Senators Ups and Downs: Early Season Panic Edition

New year, new ups and downs! You may or may not have heard, but the team has struggled at the start of the year, going 0-2-0 in two games. In doing so, they have shown the effort level of slugs, and as such have some fans quite worried. As Peter pointed out yesterday, caution is advisable when trying to read into the start after just two games. With that in mind, let's look at the early risers and fallers so far.

Biggest gains: Pascal Leclaire
Far and away Ottawa's best player after two games, Leclaire seems to have answered questions about his abilities with two strong performances in back-to-back games. These performances have been utterly wasted by his teammates, who have provided him the same level of support a pee wee team might be able to. As a consequence, his numbers (0-2-0, 3.54 GAA, .905 SV%) don't tell the story. If the team could provide him with some offensive and defensive support, we'd see a much truer reflection of his level of play. That's not to say that he's magically fixed all his problems -- he still has a long way to go -- but he is playing well enough to win. The team in front of him is not. And that's an astronomical leap from where he was last year.

Biggest losses: Chris Phillips
Sitting at a team-worst minus three, Chris Phillips has not looked like a defensive defenseman after two games. In fact, he looks like a player who is trying too hard in his own zone. While this is basically true for every single defenseman right now, Phillips is highlighted because steady play is his hallmark, and we're not seeing it from him. Playing with young Erik Karlsson (who looks like he's in a sophomore slump) doesn't help matters, but this is a lifetime Sen with an "A" on his sweater. Phillips faces Alex Ovechkin and the high-powered Washington Capitals Monday night. He has to be better, and there's no time for excuses.

(Read the full team's rundown... )

Goalies Trend Notes
Brian Elliott Elliott had his chance to lock up the top job in preseason action and was unable to do so. He may get a start to spark the team, but until Leclaire falters, he's probably not going to see much playing time.
Pascal Leclaire See "Biggest gains."

Filip Kuba Still injured. The Senators could probably use his leadership on the backend. (Note that this was the exact same thing we said in the last Kuba update.)
Chris Phillips See "Biggest losses."
Sergei Gonchar Gonchar is a minus-two, has one assist, no powerplay points, and Ottawa has yet to score with the man advantage. Has not looked like the defensive liability he's supposed to be, but has not provided the offensive spark he was brought in for either.
Brian Lee Well, there's not much to say here. Lee is neutral because expectations for him are low, and he has lived up to them in every way possible. Should be scratched once Kuba returns.
Erik Karlsson As previously mentioned, Karlsson has the early signs of a sophomore slump. Still as confident and skilled as ever, he's forcing plays instead of making them. Maybe it's unfair to expect so much from him so soon, but he set those expectations with his play last year.
Chris Campoli Campoli has not looked out of place playing with Gonchar. He hasn't contributed much, but he hasn't been a total failure either. Has showed he can put up points in this pairing, but is probably better suited for play in a third pairing with Matt Carkner.
Matt Carkner Lost a fight with Colton Orr. Looked helpless defending a 5-on-3. Not marked as a faller because the faults are not his: The team is asking him to do more than he is capable of doing.

Jason Spezza Tied for the team lead with one goal (sigh). Missed the first game with a groin injury. Probably rushed back. Team looked lost offensively without him, but unfortunately looked lost offensively with him. Still, his contributions when completely healthy will be much more noticeable.
Alex Kovalev Same old Alex: One of the team's best players in one game, but invisible in the next. Isn't he playing for a contract? Left the Leafs game with an injury.
Daniel Alfredsson When the team struggles, Alfredsson tries to do everything himself. At age 37, he isn't quite capable of doing so anymore. Owner of several missed scoring chances, including two glorious opportunities late against Buffalo. Worries that he looks slow may be misplaced -- Alfie has never been fast; it's his intelligence that makes him a good player. He is not thinking the game right now -- he is trying to force it. The results are noticeable.
Milan Michalek H.G. Wells is his favorite author.
Mike Fisher Another player who has not been contributing. Danced with Kris Versteeg, and that's about it. Where is the high-flying, hard-charging Mike Fisher?
Nick Foligno Earned his spot on the second line through strong preseason play, but has nothing to show for it. It's not for lack of trying -- Foligno skates hard every shift. Effort tends to lead to goals, so it's worth it to watch him closely in the coming games.
Chris Kelly Ottawa's third line has been their best through two games. Kelly has one goal so far, and is once again earning his paycheck. It's unfair to ask for any more from this guy.
Chris Neil Neil is his typical goony, wrecking ball self out there. Well-earned assist on Chris Kelly's goal. Fought Mike Brown to try and pump up his teammates.
Jarkko Ruutu Ruutu's been his usual pestful (Yeah, pestful. I made it up.) self so far, and he's added an assist in the process. Good penalty killing as always. Another rare Senators player who is doing everything asked of him so far.
Peter Regin Regin has done what he could with limited time. Centered the second line with Spezza out and Fisher promoted, but didn't look comfortable. May get a shot on the second line if Kovalev misses time.
Zack Smith Doesn't give a crap. Was a forecheck all by himself in the first period of the Sabres game. Tried to talk the entire Leafs bench into fighting him. Needs to play his role specifically -- his game gets noticeably weaker if he strays from his responsibilities. Watch for growing pains.
Jesse Winchester Tied for the team lead with seven hits, Winchester is doing everything asked of him as a fourth line player.
Ryan Shannon Shannon had a chance to show what he could do in the first game with Jason Spezza out of the lineup, but the answer was "not much." 4:06 in ice time against Buffalo, and scratched against Toronto. He has been beaten out by the harder working Winchester and Z. Smith.

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