Senators Ups and Downs: Week 14
Ups and downs is a feature that looks at the individual performances of the Ottawa Senators during the past week.
Is this real life? The Senators won every game they played last week? I have it on good authority that's called a winning streak. True to form, the team made most of those wins harder than they had to be, but this team has had so many concurrent problems that it would have been impossible to try to fix them all at the same time, as head coach Paul MacLean has found out all year long. So, the Sens are far from perfect, and that fact has to be kept in mind as we start to believe in them again. Instead, what we're seeing is a still-flawed team that has talent enough to overcome those flaws as long as there aren't too many of them. It seems as though, over the past month, they've slowly been correcting those flaws so that they don't snowball into an insurmountable obstacle. I have it on good authority that small choices are the right way to correct what doesn't work. Still, when you win every game, the overall trend is up. It will be interesting to see if Ottawa is really changing things, or if this week is just another mirage.
Biggest gains: Cory Conacher
So many options this week. Clarke MacArthur. Mika Zibanejad. Even Erik Condra! We chose Conacher because out of that group, there was no one that really needed to get going more. Outside of the studly line of MacArthur-Turris-Ryan, the Senators haven't had a lot of consistent scoring. Conacher was brought in to fill a top-six/top-nine role. And he hasn't done it very well. Now, playing with his friend Zibanejad, he's suddenly got six points (2G, 4A) in his last six games. He had eight (2G, 6A) in the rest of the season. And just like that, the Senators have two scoring lines. And just like that, the bottom six has been able to contribute some goals, too. Chemistry isn't the be-all, end-all that some make it out to be, but there's definitely something to be said for players succeeding more by playing in roles appropriate for their skills. Conacher's sudden success has allowed head coach Paul MacLean to normalize his player usage--at least compared to the wild fluctuations we were seeing early in the year. We're not sure how long Conacher's play will last, but as long as it does, we suspect his teammates will also continue to find success.
Biggest losses: Robin Lehner, we guess?
Tough to find anyone who's really trending downward at the moment. Maybe you'd pick one of the guys fighting for that sixth defense spot, but that thing is such a carousel it's hard to really single anyone out. Can't fault Neil or Spezza for injuries. So, Lehner gets the short straw, primarily because he didn't really get a chance to play. And it's not like the opportunity wasn't there prior to this week. Craig Anderson's game has improved, but is still far from flawless. But it's been good enough. We're not huge fans of "good enough," and we secretly would have liked to have seen Lehner seize the starting job before this little winning streak. That opportunity has gone bye-bye for now, and we're not sure it will come back barring injury. In the scheme of things, it won't matter, because Lehner has said all the right things about being the backup, and ostensibly has been the backup all year, and now remains the backup--so technically, he's getting a down arrow for merely doing what he's supposed to do. In that context, the evaluation is totally unfair. But we view Anderson's winning streak as a half-season missed chance for Lehner.
|Craig Anderson||Spectacular at times, maddeningly frustrating at others, Anderson gave his team a chance to win every game this week. First time we've been able to say that all year.|
|Robin Lehner||See "Biggest losses."|
|Cody Ceci||No points or beautiful game-winners for Ceci this week, but that doesn't really matter. He's stabilized the whole defensive corps with his... stabilizing play.|
|Joe Corvo||He's not awful, but we really don't understand what he brings that Wiercioch doesn't. And Wiercioch is part of the team's future, so...|
|Jared Cowen||He and Karlsson had a pretty shaky outing against Montreal, but other than that, they're getting the job done.|
|Eric Gryba||No real complaints about the Gryba-Methot pairing, but we're not big fans of Gryba's shooting ability.|
|Erik Karlsson||Only two assists this week, but Karlsson is more than points. Just watch him get back to break up a breakaway without drawing a penalty.|
|Marc Methot||Probably hates Z. Smith for stealing all of his goals.|
|Chris Phillips||We don't feel the team looks any different with Phillips in the lineup than with him out of it, and we can't decide if that's good or bad.|
|Patrick Wiercioch||Back to being a healthy scratch.|
|Cory Conacher||See "Biggest gains."|
|Erik Condra||Playing more confidently this week. If he played every game like he did against Montreal, he'd be a fan favorite.|
|Colin Greening||We're big fans of Greening's game recently: Hold on to the puck, and keep going towards the net. We'd love to see him paired with Spezza again.|
|Matt Kassian||Picked up his first ever assist, and it was a legit hockey play.|
|Clarke MacArthur||Three-game goal-scoring streak now, including two consecutive GWGs. Strong contender for biggest gains. Karlsson really rejuvenated his mojo.|
|Milan Michalek||A goal and an assist playing alongside Conacher and Zibanejad. Suddenly isn't a third wheel.|
|Chris Neil||Hurt himself trying to check Alex Ovechkin--at least he didn't get speared in the junk this time.|
|Jean-Gabriel Pageau||We'd give him a down arrow except we have to keep his linemates in mind.|
|Bobby Ryan||Just one assist this week for Ottawa's sleepiest skater. He'd probably have done better if he were more intense. Hey, why is Bobby Ryan the opposite of a teepee and a wigwam?|
|Z. Smith||He must love playing with Methot--he doesn't even have to touch the puck to score goals!|
|Jason Spezza||Remains out with a hip flexor injury. Might not have a spot in the top six when he gets back.|
|Mark Stone||Finally looked like the player we've watched in Binghamton.|
|Kyle Turris||Another goal and another assist. Decent week for T. (Third week in a row we've been able to say this!)|
|Mika Zibanejad||Wow. Seized the 2C spot with a vengeance in Spezza's absence. Turned Conacher into the player we thought we were getting from Tampa Bay.|
Special thanks to our friend winterion at Japers' Rink for our icons!