What a difference an 11 game winning streak can make.
About a month
ago, the Ottawa Senators were being written off, and I admit, I was one
of those doing the writing. But a great run can change the perspective
And right now the Sens can do no wrong. Getting a few key players back
from injury is a good start. In the span of this streak Ottawa
welcomed back forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek
and Jesse Winchester. And while it is never good to use injuries as an
excuse they certainly are a factor when some of the lesser lights are
thrust into a more prominent role. The other side of that equation is
integrating those guys back can sometimes affect the team chemistry.
“Any time you get guys like Alfie, Spezza or Milan back the team
responds well and gets a little bit of jump,” said Winchester. “When
you come off an injury you are always a little bit more excited… and
that adds to the teams energy.”
I have noticed this team doesn’t seem to preoccupied with this current
streak. Sens fans will remember the start to the 2007 season, when
they went 15-2 and crashed and burned. Obviously it is great to be
winning but the players seem more concerned with playing well.
“The progress is what is important and it is easy to see,” Captain
Daniel Alfredsson told the media, a day after picking up three assists. “Some small bad habits can creep in and that is what we have to guard
against and I think we have done a really good job of that so far.”
The coaching staff has been pleased with the amount of chances they are
giving up, limiting teams to an average of about 10 a game. The
players too are noticing that their efforts as a team are paying off.
The last time this team gave up more than 2 goals in a game was almost
a month ago in Atlanta.
Part of the reason continues to be the play of their goaltenders,
particularly Brian Elliot.
After winning eight in a row last season,
Elliot set a new franchise record with a personal best of nine in a row.
Not an overly emotional guy, he never seemed to get too low during a
rough patch earlier this year. Conversely now that he is on a good
run, he doesn’t seem too fazed by it.
“It doesn’t really matter too much to me,” Elliot said after the win
over Vancouver. “One game at a time and you don’t worry about those
things at all. It ( the streak ) is the consequence of winning a lot
of games i guess.”
“I think Brian has adjusted his game slightly,” coach Cory Clouston
said on Friday morning. “I made a comment when he was struggling that
this was going to make him a better goaltender in the long run and I
truly believe that. The adversity he faced then is helping him right now.”
It is hard to fault a team when it is going as well as it is. There
are areas that can be improved and one area is scoring. Having the
confidence in your defense is good but getting goals is just as
important. Ottawa has been fortunate to get timely goals, but their
power play, ranked 30th in the league, has only two goals in the last five games.
“We have to work on the offense a little bit more,” Alfredsson said. “We have to be a little bit better at putting the puck in the net.”
One player not having trouble finding the range is centre Jason
Spezza. The native of Toronto has now scored a goal in each of his last eight games.
Known more as
a set up man, Jason missed a few games due to an injury. Each night he
watched the games and saw what it was he could be doing better to help
“I am feeling pretty healthy now and the rest probably did me some
good,” Spezza said. “Just trying to get the puck on the net a little
bit more and it is going in.”
Nobody is expecting this team to win out, but a streak like this has
given Ottawa breathing room in the playoff race. During the Vancouver
game the Senators started announcing playoff ticket information during
the game. A month ago you would have thought the organization was
delusional for making that type of statement.