Five Thoughts for Friday, March 14th

Outlook is a bit bleak

1. Most certainly, a playoff spot is rapidly becoming a complete and total pipe dream. The Senators managed 4 total points in games against the disastrous Canucks, Oilers, Flames and Jets before adding one more against the lowly Predators. It was a stretch in which they quite simply needed more wins. With each passing loss, each squandered point, the likeliness of the playoffs shrink further and further. It doesn't help matters that teams like the Blue Jackets are hotter than Hades. The out of town scoreboard has become a rather depressing thing to look at. Detroit, Columbus, New Jersey, Philly - all these teams seem to be winning. Not only that, they seem to get into three point games WITH EACH OTHER! No, I think at this point, most fans have accepted that the playoffs are all but impossible. This team is just not winning enough, and other teams are. And time, as they say, is running out.

2. But it does put us fans in a weird spot. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say that the reason each loss hurts so much is the fact that our 1st round pick is securely in the pocket of Bob Murray in Anaheim. There seems to be a familiar pattern in NHL fandom. Either you cheer for your team to win every night, check the out of town scoreboard, look at the standings and watch your favourite team as they enter the playoffs. In that scenario, at this time of year, you are looking at potential playoff opponents. Strengths, weaknesses, injuries, line match-ups. Who has the edge, and where? OR you look at your team and decide they won't make the playoffs. The out of town scoreboard becomes helpful for fantasy hockey only. Instead, you dive into the top prospects for the upcoming draft. Who are the sleepers? Who could potentially fall to your favourite team? What does the depth chart look like, and how soon could this 18 year old fulfill all our wildest dreams?!

As an Ottawa fan right now, we are in NHL fan limbo. And that is what makes this so hard. We are not Columbus fans, cheering our boys to a spot. We are not Flames fans, looking to see who will be joining Sean Monahan as the future of the club.

And yet, we laughed and laughed as Leafs fans went through this process for two years after the Phil Kessel deal. Here's to hoping Bobby Ryan can be half as effective for us, as Phil has become for them.

3. Alright, that is enough of the negative stuff. We have too much negativity surrounding this club. Let's focus on some positives. A very ill young man, at Saint-Vincent hospital had a personalized, signed print of Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson stolen from his mother's car before it could be given to him as a gift. Honestly, the depths some people sink to makes me very sad. However, there is a nice ending to this story. After being told about the theft, Our Captain took it upon himself to fix this. He rallied the team, made everyone sign a Senators jersey, and apparently he and Karlsson have sent along a number of other personalized items. Reporters on Twitter mentioned that Spezza "made it his mission" to fix this issue. With the beating Spezza has taken in the media, and on Twitter since being named captain, it is really great to see him getting some positive press. Fixing this probably took no more than 20 minutes out of his day, but it is really great to see that he did so.

4. Speaking of Jason Spezza, I choose to focus on the 6 points in two games rather than the uninspired back check in overtime against the Preds. I have historically been a Spezza apologist for the simple reason that no forward we've ever had can do the things offensively that he can/has done. In fairness, he and Ales Hemsky put the team on their backs (see what I did there?) in the third period and willed that game to overtime. Now, if it had been Daniel Alfredsson with three third period points, including the tying goal with only a couple minutes left, we'd be talking all week about what a huge display of leadership we had just witnessed. Since it is Spezza, the third period is ignored, the back check is all people remember. It is a shame. In the early years of the Alfie captaincy, he wasn't universally loved or praised (this is my favourite Amelia piece of all time, read it if you don't believe me), so maybe the fans need time with Spezza. Or maybe he's been the whipping boy of grit-loving fans for so long that they can't see leadership in him. And that is a shame, because he's a special player.

As an add-on to this thought: Spezza and Hemsky forever. Man, they look incredible together.

5. It being March Break (my first, as a teacher), I was in town and able to attend the Nashville-Ottawa game in person on Monday. Living out of Ottawa for much of the last 6 years has limited the number of games I have been able to attend, so it almost felt weird being there. Some things though, as they say, never change. The stale between-period, between-whistle entertainment has not changed. The people around you in the stands pining for Chris Neil to be Captain, and for Jason Spezza to be bought out, has not changed. The sellout crowd on a Monday was a nice change, though more than a third (by my eye) had left before the Senators made a game of it - and that is no change.

That said, it was a really fun game to be at. Sure, the first two periods were akin to watching paint dry. And sure, they lost. But you know what? I was entertained. They put up a fight. They clawed back. They created chance after chance in the third period. At times, Hemsky, Spezza and Karlsson made it look like the Globetrotters had shown up to the Canadian Tire Centre a little bit early. I left happy that I had been there to see it, and happy to have had the ability to go. It made me think about how, even though they can be the most frustrating team to cheer for, we are lucky to have them.

Have a great Friday, and a great weekend.

Go Sens.

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