When pretty much all of the Senators’ best players succumbed to injury, the natural reaction for many was to write off this shortened 2013 season and hop aboard the tank. And really, who could blame us?
We expected the team to have a difficult time scoring without the likes of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson – and they have dutifully lived up that astute assumption (1.77 GF/G the last nine games). But I'm not sure anyone expected the team defense to hold the fort as well as they have.
Bishop and the Lehner have stepped in seamlessly to replicate Craig Anderson’s gaudy first half numbers.The defencemen and forwards have done an admirable job clearing pucks, and keeping shots on the outside. Also Eric Gryba is routinely playing 20+ minutes and yet the Sens have continued to bank points, somehow.
For a team that spent the past two seasons sporting the 24th highest goals against per game rate (GA/G) in the NHL (2.99 in 2010/11 and 2.88 in 2011/12), coming into this afternoon’s game against the Islanders, Ottawa has allowed 1.81 GA/G; good enough for the league’s second best mark.
The style responsible for their recent success is a definite contrast to the exciting run and gun 11/12 Senators – fronted by the league's fourth-best offence. The team at present is essentially Nashville but less talented. They're staying in games with stingy defensive hockey that hasn’t been seen around the nation’s capital since the days of Jacques Martin behind the bench staring up at the clock. (though I'm sure Jacques could do without some of the shots against totals of late)
Yet, despite the measured improvements the Senators have made on the defensive side of the puck this season (hint: thank you goaltenders!), the team’s lack of offence – currently 29th at 2.13 GF/G – cannot be swept under the rug.
At some point, Ottawa’s inability to fill the net is going to catch up with them.
In talking to Scott, the team is still averaging about the same number of scoring chances against since Karlsson left, but on the offensive side of the puck, the drop off has been steep. Absent #65 the team is averaging 11.9 scoring chances per game, which is 4.8 fewer than they were putting up prior to his injury. In a nutshell the team's ability to generate offence has dropped off 30% overnight. Considering the roster at present this isn't a problem that's "fixable" in the short-term. As Mac has remarked a few times "you don't replace an Erik Karlsson".
I think we're all still waiting for the fall, but this team doesn't always live down to expectations.
Narratives For Lazy Days – Alfie Trade Rumours
The misfortune in losing a number of their best offensive players to injury was not that the team may fall in the standings; it was that the situation opened itself up to simplistic speculation that Daniel Alfredsson could be moved to a Stanley Cup contender at any minute!
Pierre Lebrun was the first to spitball the idea in an article for ESPN on February 19th – linking Alfie’s familiarity with former Ottawa Assistant GM Peter Chiarelli and teammates Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly as possible motivators for the captain to even consider leaving town.
And with Ottawa playing in Boston on Thursday night, it’s something that got more rung than it should have. I don't think i'm exaggerting to say Sportsnet has been running with this "story" every intermission for a week.
Like last summer’s “Will he or won’t he?” retirement watch, this speculation has already grown tiresome. It’s just a mechanism to create buzz and help build up a deadline day that has lacked fireworks in recent years.
This stuff would be somewhat defensible if the Sens were actually completely out of it, and not amongst top ten point percentages in the league, but they're not. Go focus on Iginla media peoples.