When the 2015-16 NHL schedule came out, everybody knew...December was going to be awfully hard for the Ottawa Senators. The first two months have been relatively easy for the Senators, and it partially shows in their record of 12-6-5. However, "Deathcember" will be a real test for Ottawa. They haven't been playing that great as they are giving up the most shots against per game in the league, but there are positives.
Most importantly, at least they got plenty of points when they were supposed to. They already sit in a good spot in the Eastern Conference at 2nd in the Atlantic Division, and they set themselves up well for the rest of the season. While their style of play is unsustainable over the course of the season, you would also think that their possession numbers start to get better as well. Once Dave Cameron took over last December, Ottawa started to pick up, so hopefully they can figure things out around the same time once again.
Typically the NHL standings are more or less decided by American Thanksgiving, and the Senators are sitting pretty as of now. Things can obviously change, but by purely looking at points in the standings they have got the needed results. But since they have been getting badly outshot every single game, December will be a make or break month. If they are still solidified in a playoff spot by the end of the month, then that's fantastic news. On the other hand, I'd like to see some real improvement, because we've seen teams like Calgary, Colorado, Toronto, and Minnesota in the past ride the percentages all year long until they can't anymore. I really hope Ottawa isn't that team, so their underlying numbers (29th in CF%) need to get better or else I'll be even more worried than I am right now.
Anyway, let's look at the Deathcember schedule. In October Ottawa played 11 games, and in November they played 12. But in December they have a whopping 15 despite having a 4-day Christmas break. Here are some reasons why this month will be incredibly hard:
- They will have to travel to Florida twice to play the Panthers and Lightning both times in just two weeks.
- During the first trip to Florida, they play in New York two days prior, then after playing the Lightning they'll have to travel back up to Montreal two days after that. New York, Florida, Tampa Bay and Montreal is not a fun four-game road stretch.
- 9/15 teams they play are in a playoff spot, but two of the non-playoff games are against Tampa Bay. Yeah, I think they're essentially a playoff team. So the only "easy" games are against the Flyers, Devils, and two against the Panthers, although those are both in Florida.
- Compared to (essentially) 11/15 playoff-worthy opponents in December, in October they played just 5/11 games against playoff teams, and 6/12 in November.
- Just look at these teams Ottawa has to play: Tampa Bay (twice), Washington, San Jose, Chicago, Montreal, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Los Angeles. Hell, even Boston (twice) can be included in that. I'm expecting Ottawa to get outshot plenty, but I'll be happily surprised if they are not. Those are all very good teams, and a record of around 5-5-1 would go a long way to keeping their playoff spot.