Looking back on past Senators starts

The lone bright spot for the Ottawa Senators in this still-young season has been goaltender Pascal Leclaire. If he's not joined by some more players stepping up, and soon, the Senators could be in real trouble, real fast.

You guys have all heard of the Pittsburgh Penguins, right? Pretty good team. And they've also kicked off the season with an 0-2 start, even if they haven't looked quite as bad as the Ottawa Senators have looked so far. But the bad start has PensBurgh looking back on season-starts of the past, trying to put this year's in context. So I figured what better way to understand where the Senators are now than to do the same?

2009-10: 1-1 record in first two games, 5-2 in first seven
Not a bad start, and the win over the Maple Leafs made it more enjoyable. Some of the good was lost with a few losing streaks later on, but made up for with one 11-game winning streak, and Ottawa finished the season with a 44-32-6 record, qualifying for the playoffs as the fifth seed. They pushed the Eastern Conference quarter-final to six games, but lost to the Penguins.

2008-09: 1-0-1 record in first two, 2-5-1 in first eight
The Senators faced off against the Penguins in Stockholm to start this season, and came out with a very solid three of four possible points. They went on to lose nine of the next fifteen back in North America, chewed up their second coach in as many seasons, and not even the improved work ethic under Cory Clouston was enough to get Ottawa back in the playoffs. They finished with a 36-35-11 record.

2007-08: 2-0 record in the first two games, 14-1 in first fifteen
To kick off the best start in franchise history, the Sens won back-to-back games against the Leafs, and proceeded to light up the league for the first two months of the season. Then things fell apart, the team fell back to earth, John Paddock was fired, and the Sens limped into the playoffs with a deceptively impressive 43-31-8 record before bowing out in four straight to the Penguins.

2006-07: 1-1 in first two, 2-4 in first six
One of many seasons starting with a home-and-home series against the Leafs, Ottawa won on the road and then lost when they returned home. And lost four of their first six games, part of an up-and-down season where Ottawa finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 48-25-9 record. As bad as it looked in the first six games, Ottawa went on to surprise people around the league and have their best playoff run yet, eventually losing to the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup Final.

2005-06: 2-0 in first two, 19-3 in first 22 games
Undoubtedly the best regular season the Ottawa Senators have ever had, and arguably the best team they've ever iced, started the season off right in October 2005. The team put up a 52-21-9 record, winning the division, but lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the Buffalo Sabres.

2003-04: 1-0-1 in first two, 5-1-1 in first seven
A good start to a respectable season, the Senators went 43-23-10-6 and made the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They drew the Leafs as their opponents, though, and Patrick Lalime's struggles combined with Jow Nieuwendyk's trick-shots helped the Leafs win in seven games--and prevented the Senators from finally slaying their playoff dragon.

2002-03: 1-1 in first two, 3-4-1 in first eight
The Senators' President's Trophy-winning season didn't start with an overly impressive record, but finished with the Senators in first overall on a 52-21-8-1 record. They took out the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but--after a huge comeback when down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals--couldn't take out the New Jersey Devils. The Devils went on to beat the then-Mighty Ducks in seven games, and win the Stanley Cup.

2001-02: 1-1 in first two, 3-6-1 in first ten
Sandwiched between a couple of division-winning seasons, the 2001-02 campaign was likely saved by a ten-game unbeaten streak running through late October through November; without it, Ottawa would likely have been hard-pressed to make the playoffs. As it was, they got in, and beat the Flyers in five games before falling--once again--to the Leafs in seven.

2000-01: 1-0-1 in first two, 6-0-3 in first nine
The Senators' start in October 2000 set them on their way to a division title and a 109-point season, but didn't help them one bit in the playoffs. Ottawa dropped in four straight to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

*****

As seems obvious, it's impossible to know from the first two games how a season will turn out. The Senators have gone undefeated in the first two and then missed the playoffs, as they did in 2008. Or they could go 1-1 in their first two but lose four of their first six, and then go on to have their most successful season in franchise history. This year, an 0-2 start isn't going to help anyone rest easy, but it's important to realize that there are still 160 points available for the Senators this season. If they don't wake up soon, though, those points will quickly fade away; falling too far behind the pack in the first two months of the season, while not impossible, sets you up for a very tough road, as the Senators learned in 2008-09.

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