When the Ottawa Senators moved some pieces around at the trade deadline, little did they anticipate the recent results. Six players were traded away with only one, Craig Anderson, coming back in return.
When you consider the way this team played with high priced veterans, adding three or four young players to fill the void was not expected to go as well as it has.
There have been a few factors which have led to Ottawa’s improved play this March, including their goaltending.
Trading Brian Elliott for Anderson was one of the best transactions Bryan Murray has made as general manager of this team. Anderson — who recently signed a four-year extension with the Sens — has won eight games and compiled two shutouts while posting a save percentage of .942 and a goals against under two. For a team sitting in a lottery position, those stats are pretty impressive.
But it isn’t just Anderson. Curtis McElhinney was plucked off of waivers to help solidify the position and giving Sens prospect Robin Lehner a chance to return to the AHL. McElhinney, who has been a career backup, has posted very solid numbers himself. His goals against is under 2.50, and his save percentage is .920.
An injury to Jason Spezza on Boxing Day put him out for a month and a half. Losing your best player for that length of time is never a good thing, especially when a team is looking at making a run in the second half of the season. In the 25 games since he returned, Spezza has 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists), and he’s been doing it without his two main wingers in Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, both of whom missing significant time themselves with injuries.
A pleasant surprise has been the Senators’ emergence of youth. Bobby Butler, Eric Condra and Colin Greening have played a combined 72 games this season with the big club, yet their play has allowed the Senators coaching staff to play them in prominent roles. Butler and Greening have played first line minutes with Spezza while Condra has been given the opportunity to step into a penalty killing position and get consistent minutes on the third line.
With only a handful of games left, the Sens are in a position to get a high draft pick this year. Winning is always important and always the goal of the players. But the more they win, the further away they will get from ending the season in a lower spot. The lower they finish, the better their chances of getting one of Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog, who are considered the three best draft eligible kids.
The players will tell you, they have little interest in which pick the team receives when the Draft Lottery takes place in a couple of weeks. The way they have played of late, it is evident winning is their only concern.