Senators surprising the NHL with their play

Greg Smith February 24, 2013 2
Toronto Star

Ottawa, Ont.-  Colin Greening scored his 3rd goal of the season off a rebound of a Patrik Wiercioch shot with 24 seconds left to give the Ottawa Senators their 4th straight victory and a 3-2 win over their Ontario rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The win moves the Senators into 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 24 points in 19 games.  The Senators improved their record to 11-6-2 on the season.

Senators strong work ethic

The Senators have been out working their opponents in recent games and its been paying off on the scoreboard.  Since Erik Karlsson went down in Pittsburgh a week ago Wednesday, the Senators have outworked and out played their opponents.  Even in the loss to the Leafs in Toronto a week ago, the Senators outshot, out chanced and out played the Maple Leafs.  Ben Scrivens was the story on that night, earning his first career NHL shutout.

Despite missing the NHL’s best defenseman Erik Karlsson, last season’s 4th leading scorer (Jason Spezza) and 11th leading goal scorer (Milan Michalek)  the Senators are finding ways to score goals.  Last night, three different players contributed, with Mika Zibanejad and Erik Condra each scoring their third goals of the season.

Paul McLean and the Senators organization has installed a strong work ethic in this team and the young players and veterans have bought into the system.  It all starts at the minor league level where Luke Richardson, who is in his first season coaching the Binghamton Senators and doing a great job, has been installing the Senators culture of out skating and out working their opponents.  The young players who have come up from the AHL know what’s expected of them and have come to work.

What McLean has installed is a team work ethic, fitness and a strong break out offence.  The Senators can switch from offence to defence, in a flash with a really quick transition.  It was apparent last night, how much better they were in the neutral zone in comparison to the Leafs.  The confidence level is sky-high too and the plethora of injuries has given this team the mental attitude that those left can pick up the slack and make up for the loss by using hard work.  The younger players also realize that it’s an opportunity for them prove themselves.

Watching the prospects play so well, gives Senators fans the optimism to know how well the cupboard is stocked in this organization.

Goaltending

The loss of Craig Anderson was thought to be the final big blow to the Senators hopes this season.  At the time of his injury, Anderson was the NHL’s top goaltender this season, leading the league in save percentage (.952) and goals against average (1.49).  After the injuries to Spezza, Karlsson and Michalek, not to mention Cowen being out for the year, many experts thought that the Senators only chance was to ride the good play of Anderson.

Enter Ben Bishop.  Bishop has been solid in his relief of Anderson.  He was the main reason why they won in New Jersey on Monday and was solid last night, despite an early goal which was questionable.  He has given up 2 or less goals in his 3 starts and was solid in the shootout against both the Devils and Rangers.  His only rough patch was given up 2 goals in the 3rd period of the Rangers game.  However, you can hardly blame him because he was thrown into a bad situation once Anderson got hurt.  It’s hard for a goaltender to come in, in relief.

Next up

The Senators host their rivals the Montreal Canadiens on Monday which will be their last game in their 4 game home stand.  The Senators sit in 5th place in the East just 2 points behind the Canadiens, but more importantly their 6 points ahead of the 9th place New York Rangers and 5 points ahead of the 8th place Philadelphia Flyers.

The goal here is to make the playoffs and if the Senators can get there they should have Anderson, Spezza, Michalek and possibly Karlsson back for a strong playoff run.