We've got 5 games in the books so far (that's over 10% of the season!), and it's been a decent start. How can the Senators do through the 4 games this week?
Game 6 - Capitals at Senators
What a dismal start for the Capitals. As Sens fans know from last year, adjusting to a new system can take a few games. It was the 7th game before Ottawa started finding their groove last year, this is game 6 for Washington. They're a better team than their record shows. The win against Buffalo shows improvement, but getting out of a funk isn't like throwing a switch.
Despite the shaky start, never count out the Caps offence. They've had a habit over the years of scoring a few quick goals to get back into a game, and with a more offensive minded system coming from Adam Oates I expect that to continue.
Braden Holtby was solid during the playoffs last year, but has been weak out of the gates this year. Could the new system be exposing deficiencies in his play, or is it just the start of the season rust? It seems he has lost the confidence of the new coach, who has gone with Michal Neuvirth for 3 games in a row. Expect that to continue against Ottawa.
Game 7 - Canadiens at Senators
The 2nd game in as many nights for both teams, Ottawa will have the slight advantage of not travelling. With the back-to-back situation, it's hard to say for sure if we'll see Carey Price or Peter Budaj starting on Wednesday. If they're going to split the starts I suspect they'll save Price for the divisional game and start Budaj against Winnipeg, but they could go the other way or start the red-hot Price for both games. I like our chances much better against Budaj, but Price isn't invincible either.
The Canadiens skaters have improved after a rough start against Toronto. They aren't helped by the loss of Max Pacioretty for 3-4 weeks, but they managed 4 goals and a win against the previously stingy New Jersey without him. Here's hoping Winnipeg takes it to them the night before.
Game 8 - Senators at Hurricanes
Ottawa rings in February against the Hurricanes. Pre-season rankings put them anywhere from 8th to 19th in the league, and their 2-2-0 record puts them in the lower end of that range so far.
The chemistry between Alexander Semin and his line-mates doesn't seem to be quite good enough yet to start showing up on the scoreboard, but has shown potential. They'll have 3 days off after Monday's game against Boston before the Sens visit them on Friday to rest and work out what kinks they've still got, so expect them to come out strong (maybe for the first time this season - they've yet to score in the 1st period). The Canes play in Philly the next day so there is a chance we'll see Dan Ellis instead of Ward. But I hope not - Cam Ward has been a sieve so far with a .845 SV% and 4.71 GAA, while Ellis was spectacular against Buffalo and solid in 2 periods against Florida.
Game 9 - Senators at Canadiens
Not much difference between this one and game 7 this many days ahead. I can only really note the change of venue, that Montreal will have played the day before while Ottawa will not have, and that it's 3 more days for the Habs to get P.K. Subban into the lineup.
Wednesday's result may determine which goalie the Sens will face in this one.