The Senators did it. They proved every single so called “hockey expert” wrong and made the NHL playoffs with 3 games to spare. As we all know the Sens were predicted to finish last by most experts, including The Hockey News and were in the bottom five by 99% of analysts. Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson lead the way this season, but bounce back years by veterans Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Milan Michalek, Filip Kuba and of course Daniel Alfredsson also played a huge role and provided the drive and leadership for the newer players on the team to follow. I want to just say that Kuba has had an outstanding year. He is often overshadowed by his d-partner Karlsson, but having a year like he has is quite remarkable, especially after Sens fans were calling for his head last season. Kuba is the top non-Bruin in +/- at this point in the season with a +28, which is quite an improvement on his -26 last season!
Now that the Sens are there it’s time to assess their chances at putting it all together and winning the Stanley Cup. What a story that would be. Come from 30th on the power rankings entering the season to the Stanley Cup Champions. I for one am not closing the door on this possibility. Sportsbook 5Dimes.eu has the Senators at +4000 to win the Stanley Cup which is tied for 16th in the league along with the Coyotes (the Sabres and Capitals still have shorter odds than the Senators even though they haven’t yet clinched a playoff spot and the Stars are +4400 even while they are almost mathematically eliminated). Bet365 is a little bit kinder having the Senators at +2800, which is better than the Sabres, Capitals and Panthers and equal to the Coyotes. But if you want to bet on the Sens to win the Cup you should do so at 5Dimes.eu.
I agree that Ottawa is a huge long shot to win the Cup and if it all played out 40 times I would still likely be surprised if one of those times Alfredsson was receiving the Cup from Commissioner Bettman, but I do believe that have a better chance than many of the other teams in the hunt.
Bryan Murray said it earlier in the season that he was not ruling out a deep playoff run and he gave a great reason for this. The puck moving ability of Ottawa’s d-men. Erik Karlsson is the best combination of puck moving and skating for a d-man in the league as his regular season point total no doubt confirms. Gonchar is no slouch either and I expect him to bring his game to another level in the playoffs. Kuba is another player who can make that breakout pass and newly acquired Matt Gilroy has shown that he has the skating ability, now he just has to show some better decision making when it comes to jumping into the rush or trying to take on 3 opposition players rather than dumping and allowing his forwards to chase. If the Senators plan to go far their defensemen need to be on top of their game and I believe that their top 5 are extremely solid and if Gilroy can play within himself the Sens 6 D could be the top in the league.
As for goal scoring that will surely fall to Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, Kyle Turris and Nick Foligno. These five players have to put the puck in the net for the Senators in order for the team to win games. Jason Spezza will be a primary focus of opposition shutdown players, which means that Kyle Turris will have to step up and put up points for the Senators to win games. In the first round Zdeno Chara will surely be matched up against Spezza and everyone knows that Chara is the best shutdown defenseman in the game. I believe Spezza is shifty enough to matchup fairly well against Chara, but a lot of production responsibility will still fall to the Turris and Alfredsson line throughout the playoffs.
The Senators will be a tough out in this years playoffs if they can do the following things.
Senators Keys To Victory
- Karlsson, Spezza and Michalek continue production from regular season.
- Turris line steps up when Spezza line is shut down by superior defensemen.
- Gilroy plays within himself.
- Anderson gets hot.
- Less penalties than in regular season. (14.1 minutes per game – 2nd most in NHL)
- Power play has to start working again.