (47) but they are also tied for 9th in the league for goals scored (42), and they’ve been putting pucks in the net where it counts.
Need a reminder? After 14 games in the shortened 2012-13 season, the Sens had only scored 31 goals.
Offense was a massively lacking piece of the puzzle for the Sens last year, and so far, they are clicking well in that department.
And if history has taught us anything, it’s not to come down hard on the goalies early in the season. Ottawa has two of the best (if not the best) goalies in the NHL. Yes – Anderson has looked a little dazed at times, but we all know what the Alien is capable of when the season is on the line. With the uncertain injury to Anderson’s neck, Lehner will have a few opportunities to shine and as long as he doesn’t face close to 60 shots (which he has already done a few times this season), I think we are in for some good games and a decent ‘November Reign’.
NO ROOM FOR MR. INBETWEEN
The one area where Ottawa needs some serious help, restructuring and change is not in the area of forwards (despite the desire of Coach Paulrus to keep moving Spezza between the first and third lines) – it’s within the defense.
So far, the backline boys have had big problems with turnovers in their own zone, and not finishing back checks (especially behind the net).
I think a big problem lies in communication. We all know that Methot is steady and Karlsson will do his thing, but use his blinding speed to back check when he needs to (and lead the team in scoring with 15 points). What we don’t really know is what a full, long season looks like to youngsters who have shown decent promise but moments of shakiness (Cowen, Wiercioch, Gryba) and veterans who may or may not have enough fuel left in their tanks to sprint it out against the league speedsters (Phillips, Corvo).
Something has to come together in this area for the RABHA (Red and Black Heart Attack), and if it doesn’t start coming together soon, some trades and bingo send-downs may be on the table.
But for now, as a way to stay positive, let’s look at the top four scorers of the Sens:
Looks kinda nice, doesn’t it?
Let’s build on that.
Put a little Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers in your stereo, a spring in your step, and let the good vibes pour on to you.
The Ottawa Senators play tonight on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 PM EST.