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Five Thoughts for Friday

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As the Senators approach their holiday break, I have some things on my mind.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Senators managed to make it to the holiday break on a high note, winning four game in a row. But even as we enter what is normally a lull in the NHL season, there is much for Sens fans to look forward to.

1) Ottawa Senators at the World Juniors

For many people, the holiday season is about more than just family gatherings and eating too much. It’s about putting our hopes and dreams on a group of 16-19-year-olds, as the World Junior Hockey Championship kicks off on Boxing Day. Personally, I love the World Juniors. The tournament gives us an opportunity to watch high-intensity, international hockey featuring players we don’t see every day. It’s a chance to see some Senators prospects in action before they join the big club. Who didn’t love watching Mika Zibanejad score Sweden’s golden goal in 2012? And once again, Sens fans have a lot to watch for in this year’s tournament.

Trevor recently wrote about the Sens prospects set to appear in this year’s World Juniors. Of course, after Team USA cut Logan Brown and Alex DeBrincat on Thursday, the list became a little shorter (as most people became a little more confused).

Most notable among the prospects you can expect to see, is Thomas Chabot. The 19-year-old defenceman (selected 18th overall by Ottawa in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft) will serve as assistant captain for Team Canada. Expect to see lots of him throughout the tournament, as he takes on some heavy leaderships responsibilities.

With 20 points (5G, 15A) in 14 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs so far this season, Chabot has seen some success as of late. But after a disappointing exit from the Senators in October, he’s likely anxious to show what he’s capable of, especially on a larger stage. It will be interesting to see what he can do under the pressure that comes with the World Juniors.

Returning to Team USA this year is forward Colin White (21st overall pick by Ottawa in 2015). He won Bronze last year’s World Junior Championship, and is expected to play a significant role on his team again this year.

Fans will also have a chance to see newly signed forward Filip Chlapik as he suits up for the Czech Republic.

So as you sit down with your friends and family (or get a break from them) to watch some World-Junior hockey this holiday season, take note of some future Senators on the ice. You might be watching the early stages of a promising career.

2) Hanging with the best

It’s no secret that the month of December was going to be a challenge for the Senators. With match-ups against some of the best teams in the league, fans new this was going to be a test for the team. And while the California road trip left much to be desired, the Sens played arguably one of their best games of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

If it wasn’t the team’s best game of the season, it was certainly the most entertaining. Mike Condon’s performance alone was enough to make most Sens fans happy. He stopped 23 of 26 saves, and while this might be pretty standard for your average goalie, it was his performance in the third period that made all the difference.

When Chicago, the best team in the league, pressed hard to salvage the game in the final frame, Condon stood tall and kept Ottawa alive. He even saved a penalty shot attempt by Marcus Kruger in the final five minutes, when the score was 4-3. If that’s not game-saving, I don’t know what is.

In a season where no one really knows whether or not to trust the success of this team just yet, it’s games against top teams that help determine where the Senators sit. And if the match-up against Chicago was any indication, this team might just be alright.

I’m not saying they’re contenders, or even that they’re going to make the playoffs, but we now know that they can keep up with the best in the league (for a game, anyways). If anything, it may have helped Ottawa determine how they compare to the best, and give them something to work towards.

3) Is this the real Bobby Ryan?

Bobby Ryan’s time here in Ottawa has been somewhat mixed. With a $7.25-million cap hit, the expectations attached to him are understandably high, and he hasn’t quite reached them yet. After getting off to a slow start this season, Ryan has four goals (five points) in his last four games. Sure, some of those goals weren’t pretty, and he may have gotten some help from his elbow, but he’s had some luck recently that allowed him to score at a rate closer to what’s expected of him.

While many people have looked for more from Bobby Ryan than what they’ve seen during his time in Ottawa, I think overall he’s been pretty good. With over 50 points in his two previous seasons here, he’s maintained a decent point production year over year. Although he hasn’t been able to reach the elusive 30-goal mark yet, I think he brings more to the table than just goals.

During the last few weeks where he was dealing with hand injuries, we saw some unbelievable passes from Ryan (mostly to Kyle Turris). He clearly has solid play-making abilities, and has generated good chemistry with Turris in particular. While he’s not quite on pace to reach 50 points again this season, we all know he scores in bunches, so I don’t have much doubt he’ll reach that mark again.

He hasn’t necessarily been the saviour here in Ottawa (we do have Erik Karlsson, after all), but I do think he deserves a little more credit than we tend to give him. Let’s be honest, he would have received the same contract amount on the open market if the team were to let him reach free agency, so the amount he’s being paid was almost unavoidable at the time of signing.

But I want to know what you think. Will Bobby Ryan maintain the same pace we’ve seen recently? Or is this just a hot streak?

4) Mike Condon exceeding expectations

When the Sens acquired Mike Condon for a 5th-round pick earlier this season, most fans didn’t think much of it. Some even wondered if sacrificing the pick was worth an obvious back-up goaltender. But Condon has proved to fans and management that he was well worth the risk (if you could call a 5th-round pick much of a risk).

Condon’s career is a story on making the most of circumstances. He took over for an injured Carey Price in Montreal, and entered an incredibly high-pressure situation. What happened in the remainder of that season can hardly be blamed on Condon, as we all now the performance that Montreal gave as soon as Price got hurt.

Condon then joined Ottawa under very unfortunate circumstances, as Craig Anderson takes some time to be with his wife and family. Since then, Condon has put up some decent numbers, and (at times) has been one of Ottawa’s best players.

So far this year, Condon has registered a .919 SV% and 2.38 GAA in 13 games. There have been times, such as the third period in Chicago on Tuesday, where Condon kept Ottawa alive in key moments. His numbers may not reflect it, but he’s made a number of game-saving saves while wearing a Senators’ jersey. With Hammond now out with a high ankle sprain, Ottawa’s goalie situation just became a little more complicated. But Mike Condon has proven to be a solid choice in net for the Sens.

5) Daniel Alfredsson night

It may seem early, but we are now less than one week away from the night in which Daniel Alfredsson’s number will be retired in Ottawa. Sens fans have been looking forward to this day for a long time, and it’s almost here! So I wanted to share some thoughts on Alfie.

Alfie’s number 11 will be the first retired number for the modern-day Ottawa Senators franchise (unless you count Frank Finnigan). This marks a significant day for the organization, as they now have a legitimate reason to raise a number to the rafters, so that it may forever live in glory (too dramatic?). As a young franchise, there aren’t a lot of historic moments that fans can hold onto. But Alfie’s number retirement gives fans a little piece of modern-day history.

Personally, I have a number of favourite Alfie moments. Of course, there is the overtime goal to send the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals. I know this is a very typical answer, but this was arguably the biggest goal in franchise history. And why wouldn’t it be scored by Daniel Alfredsson? We all remember where we were when that goal went in, and for that reason, it’s my favourite Alfie moment.

Honourable mention goes to Alfie scaring the daylights out of Colin Greening by smashing his stick, then stomping on a water bottle, on the bench. It was during the 2012 first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers. Up 3-2 in the series, the Sens had the opportunity to eliminate the Rangers that night. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get the job done, and Alfredsson was not pleased. He took his anger out on an unsuspecting water bottle, scaring his bench-mate (Greening) half to death.

There are many more to choose from, but these are just a few of my personal highlights from Daniel Alfredsson. What’s your favourite Alfie moment?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year! :)