Senators Struggling out of the Gate

Three games, one point.  Not the start the Ottawa Senators were hoping for.

And for those fans ready to push the panic button, take a step back.  For now.

The Senators have not played good hockey, except for the one area that was considered a question mark.  Pascal Leclaire has probably been the Sens top player, which really isn’t saying much.

In the first game of the season the Buffalo Sabres had 29 shots on the Sens net after two periods. And it was a 1-1 tie. Many of the Sabres chances were in close, either right in front of the net due to miscues or coming down the wing with speed, going right around the Senators defence.

In the Battle of Ontario, the Sens never really stood a chance. They trailed 2-0 after one period, and had given up 31 shots after two. And again, many of the chances by the Maple Leafs were high quality.  Had Leclaire been off that night, it could have been worse.

On Monday, the Senators played in Washington. They were able to take the game to overtime, where they lost on Alex Ovechkin’s game-winner. Ryan Shannon and Jarkko Ruutu scored the Sens goals in the losing effort. It’s great to secondary scoring contributing offensively, if the top guys are getting points. Otherwise, you aren’t beating a top-tier team like the Capitals.

The problem in the first two games was lack of effort, lack of intensity and lack of cohesiveness. Basically lack of everything.

The top two lines weren’t producing but more importantly there didn’t seem to be playing together. Top centre Jason Spezza missed the opener with an injury, Daniel Alfredsson still wasn’t 100% while Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev were playing their first games since major “lower body” surgery.  Not to make excuses, but those players still are/were not in NHL game shape.

The defense looked slow and unable to step up and make a play coming out of their zone. The Senators were making too many poor decisions on the blue-line, either with the puck or with their positioning. In the first three games, they looked like they were still in preseason mode.

So why play preseason games, if you aren’t going to use them to get your players into top shape?  I understand the notion of seeing your young players and what they can do, but lets face it, 99% of them won’t make the top squad without a one way deal.

So why keep guys around for six or seven games, knowing they will start in the AHL or go back to junior?  Why aren’t those games used to get your systems in place, to get veterans an opportunity to get into game shape, and to get your team regular season ready?  Young players like Bobby Butler, Mike Hoffman and Patrick Wiercioch, if they get called up to the big team, will do so based on their play in the AHL.  Not from what happened in a game that occurred in September.

The Senators will round into shape, and they will play better. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Dropping too many points early in the season comes back to bite you at the end of the year.

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