When the Ottawa Senators visited the Buffalo Sabres on 10 February, they had a record of 20-22-9 and were 14 points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot. Ottawa had two games in hand. Since then, the Bruins have gone 5-4-3 and the Senators have gone 10-1-2, which has reduced the gap to five points with Ottawa holding a game in hand.
A lot of it has been very unlikely, such as overturning a 3-0 third period deficit against Pittsburgh to earn a point. Or going 7-0-1 in a run of eight straight games started by career minor leaguer Andrew Hammond. Ottawa has also had the good fortune of having Jared Cowen suspended right before starting the western road trip. That forced Dave Cameron to put Patrick Wiercioch on the second pairing and helped shore up the club's defence. Chris Phillips was injured two games before Ottawa started their 10-1-1 run, and Chris Neil broke his hand in the game before Ottawa's last regulation loss.
So it has taken some good fortune with injuries and a suspension to some of the club's worst players, and a lights out performance from a minor league after both goaltenders were injured, but here we are. Ottawa has the chance to close the gap to three points with a regulation win tonight. I never thought this was possible, I can't imagine anyone did.
Here are the lines and pairings for tonight from Gord Wilson.
Hoffman - Zibanejad - Ryan
Michalek - Turris - Stone
Condra - Pageau - Lazar
Puempel - Legwand - Chiasson
Methot - Karlsson
Wiercioch - Ceci
Borowiecki - Gryba
How big is the game tonight?
Some notes for tonight:
- The Bruins play 11 of their last 17 games on the road. Six of those 11 road games are against teams currently on pace for 107 points for more. Ottawa is on the road for eight of their last 18. Four of those eight games are against one of the top teams in the standings. Two of those four games are later this week.
- Kyle Turris is 27th in points among centres, Mike Hoffman is 20th among left wingers, Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone are sixth and 20th among right wingers respectively. Mika Zibanejad is 50th among centres.
- Erik Karlsson is second in points by a defenceman but first in our hearts.
- Erik has 50 points on the season which is the same as the combined total of the other five defencemen playing tonight. Erik's next point will tie him with Chris Phillips for second most career points by a Senators defenceman.
- Ottawa is 11-4-1 when both Marc Methot and Patrick Wiercioch have played this season.
- The Senators have a score adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi of 52.0% since Dave Cameron took over. It was 47.7% in the first 27 games with Paul MacLean.
- Patrick Wiercioch is the only defenceman on the team with a zone started adjusted Corsi over 50% without Erik Karlsson on the ice. Wiercioch is at 53.6% in 328 minutes with Karlsson. Cody Ceci is at 48.4%, Jared Cowen 48.2%, Eric Gryba 48.1%, Marc Methot 47.5%, Mark Borowiecki 45.5% and Chris Phillips 41.7%.
Here are some stats for the two teams tonight. All stats are from NHL.com except Corsi and Fenwick are from naturalstattrick.com.
|Goals||Mike Hoffman||24||Brad Marchand||22|
|Assists||Bobby Ryan||34||Patrice Bergeron||29|
|Points||Erik Karlsson||50||Patrice Bergeron||47|
|Shots||Erik Karlsson||229||Patrice Bergeron||189|
|Average Ice time||Erik Karlsson||27:03||Zdeno Chara||22:55|