Tampa had a decent start to the season. They came out of October in a 4 way tie for 2nd in the Flortheast before going on a 4 game tear to start November to pass Toronto for first in the East. They were far exceeding preseason expectations that placed them as a team struggling to make the bubble.
Then... disaster. Steven Stamkos goes into the goal post and breaks his leg. Their superstar, the piece their team is currently built around, out long term! Oh woe is them, expect them to sink in the standings. 'Tis a lost season! A narrative Senators fans are somewhat familiar with.
Not so fast...
Sure, they're not leading the Eastern Conference anymore, so they've definitely declined a bit. But as of today they still have a firm grip on the 3rd spot in the division, and are hot on the heels of the second place Habs. Part of the reason for that is their possession game (the vertical line is the Stamkos injury).
So, once the early season fluctuations levelled out, it's been in an almost steady growth without even a blip after the Stamkos injury. It seemed to stabilize right around 50% for a bit, but they've seen strong growth over the past 6 games. It really shows up in the rolling 10 game averages.
Part of their success, like the Habs, lies in goaltending. Ben Bishop is posting career numbers, and is 4th in the league for save percentage. And like the Habs, this brings up the same concerns of sustainability. It's not outside of the realm of possibility, but it's not something that can be relied on either.
The 10 game rolling average is very high right now, and certainly can't be sustained at that level. But the overall average has mostly been increasing, with the one big dip after the first 10 games coinciding with their western road trip to Phoenix and California. And if that goaltending does decline back to more average levels, their skaters might just keep up the momentum.
And the seemingly fast track recovery that Stamkos has going on won't hurt their chances either, another narrative Sens fans are familiar with.
They're a team where the individual parts are all having their ups and downs, but so far when one part has a down, there's a decent chance another part has been able to cover for it. We saw that first hand when the Sens outskated them in Tampa, but Martin St. Louis put on a clinic in how to be a game changer.
- Peter reads things, then tells us if he thinks we should read them too [S7S Book Club]
- Here are some previews for tonight to tide you over until the best one gets posted here [TSN] [NHL] [Sens Extra]
- Jeremy Milks looks at the help Spezza needs from MacLean [Black Aces]
- Jared Crozier looks at what he terms the "Cody Ceci Conundrum" the team finds itself in [SenShot]
- Prediction panel for tonight. Peter says we win, so... uh... well, let's hope his record gets better tonight [Sens Extra]
- Another article about Ceci and his first NHL goal, with a great quote - "When I go home to sleep, I've got a Sens rug and a Sens jumbotron light in my room," Ceci says. "I don't know if it's time to change that or what. It's getting a little weird." [Sens Extra]
- Kerry Fraser looks at the Tom Wilson hit on Brayden Schenn [TSN]
- And here is that hit (video autoplays) [Sportsnet]
- Gord Stellick recollects on Christmas and Roger Neilson [Sportsnet]
- If you missed it in the comments yesterday, Down Goes Brown has the venn diagram of hockey hate up on Grantland, with a special guest appearance over on the far right about half way down [Grantland]
- Steve Simmons makes a case for why fighting must go, which I did not expect to ever see in a Sun paper [Toronto Sun]