A Cure For What Ailed Ya?
With a near term record of 2-5-0, what ails the Sens is losing.
Let’s be clear, 3-5-0 is not much of an improvement, but considering the reverse possible outcome, a home loss to the hated Leafs, it’s a very big deal.
Had the Sens lost that game, in any fashion, it would have spooked the already cagey fans into all out panic mode, myself included.
The fact is, this team has one foot in the grave.
It pains me to say it, and I’ve by no means given up hope, but being under .500 at the 24 game mark is a serious problem.
A VERY serious problem.
Now some are going to accuse me of being a band wagon fan, whatever. If I were to point to this game as some sort of “renaissance” of the team, I’d be coined a homer.
I’m hoping the truth lies comfortably in the middle, and that is my belief. This team is better than their record, I absolutely believe this to be a fact. I think the early season woes were as a result of key players coming off of surgery, a key new face needing to find their comfort on a new team, and a lack of preparation due to a shortened pre-season and too few practices.
Add to this some key injuries (Spezza, Kuba and Mich) and you have a team ripe for the pickings.
Once the team did start to get things rolling, then came the tragedy within the Senators family. On the whole this sapped the team of the necessary focus and energy to win in the highly competitive NHL.
These may be “one off” variables, cloaking the real ability of this team, and I believe this to be true.
The problem is, I do not believe the Sens to be a dominating team, even if at their best.
This means, at their best, they will still lose their share of games. By being 1 game under .500, 24 games in, can an “average” team play their way out of the hole?
Well, to try to answer this, let’s look at the competition above them in the standings.
Washington (P% 0.708), Philadelphia (0.680), and Pittsburgh (0.640) are all, IMHO, post season locks.
This leaves Boston (0.619), Montreal (0.646), Tampa (0.604), Atlanta (0.543), the Rangers (0.580) and Carolina (0.500).
Based upon the above P%, projected through the remaining games, here is how the standings will look come April;
WSH – 116
PHI – 111
MTL – 105
PIT – 104
BOS – 101
TBL – 99
NYR – 95
ATL – 89
CAR – 82
OTT – 78
But I believe the following teams are vulnerable to a drop in the standings.
MTL – This team baffles me. I really do believe they are playing well above their ability, but the fact remains they’ve been doing it consistently for this entire season, and in last seasons play-offs. If they keep playing as they are, they’re a lock, and honestly, they’ve shown no reason to doubt them on the ice…but I still do. That being said, if the Sens post season hopes are pinned to passing the Habs, it is a faint hope, at best.
TBL – Stevie Y has been a miracle worker, and Stamkos has all but walked on water. C’mon, it just can’t last…can it? I’m betting no. But, this doesn’t make them pretenders either, and the Sens will have to have a solid final 2/3rds to catch Tampa, even if they do fall off of their current pace.
BOS – Who are these guys, the near post season misses of last season, or the solid post season bets of this season? With the imminent return of Savard I’m betting the later, and I simply do not see the Sens displacing Boston from the post season rankings but, with the return of Savard may come some turmoil, and lost players, making for a slim, albeit unlikely, chance.
NYR – Like Ottawa, this team is predictably unpredictable, making them a possible play-off pretender. To me it comes down to King Henrik, if he’s on fire, the Rangers will be in, if he stumbles, or gets injured, they’re vulnerable.
ATL – This team has experienced such a roster change past history is a poor predictor for the future. That being said, the fact remains they are not a particularly talented team. I believe they will be in a battle for a post season berth but vulnerable to being passed by the Sens.
CAR – Like Atlanta, this team has gone through some roster change, but is performing beyond their pre-season expectations, even at 0.500. The Sens can pass Carolina in their charge toward a post season berth.
But it comes down to the Sens winning. Who stumbles is irrelevant if the Sens don’t start earning the points needed to take advantage.
Yes beating the Leafs was great, but it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance, and had the Leafs even a semblance of offensive talent the score would have been much closer, if not resulting in a loss.
If indeed the play versus PIT and TOR are indications of this team leaving behind what has ailed them, great, but I remain skeptically optimistic.
There are 16 games between now and Jan. 1st, which will bring the Sens to the 40 game mark, or virtually at the half-way point of their season.
I believe the Sens will have to be at a 0.575 P% come Jan. 2nd in order to be legitimate post season contenders.
So there’s the truth. Think what you will, good or bad, but at the end of the day the Sens have to win, no matter our individual degrees of optimism or pessimism.
45 pts. on Jan. 2nd…or bust.