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OTT defeats FLA; the glimmer of hope continues

March 28, 2023, 8:24 PM ET [1 Comments]
Sens Writer
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchive
Guest Writer: Ken Hawkins (aka khawk)

The Senators put together a relatively decent 60-minute winning effort on home ice vs. the Florida Panthers on Monday night. That said, it never really felt like FLA got out of the gate, and the early first-period goals seemed to put them back on their heels. Special teams effectively decided the game, as the OTT power play went 3-for-4 vs. the FLA penalty kill unit that’s ranked in the bottom-5 of the league. The game was billed as the 2nd divisional match-up between the Tkachuk brothers this season, and Brady got the better of his brother Matthew on the strength of a 1G-1A performance. Stutzle, DeBrincat, and Pinto also scored for the Senators, bringing them notably closer to 40G, 25G, and 20G milestones respectively. Mads Sogaard deserves kudos for giving the team another good start in goal and now has a save% of 0.943, 0.931, and 0.941 in his past 3 starts.

Statistically, last night was also a “clean” 2-point regulation win for the Senators vs. a rival wild-card hunt opponent. It continues their recent trend of success against wild-card contenders, and they’re now 5-0-0 since the all-star break in head-to-head match-ups with NYI, PIT, DET, and FLA. Their recent 3-3-1 record is also a bit deceiving, as it includes wins against PIT, TB, and FLA, an OT loss to TOR, a 2-1 loss to BOS, and the incompetence of the COL game officiating. These are all games vs. high-quality opponents, and their losses in that stretch have been effectively by just 1G (excluding 1 EN goal). You have to believe this is precisely the kind of “meaningful game” experience that Dorion had hoped the young core would experience at this point in the season.

Speaking of which, I was quite struck by the post-game interview with Stutzle, where despite the win and his ascent into the elite scoring ranks of the NHL, he was visibly upset and critical about his recent play. TSN also highlighted this in a story they posted today, and it really demonstrates the extent to which he already grasps the importance of consistency of effort and performance to the team’s success. Tkachuk quickly praised Stutzle and claimed he was being hard on himself, but it reflects very well on the innate sense of maturity and accountability in Stutzle’s game.

Longshot Eastern Wild Card Hunters

There’s no question that the Islanders (85Pts) and Penguins (82Pts) have a substantial edge in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings. Moneypuck recently updated the odds of NYI/PIT making the playoffs as 88.6% and 83.4% respectively. However, late-season wins/losses can change these odds quickly, and there are still 4 teams in pursuit. A slump by either NYI/PIT could very well leave the door open to whichever of these 4 teams can put together a late-season challenge.

In terms of the remaining schedule for each, the next couple of weeks looks like this (GP, Pts, Last-5GP-Record, Remaining Schedule):

FLA (74GP, 79Pts, 1-4-0) - TOR, MTL, CBJ, BUF, OTT, WSH, TOR, CAR
BUF (73GP, 77Pts, 2-2-1) - NYR, PHI, FLA, DET, CAR, NYR, NJ, OTT, CBJ
OTT (74GP, 77Pts, 3-2-0) - PHI, TOR, CBJ, CAR, FLA, TB, CAR, BUF
WSH (74GP, 76Pts, 1-3-1) - NYI, TB, NYR, MTL, FLA, NYI, BOS, NJ

Statistically, Moneypuck shows FLA as the only team with a realistic shot of pulling off the upset, with a 23.1% chance of making the playoffs (vs. 2.8%, 1.7%, and 0.6% for BUF, OTT, WSH respectively). However, to make a serious late-season run you need a spark, and of the potential hunter teams the Senators have the best record in the past 5GP, are the only team to play their next 2GP at home, and may have the benefit of G Cam Talbot returning to the lineup at a crucial time. It’s also worth noting that PIT is only barely above .500 in the 2nd half of the season, so there could well be a few “meaningful games” ahead.

Thanks for reading!
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