The Ottawa Senators have a five-day All-Star break to replicate on what was absolutely the strangest first half of a hockey season in franchise historical past.
At occasions the Senators have been fairly good (most of January), at occasions uncompetitive (all of November). They didn’t play for days on finish, and now face a schedule crammed to the gills.
The general end result after 40 video games is a workforce that sits too far again of the playoff contenders to have any hope of constructing the post-season, and but with particular person tales of triumph that paint a very completely different image of the primary half.
By means of all of it, this was a Senators half-season that began and stopped – twice – as a consequence of COVID-19 outbreaks and area attendance restrictions.
So, methods to charge Ottawa’s first 40 of 82 scheduled video games?
Let’s strive it this manner: The standings are a disappointment for a franchise that was presupposed to make some noise within the Atlantic Division this season. However as for the event of a few of the Senators’ finest and youngest expertise, and the broader image of a workforce trying to compete with the large boys subsequent season and past – the primary half has been a roaring success.
Tim Stützle, Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Erik Brannstrom and Josh Norris have all taken enormous strides, whereas being led by that human wrecking ball, consummate chief and level producer Brady Tkachuk, the newly named captain. Tkachuk was named Ottawa’s All-Star Sport consultant when the injured Batherson couldn’t go. Beginning goaltender Matt Murray, who didn’t have a win earlier than Christmas, has all of a sudden received 4 of his final six, with each losses coming in additional time. There will likely be loads of private tales, on and off the ice, to observe within the closing three months of the common season.
Staff report: 14-22-4 (seventh in Atlantic, twenty ninth NHL)
Targets For per sport: 2.7 (twenty fourth)
Targets Towards per sport: 3.18 (twenty sixth)
Energy Play: 18.4% (twenty second)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (thirteenth)
It’s a problem to boil it down to at least one shock as a result of there have been so many on a roster bursting with younger expertise. However we’ve to go together with Stützle in his second NHL season, shifting over to the centre place from left wing after three, after which 4, of Ottawa’s 4 resident centres went down with accidents. Now, it’s now not a query of the place Stützle performs however IF he’s going to change into the Senators No. 1 centre or No. 2 behind Norris. Stützle is actually extra flashy and dynamic than Norris, whereas Norris has proved himself to be a constant objective scorer, particularly on the ability play, the place he has seven objectives. The trio of Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson was a chemical pressure till Batherson (high-ankle sprain) after which Norris, went down with damage. The membership hopes the Norris shoulder damage shouldn’t be severe and is taking each precaution. The event of Stützle, and his willingness to play a two-way sport and change into a robust faceoff man is big as a result of it drops Shane Pinto (recovering from shoulder surgical procedure) into the 3-hole, the place his all-around sport offers Ottawa true depth down the center. Colin White then turns into both a too-expensive No. 4 centre or may slide up and play wing. A difficulty for one more day.
The Senators have been planning to be ready to play significant video games down the stretch, with an outdoor shot at making the playoffs for the primary time since 2017. As a lot as we are able to clarify away the frustration by how sick gamers have been with COVID in November, and the way accidents have since taken out 4 forwards from the highest two strains, these developments don’t take away the frustration that the workforce and its followers received’t be watching life-and-death video games in March and April. It was totally disheartening to see the Sens – and Murray – get off to a sluggish begin once more when everybody vowed they have been going to keep away from a repeat of final yr’s awful begin in a compressed schedule.
Greatest query for second half
Who stays and who goes on the March 21 commerce deadline? The Senators have a number of pending UFAs, principally at ahead, the place the likes of Nick Paul, Tyler Ennis and Zach Sanford may generate curiosity from groups searching for playoff depth. Anton Forsberg is one other pending UFA, and he may very well be helpful as goalie insurance coverage. Veteran forwards Chris Tierney and Scott Sabourin and D-man Josh Brown are additionally out there. Veteran defenceman Nick Holden may have been a key buying and selling chip, however he just lately signed a one-year contract for subsequent season to assist nurture the Senators incoming expertise on the blueline, together with Jake Sanderson, Lassi Thompson and Jacob Bernard-Docker.
Essentially the most intriguing identify of all is winger Nick Paul (who “does all of it»). His is a heartwarming story of a participant who spent 4 seasons within the minors earlier than nailing down a roster spot in Ottawa as a 24-year-old. Paul turns 27 the day earlier than the commerce deadline, can play any ahead place, is beloved by teammates and Senators head coach D.J. Smith, however could be a strong addition to any playoff-bound workforce. Paul needs to remain in Ottawa and the group want to hold him, however except the value is Sens-friendly, Paul will “do all of it” for a contender this spring.