Six games into the season, the Senators were an embarrassing 1-4-1. Fans and media had a field day noting how terrible the team was, GM Bryan Murray told the world that he was looking into making trades to shake up his roster, and people started to assume the team had already missed the playoffs.
Just a few weeks later, the Senators are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and now sit 7-6-1. What can explain this drastic turnaround in the team's fortunes? Well, there are a few things.
1) Brian Elliott
After a less than stellar start which saw him letting in weak goals on a nightly basis and sit with an .843 SV%, Brian Elliott has found his groove in the Ottawa net. He's won six of his last eight starts, only allowing three or more goals three times in that span (and he's hardly to blame on those nights it happened). More nights than not, he's been among the best Senators on the ice, making key saves to keep the team in the game during their defensive lapses.
2) Peter Regin & Alex Kovalev
These two both got off to poor starts, but have been much stronger recently (partly due to the chemistry they've found on a line with Jason Spezza). Regin had one point in his first eight games; in his last six games, he has six points. Kovalev also had only a single point in his first eight games, but four goals and six points in his last six games.
3) Points from the blueline
The Senators anticipated a high-scoring blueline with the addition of Sergei Gonchar, but that didn't happen to start the season. Lately, however, the blue-line has found its touch, with two defensemen (Gonchar and Erik Karlsson) among the team's top four point-getters. Gonchar, in particular, has quietly been racking up the points -- he had only a single assist after his first five games, but nine points in his last nine games, including a couple of goals.
4) Remembering how to score goals
When I did Silver Stats on October 25th, Ottawa had a 2.0 goals-per-game average, which was 29th in the league. The Senators have improved that to 2.57/game, an admittedly mediocre 19th in the league, but it's still a vast improvement. In their last six games, the Senators have had three or more goals five times, including two five-goal games.
5) Weak competition
In all honesty, this is likely the single biggest factor to explain the Senators' rise up the standings. With all due respect to the fans of the teams the Senators have beaten since their 1-4-1 start, these opponents have not been challenging ones. Out of the Senators' seven victories this season, only one has come against a team currently sitting in a playoff position (Montreal). The other victories? Carolina, Florida, Phoenix, Buffalo, New York Isles, Toronto. Not exactly the cream of the crop.
6) David Hale
Senators' record without David Hale: 1-4-1. Senators' record with David Hale: 6-2-0. That's a scientific fact. Adding David Hale is this year's firing Eli Wilson!
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