It’s always the same old story with the Ottawa Senators, but maybe this season has the chance to be something different.
At the start of the season the Sens would’ve been a hard pick for a playoff spot, let alone have the ability to almost elapse the 100 point mark and lock up the 2nd spot in the Atlantic division while securing home ice advantage in the playoffs.
The dynamic of their roster is rather strange and although they don’t possess a true #1 Center, they still have multiple game changing forwards up front like Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone. The first of the three underrated forwards is Hoffman, a kid who took a hard path to eventually becoming a very reliable scorer at the NHL level where he’s been hovering around the 30 goal mark for the past 3 seasons and this one where he surpassed the 60 point plateau. Next up, you have Kyle Turris, after being traded by Arizona in 2011 his career has noticeably progressed in a Sens uniform where he’s the team’s #1 guy down the middle and was able to set a new career high in goals this season with 27. Lastly, Mark Stone has been a productive of a player as any in the past 3 seasons where he’s amassed 182 points in just 226 games(0.81PPG) while contributing in many other areas. Meanwhile, outside their core scorers up front they also portray secondary offensive punch with the likes of Derek Brassard, Bobby Ryan and Jean-Gabriel Pageau who can all change the outlook of a game in a heartbeat…speaking of heartbeat, the heartbeat of the Senators starts and ends with their best player and arguably the best defenseman in the world, Swedish born Erik Karlsson. Karlsson is a 2 time Norris Trophy winner and nominee yet again this season for the prestigious award. When it comes down to it, Karlsson is going to be the reason the Senators go as far as they go due to his outrageous amount of ice time, offesive upside and ability to control every play on both sides of the puck.
(How many guys in the world can complete this play between Karlsson & Hoffman??)
On the other hand, there were also many negative events this season which could’ve held the Sens back, but only seemed to fuel them even more in their battle to reach their true potential. Under new coach Guy Boucher, the squad has found new life in always finding ways to defy the odds. For starters, there were little things such as the laceration of Marc Methot’s finger in mid March by a slash from superstar Sidney Crosby forcing him to miss several weeks of action. Meanwhile, more severe events surrounding the diagnosis of goaltender Craig Andersen’s wife Nicholle with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare form of head and neck cancer in November took a huge toll on his family and the entire Senators organization as a whole. Andersen, while missing time due to the health of his wife put forth a phenomenal regular season posting 25 wins in just 40GP alongside 5 shutouts and seems to be the backbone of the team in the playoffs through this emotional post-season run. Furthermore, Clarke MacArthur’s struggles with injuries has been on going over the course of his professional career, but really took a hit over the past 2 seasons where he was only able to suit up for a combined 8 games in the Senators lineup. Something as little as a head shot in a intrasquad game in training camp of this season pushed MacArthur past the limit with his 4th concussion in just 18 months. Immediately after the blindside hit, Bobby Ryan stepped in and fought Sieloff who made the hit showing a great amount of respect for his veteran teammate. Push forward to the present where MacArthur had rejoined playing with the team on April 4th and has been a contributing player this spring who scored the game winning goal in Game 6 in Round 1 vs the Boston Bruins moving Ottawa onto the 2nd round, showing only another example of determination.
For a city that’s taken scrutiny surrounding their attendance, Game 5 back in Ottawa in the afternoon on Saturday with the series tied 2-2 between them and the New York Rangers sets the stage for another hero to emerge just like JG Pageau did for Ottawa in Game 2 vs the Rangers by potting 4 goals. This game and potential remainder of the post-season is yet another test for those Pesky Sens and their fight to prove all the doubters wrong.