Sens Notebook: Better D Leads to Two Wins

Over the last week, Ottawa played three games. It started out poorly, losing 7-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers, but two victories since put the Senators on their first winning streak of the season.

Following the Flyers loss, their third in a row, the players held a 20-minute meeting in the dressing room. Having surrendered 14 goals in their last two losses at home, the players and the coaching staff spoke of the need to re-evaluate their effort and their execution of the system. It must have worked; against Columbus and Winnipeg they gave up a combined four goals. While neither the Blue Jackets nor the Jets are known as a high-powered offense, being able to play better team defense was an area the Sens could take some positives from.

“A solid effort by everyone,” said Chris Phillips. “It wasn’t anything fancy… it was a simple game plan and we executed it with a lot of effort.”

“We worked really well together tonight and we battled together and did the little things it takes to win the game,” goalie Craig Anderson said after the Winnipeg victory.

The Columbus win was one you don’t see often. Trailing 3-2 in the final minute, Ottawa was able to score twice in 31 seconds to tie and then win the game. A Sergei Gonchar shot from the point was tipped in by Milan Michalek, giving the Sens the victory with five seconds to go.

“It’s a great feeling obviously,” a jubilant Gonchar said in the dressing room. “Not just for us but probably everyone in the building felt the same way. That was a great game, we stuck to the plan and it shows great character.”

Peter Regin out, Mika Zibanejad decision to come

For the second time this season, Peter Regin has injured his shoulder, the same shoulder that required surgery to repair an injury last spring. Did he come back to soon? Was it fully repaired in the first place? Regin had enjoyed a strong camp, and when he got into the lineup, he centered the most consistent line for the Sens (with Chris Neil and Nick Foligno on the wings). Jason Spezza is clearly the top center on the team, and the second line spot was up for grabs. Regin had claimed it. But with him out, who moves up in the order?

Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa have auditioned for the role, but neither has made a compelling case for the job. Zibanejad has played eight games, and picked up an assist. His minutes have fluctuated depending on the game. But with Regin out, some feel that will give the Senators management more incentive to keep Zibanejad around for the season. His numbers so far haven’t really warranted him remaining in Ottawa. However, there isn’t a lot of experienced organizational depth down the middle. Da Costa is playing fourth-line minutes, and Zach Smith isn’t a top-six guy. That leaves Corey Locke (playing in Binghamton) and Zibanejad. We should have a clearer picture later this week.

Jason Spezza stepping up

Through six games, Spezza had five points. In his next two, both wins by Ottawa, he had two goals and four assists, and he averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time. When the players held their meeting, some of the veterans talked about playing better and leading the way. Spezza must have taken that message to heart. He has been consistent at both ends of the ice, and seems to fit into the style of play the coaching staff is looking to play.

“We are finding ways to win the game,” said Spezza. “That is what Paul (MacLean) has been preaching, to stick with it, and we will find a way.”

The staff has shown confidence in their star center, and he is rewarding them with his play. He takes key faceoffs and has been matched up against other teams’ top lines. And he has helped lead his team to two important victories.

Ottawa has two home games in the next week, and two on the road. Fans will get a clearer picture by November 1 which direction this team will take this year.

Tuesday at Carolina
Thursday vs. Florida
Saturday at NY Rangers
Sunday vs. Toronto


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