At the start of the week, the Ottawa Senators were seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the last playoff spot. The Leafs were starting a very tough stretch while the Senators were starting a very favourable schedule. Three games later, the lead has not shrunk but increased to eight points. After Ottawa lost 4-3 in a shootout, they are 13th in the eastern conference. They are eight points out of a playoff spot but only six points ahead of being 29th in the NHL.
[Game Summary] [Event Summary] [Faceoff Report] [Ice time]
The game didn't start well for the Senators with Erik Karlsson being called for tripping and the Leafs scored 39 seconds on James van Riemsdyk's 10th goal of the season. The Senators received a power play of their own but were not able to convert. Midway through the period on another power play (this would be a theme) the Senators tied the game thanks to former Leaf, Clarke MacArthur. Ottawa ended the period with 19 shots to the Leafs 12 and things were looking decent at 1-1 at this point.
The second period did not go as well. Phil Kessel scored his 22nd career against Ottawa in 44 games at the 3:05 mark. The goal should never have happened as there was a clear penalty by the Leafs on Zack Smith. Unfortunately for Ottawa, it was not called and the Leafs scored on the ensuing turnover. To make matters worse, Smith received two minutes and a ten minute misconduct for complaining. After that, there were another four minor penalties, plus two fighting majors for the rest of the period, in between which Jake Gardiner's first goal of the season made it 3-1. Some might complain about goaltender interference on that goal, but it was a good goal for me. Marc Methot had pushed van Riemsdyk into Anderson. This was the seventh consecutive game that the Senators have fallen behind either 2-0 or 3-1.
Things were looking down but Ottawa did not give up. Super sniper Erik Condra scored from the slot early in the third period and the Senators poured on the pressure. Halfway through the period, Ottawa scored its second power play of the game at the eighth opportunity. Erik Karlsson snuck in from the right point and although he mistimed his shot, it was enough to beat James Reimer. Chris Phillips took a late high sticking penalty but Ottawa managed to kill it off and send the game into overtime.
The Senators had their chances to win in the extra period but the game went to a shootout. Ottawa's shooters missed both shots and are now 0 for 10 this season in the shots. Craig Anderson could not make a single save and has been scored on seven consecutive attempts dating back to March 2012.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
Karlsson was really flying out there tonight. He played just under 33 minutes, including even over five minutes on the penalty kill. He had a goal, 9 shots and 21 attempted shots by himself. Some will point out that he was -2 on the night, but he was not at fault for either goal. Incredible performance by player 65.
Sens Hero: Mika Zibanejad
Probably the best forward for the team tonight. He had two assists, four shots and another six missed shots. He had the primary assist on the first and third goals.
- There are a lot of games left, I know that. At some point, Ottawa will win two or three games in a row and I will let myself believe. It might happen next week when we play Buffalo in back to back games. Anything is possible but I fear the gap is far too big. There is a large gap in points and a lot of teams to pass. SportsClubStats rates Ottawa's chances of making it at 14%.
- If it takes 95 points to make the playoffs (the Leafs are on pace for 96 right now), Ottawa has to go 32-16-4. That is the equivalent of a 107 points pace over 82 games. Is Ottawa capable of playing like a team competing for the #1 seed for 52 games? I don't see it.
- With the club having no first round pick, there should be little motivation to tank. But in a few weeks, we might see the team selling on Chris Phillips, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil and Craig Anderson.
- If there is a reason to cling to hope, it is that the Senators are playing well. They are losing games due to isolated mistakes rather than being outplayed for large portions of the game.
- Here are the Senators 5-on-5 Corsi close % in the last six games (most recent first): 53%, 60%, 54%, 62%, 60% and 52%.
- As a final note, I will be very happy to be wrong. I don't think we will make the playoffs but I will continue to hope until it is no longer theoretically possible.