Going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs without Filip Kuba and Alex Kovalev was already going to be a struggle. Losing Milan Michalek to a torn ACL only further affects the Ottawa Senators' depth: they are now missing two top-six forwards and a top-six defenseman.
Just to show how important these players were to the Ottawa Senators:
Milan Michalek: 3rd on team in goals, 3rd in powerplay goals, 2nd in shooting percentage, 5th in points.
- Alex Kovalev: 5th on team in goals, 3rd in assists, 4th in points.
- Filip Kuba: 5th on team in assists, 8th on team in points, 1st in points among defensemen.
That's a lot of offense to be missing when you're facing a team that can score as easily as the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it particularly makes the team rely even more on the top line for goals. A crueller man than myself might say that the ACL tears of Michalek and Kovalev have left the Senators with only one leg to stand on -- but that's just mean. So, who are the main reinforcements that Ottawa can call on to fill Michalek's empty spot in the lineup?
|2009 - Ryan Shannon||66||5||11||16||-12||20||1||0||1||0||109||4.6|
|2009 - Jonathan Cheechoo||61||5||9||14||-13||20||0||0||0||0||117||4.3|
|2009 - Shean Donovan||30||2||3||5||-4||40||0||0||0||0||24||8.3|
As hard as all three of these guys work, none of them pose a goal scoring threat that comes anywhere near what Kovalev and Michalek provide. This means that when the Senators' second line hits the ice, the Penguins will just have to focus on taking away the shot of Mike Fisher, making it very hard for him to get any goals. Because even when Michalek and Kovalev were not producing late in the season, they opened up avenues for Fisher to score.
All three players lost to injury also further hamper the team's powerplay. With Matt Cullen, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, and Erik Karlsson on the first powerplay unit, who is left for the second? Chris Campoli, Peter Regin, and... Chris Kelly? Jarkko Ruutu? I realize they scored last night, but the Senators can not expect the third liners to put up consistent goals. I said a few weeks ago that secondary scoring was not an issue for these Ottawa Senators -- well, after losing two of their top five goal scorers, it certainly is now.
Ryan Shannon looks to be starting tonight, which should be interesting. Shannon is the fastest of the three and the best stick handler and passer, but he may feature the worst shot. If he doesn't perform according to Clouston's standards, you can be sure that Cheechoo, Donovan, or perhaps a different black ace will suit up for Game Three.