I’ve missed a few Ottawa Senators games, so have not posted a game review for the Montreal game on Saturday and the Pittsburgh game on Monday. It seems that I’m not the only one who missed them, as the Senators themselves have failed to show up too.
The ‘highlights’, if you can call them that, were mostly glorious Pittsburgh goals and some pretty quality saves from Johnson. The story’s pretty similar for the Saturday game against the Habs.
A lot has got to change for the Senators and it has to change now.
The problem right now with the team seems to be more between the ears than between the pipes. Everyone laments on the “Why can’t we have a number one star goalie like Ryan Miller”, but guess what? We DON’T have Ryan Miller, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Solid goaltending paired with good team play wins you games, not goaltending alone, as evidenced by the aforementioned Miller who always gets his team way further into the post-season than they rightfully deserve. A quick look at the Stanley Cup Final match up from last year is also an indication that goaltending is only one factor in a winning team and in the Final, it wasn’t much of one.
All of this to say that goaltending isn’t the issue this season. It’s been solid from Leclaire and Elliott. The problem lies with the team.
Playing hockey in Ottawa can be stressful and silly. The media is all over the team and everyone wants to analyze the problems to death and the fans jump on and off the bandwagon as quickly as it can drive. The coaches get nervous and Cory starts playing Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Bryan Murray looks like he aged another year in every interview he does. And let’s not forget Carrie Underwood showing up at games looking perfect. She has nothing to do with the team’s success, she just adds to the drama.
We all know what has to change:
Team- This team isn’t cohesive at all. They communicate badly, they pass to nobody, their positioning is awful and their play is just scattered and confused. Part of this may have to do with the mad science that has coaches switching up the lines and looking for some spark.
But we know which lines work best and get results. Ruutu-Kelly-Neil generates the most consistent game points. Aflie-Spezza-Regin showed a lot of promise last year and could do so again this year if they were kept together long enough to generate some play. Neil-Fisher-Michalek is a gritty line and Kovalev would be best placed with Shannon and Foligno. While the last pick may not seem so obvious, this line mixes the gritty play of Foligno, the swift size of Shannon and the veteran patience of Kovalev together.
Likes for the defense match ups: Campoli-Carkner, Gonchar-Karlsson, Lee-Phillips.
The point is that the lines don’t need to change. The way that they play together has to, which brings me to the next point.
Attitude- Don’t take other teams lightly because they’re Toronto or because it’s the beginning of the season. You still have to compete EVERY night on the ice. Ottawa seems to come out strong in the first, fizzle in the second and just wither in the third. This team needs to compete from start to finish and pot in some insurance goals early on. The defense has got to play tighter and the team should focus more on a man-on-man strategy in their own end.
Aggressive play- More crease-crashing, more shots on goal, more garbage goals. Hit it towards the net and off of anything and anyone. This squad has to stop looking for beautiful goals and endless passing in front of the net. Be opportunistic and shoot towards the net from anywhere. Ottawa has to do this faster if they want to capitalize. More chances, more goals.
It’s going to be a long season.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.