Essentially, the Senators finished their regular season in remarkable fashion. They were an astonishing 23-4-4 in the last 31 games of the season. Back in February, Ottawa was 14 points out of a playoff spot. There were five teams in their way, obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. But now, with the dust settled and the playoff pictures set, it’s clear that the Senators were simply the hottest team in the sport down the stretch.
“What an unbelievable run,” Senators forward Kyle Turris said. “Now the fun part begins.”
The fun will begin with the Senators facing the New York Rangers in the first round and one has to imagine this has the makings of an epic matchup. Ottawa will be a house of fire going into the post-season and the Rangers will certainly have their hands full.
But for now, it’s worth looking at exactly how the Senators got to the dance in the first place.
Any discussion about Ottawa has to start with goaltending. Andrew Hammond has a record of 21-1-2, a .941 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average. Those numbers are insane. What’s more, in 23 starts he’s allowed two or fewer goals 18 times. He only allowed more than three goals twice and had three shutouts.
Given his play, the Senators have had the chance to win every single game.
They’ve also had some structural changes, like the addition of head coach Dave Cameron. The club has gone 32-16-7 since he took over the post in December of 2014 and they’ve responded well to his system. They are stronger in the neutral zone and they play a much better possession game, two factors that will certainly serve them well in the playoffs.
Ottawa has also received some serious individual efforts, like the play of defenceman Erik Karlsson. He leads all defencemen with 33 points and can make things happen with extraordinary speed.
Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone have been leading the youth movement for the Senators. The two of them have combined to score 10 of Ottawa’s 37 game-winning goals and have seen ice in big moments. Hoffman put up 27 goals on the year, first among NHL rookies, and Stone has 64 points including 26 goals.
With plenty of depth and a hot goalie, look for the Senators to be a dangerous hockey team in the playoffs. The Rangers will have their work cut out for them and Ottawa will have an awful lot of momentum. It should be a wild ride.