Don’t panic yet folks. The Ottawa Senators may not be looking like themselves and they may be teetering on the edge of the playoffs, but this is not the time to make a big fuss about it. Yes, it’s true that during this last stretch of the season, very few points separate the contenders from the pretenders and that watching the standings change on a daily basis can become something of an obsession. But the truth of the matter is that while teams need to keep on their game and keep their eyes on the prize in the post-season, it’s not time to flail the arms in the air.
This isn’t just for Ottawa and the Sens Army which is nervously biting their nails and counting down the last few games as March winds down the same way that government workers across the nation are doing for the end of the fiscal year. This is for all teams who are contending for a spot, even the ones who are top dogs. Teams are playing the way that they are right now because of the time of the year and the stakes and a very human condition that we don’t tend to equate with professional athletes: exhaustion.
The season is long. 82 regular season games is a huge feat. Even the fans are feeling it. Most of us are ready for the post season to happen now, with the exception of the fanbases that are still a point or two away. But it’s normal that in this part of the year when the post-season is close, but not as close as tomorrow, that players are going to show some wear and tear and not play to their top.
It also makes sense that stakes play a role. The Vancouver Canucks are having trouble motivating themselves and their star players are slumping, probably because they feel they have their ticket punched for the post-season already. The Bruins have Ottawa keeping them on their toes, as they remain a game away from overtaking their rivals, but if it wasn’t for that kind of pressure in the East, the Bruins would be playing just as poorly. Likewise, Ottawa has become very aware of the pressure to rise in their division and fight for home ice advantage, something that nobody would have dreamed of in the pre-season. They’ve gone from underdog to favourite and some of this team is clearly uncomfortable with this role.
On the other hand, the bottom feeder teams who are clearly out of the post-season race, have no stakes, no pressure and tons of pride hanging on the line. They are playing for pride and they don’t have the added weight of expectations, so it’s no wonder that the teams going on a tear are the ones on the bottom. It may seem like something funny is happening when the bottom teams take out the top teams, but it’s natural given the time of year and the stakes involved. Quite simply put, it’s easier to play without the pressure.
The bad news? Ottawa’s going to lose a few that it should have. The good news? They can pull themselves together for a few wins in the last weeks and maintain a spot in the post-season. As long as they stay strong and their fanbase stays the same way. And as long as the power play gets fixed.
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.