Many people questioned the Ottawa Senators and their ability to approach the current NHL season during the off-season. They appeared to lose a lot of their talent in sending Chara away to Boston, losing Havlat to Chicago and dropping Bryan Smolinski to the Blackhawks as well. It looked like GM John Muckler was trying to piece together a team based on what was left, leaving many critics to wonder if the Senators would be able to ice a team that appeared to miss many key players and still have a reasonable amount of success.
Now the Senators are nearing the playoffs and are a lock for a playoff spot, sitting with a 38-23-5 record at article press time. Ottawa has an impressive 226 goals for, good for second best in the East, and boasts an impressive 22-11-2 record at home.
Ottawa did add to its nucleus this year and covered their bases rather well. One of their key acquisition was Edmonton-born Mike Comrie from the Coyotes. The 5’10 center would prove to be a valuable acquisition for the Sens as he played a key role in helping spark the offense of the team. Along with Comrie, Ottawa chose to add winger Oleg Saprykin at the deadline. Also from the Coyotes, Saprykin was charged with adding extra offensive depth to the Senators with his shifty play. The knock on Saprykin is his inconsistency.
The core of the Sens, however, would be their impressive offense. Led by captain Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa plays a run-and-run style of hockey that is rare in the East. Alfredsson’s been known to be a little lacking in the intensity department, but he still suits up for big games and still produces like a bat out of hell when he’s called upon. Currently, Alfredsson has 69 points with 23 goals.
Of course, the real offensive dynamo on the Sens is Dany Heatley. In fact, Heatley only gets better with center Jason Spezza dishing him the puck. He’s proving it, too, with a team-leading 45 goals and 45 assists. Heatley is the total package with gobs of size, reach and acres of skill. He also has a killer shot that he can release from anywhere.
Third in the superstar package along with Heatley and Alfredsson, Sens fans are very familiar with Jason Spezza. Typically the top line center, Spezza can have a tendency to play on the perimeter and avoid high-traffic areas. He still producers, though, with a quick pass through traffic or a great dish to the point on the power play. He’s tied on the Sens with Alfredsson with 69 points.
The remainder of the Senators’ forward squad shapes up nicely, with the aforementioned Comrie and Saprykin. To those two, Chris Neil adds toughness and grit, Peter Schaefer adds stickhandling ingenuity, Mike Fisher adds great two-way play, Antoine Vermette adds speed, Patrick Eaves shows a great penchant for defensive play and Dean McAmmond brings veteran experience.
The defense on Ottawa is as flashy and offensive as they come, led by Wade Redden who was good enough to help John Muckler forget all about Zdeno Chara. Redden, a true power-play quarterback, rules at both ends of the ice for the Senators and currently has 34 points. Along with Redden, the Senators depend on Andrej Meszaros, Tom Preissing, Joseph Corvo, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and Christoph Schubert to hold the fort.
Ray Emery is responsible for the goaltending for the Senators. With a GAA of 2.59 and an admirable save percentage of 0.915%, Emery brings his two-fisted play to the Senators after coming off of a backup season last year. He’s a classy rookie with lots of energy and puts his heart on the ice, night after night, for his team. Backing up Ray Emery is gifted veteran Martin Gerber.
With the right tools in the right spots, the Senators look to be a formidable threat in the playoffs and will likely not have to face the pesky Leafs in any round. For that reason alone, look for Ottawa to go far.