It's not that the Ottawa Senators are bad. It's that they keep setting themselves up to fail.
Mirroring their start against the San Jose Sharks, the Senators again gave up a goal in the first minute, this time leaving Corey Perry alone in front of the net. Starting goaltender Craig Anderson had no chance at all. Things got worse after that, as the defense allowed two breakaways in the next few minutes. Anderson was able to stop both of those, but Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot allowed Ryan Getzlaf to take over the crease unimpeded, and that was the end of Anderson's night.
Last season, the team frequently relied on great goaltending to win games. This season, they are routinely hanging their goalies out to dry. Anderson was not at fault on either goal, but head coach Paul MacLean needed to change the momentum somehow.
That wasn't the only change MacLean made, as he also chose to break up his lines. Bobby Ryan moved to play with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, while Colin Greening moved up to support Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Cory Conacher joined Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Erik Condra. That generated some momentum, but it was quickly sapped by a Chris Neil penalty for tripping. As they have seemed to do this season, Ottawa's problems compounded as a Marc Methot cross-check on an apparently fragile Teemu Selanne put the Senators on a 5-on-3.
However, in a change of patterns, Ottawa killed both penalties, and even generated a strong shorthanded chance completely on the will of Michalek. His effort created a 3-on-1 rush for the Sens, but even though he was able to feather a pass to the crease, the Sens were unable to bury it.
Thankfully, as the game settled, the Sens were able to earn a little momentum back. They were able to score a goal before the end of the period with Turris finding a wide open Ryan by the Ducks' goal mouth. It's already obvious that Ryan knows how to find scoring areas, and it seems like his teammates are adapting to finding him as he adapts to using that skill in Ottawa's system. That's about the only bright spot from this road trip so far. The period would end with the game still in reach, and Ottawa only down 2-1.
During the first intermission MacLean probably just asked the team, "You guys know you're playing hockey, right?"
Apparently they did not--the team promptly gave up a goal to Corey Perry, who ripped a shot past a helpless Lehner. The defense continues to give up open-ice one-time shots to undefended players, who have the luxury of stepping into perfectly teed-up passes. Unsurprisingly, those shots are going in.
Then, even The Lehner was overwhelmed as Nick Bonino scored a short-side goal with a top-corner snipe. Lehner couldn't do any more than he did, as almost all of the net was covered. It required a perfect shot to beat him, and that's exactly what Bonino took. And immediately following that, a blocked Karlsson shot led to a Ryan Getzlaf breakaway. Karlsson was able to get back, and Lehner was able to fight it off, but the onslaught continued, leading to--wait for it--ANOTHER PENALTY!
During the second intermission, MacLean probably just asked the team, "You guys speak English, right? Do you understand the words I am saying?"
Perhaps most telling that they may not have is that the Senators didn't draw their first penalty until 45 minutes into the game. Perhaps the team is not getting fair calls, but perhaps they're simply not doing the work necessary to earn them. This game took place less than 24 hours after the previous one, so it's understandable they'd take tired penalties, and be too tired to draw them, but no one else is going to help them. They have to help themselves--and for the second night in a row, they did the opposite. Excuses aside, they did the opposite.
Speaking of tired penalties, Andrew Cogliano managed to draw one shorthanded by driving the net right around MacArthur, and that's the kind of night it was for Ottawa. Late in the third, thinly-veiled Sens Zero Neil took another penalty, for roughing, killing any faint hopes the Senators had for a comeback.
The team gets Monday to think about what they want to do before taking on the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
Sens Killer: Shots
The Ducks set a franchise record with 24 shots in the first period. That should tell the story right there. But the story didn't end there. They proceeded to set a new franchise record for shots in a game with 56. They only had 11 official shots in the third, but with the way the night was, that's probably a mercy number. For a possession team, the Senators are getting killed on possession numbers. They could start both Anderson and Lehner in goal, and expecting to win games giving up 56 shots is unrealistic.
Honorable mention: Penalty Killing
I only bring it up because it's been so horrid through the first four games, but the Senators held the Mighty Ducks without a power play goal in this game. The PK wasn't exceptional, or even great, but they did manage to do their job competently. Milan Michalek stood out as he generated shorthanded pressure more than once. Too bad he was unable to do so at even strength.
Sens Killer: Execution
Credit where credit is due for the Ducks, but the Senators made it easy for them tonight. The Ducks didn't have to do more than wait for a Senators mistake to let the puck wind up on their sticks. And they did. And it did.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
Without Lehner, this game would have been called off early due to the NHL's little-known mercy rule.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Ryan
He scored the team's only goal, and is clearly trying to create offense. But he can't do it alone, and that showed tonight.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Turris
Same thing here. It doesn't help that Turris won just 4 of 17 faceoffs. That's not going to get it done.
Dishonorable Mention: Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Stephane Da Costa
Pageau played just 3:02. Da Costa played 9:55. This is a pattern we have seen before, and it is the harbinger of change.
Dishonorable Mention: The Defensemen
Yes, all of them. They were all terrible tonight, to a man.
Sens Zero: Chris Neil
With 4 PIMs tonight, Neil was beyond useless--he was an active detriment to his team. Expect a red arrow tomorrow morning.
Sens Killer: Corey Perry
Perry could have easily had a hat trick tonight if not for some outstanding saves from Lehner. Frankly, Perry could have beaten this Sens team by himself tonight. 1-on-5 against the Sens in this game, smart money would have been on Perry--he outscored his opponent 2-1.
A Final Thought
5 games out of 82 is just 6%. It's undeniable that the Sens are not playing well, but if this were occurring in January, it would merely be a slump instead of the end of the world. Hockey is a streaky game, and while it's tempting to overreact to what we're seeing any time it's not in line with our expectations, we should also be aware of the realities of the situation.
Whenever the league gets to them.