Silver Nuggets: How good can the Senators defence be?

I linked to this article by Don Brennan yesterday, but I felt it warranted further discussion. It was actually a pretty positive outlook by Brennan this time. To paraphrase Brennan, in the Senators' wildest dreams, the defensive trio of Erik Karlsson, David Rundblad and Jared Cowen could rival that of the 1970s Montreal Canadiens. Montreal had Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard. Ignoring the fact that the last time the Senators were compared to the 1970s Canadiens, things didn't turn out too well, how good can these three be?

Erik Karlsson has already been an all-star in his second season, and no it wasn't because every team has to have one as there were a few teams without any representation. He has six points in five games so far and while he has struggled defensively at times, his last game against Washington could possibly have been his finest ever in his own end. That is not to say he is a rock in his own end, he will have bad games again, but you can see him improving. He already plays every situation and can play up to 30 minutes a night if needed.

David Rundblad has only played three games, but there have been already some incredible moments from him as well as his first career point. From his attempted overtime breakaway flip to Milan Michalek, to deking through the Washington team, Magic Number Seven is loaded with skill. Most of the mistakes he has made are due to lack of experience. Once he gains more experience, he could be even better than Karlsson. He has a great shot, great vision and crisp passing. His stickhandling has already left fans in awe. He is also bigger than Karlsson and can lay out the hits. Karlsson is faster than him though, but both of these players can change games. As someone who loves creative and risky hockey, Rundblad could very well become one of my favourite players.

That brings us to Jared Cowen. He is the least flashy of the three, but he is big and strong. Cowen the Barbarian has been a calm, if unspectacular presence at the back. He does seem a bit slow at times, so I do worry if he can play against a really quick top line, but he can use his size to get away with a lot of things. I can see him eating up a lot of minutes on the first pairing, whether it is with Karlsson or Rundblad. He hasn't yet gotten any power play time, but as he gains more experience and gets more comfortable handling the puck, I hope to see him play in all situations. I would be slightly disappointed if he tops out strictly as a defensive defenceman. Still, whichever one of Karlsson or Rundblad doesn't partner Cowen on the first pairing, that player is going to cause serious havoc against lower competition. Alternatively, if the Senators find another defensive player to play with Cowen, then Karlsson and Rundblad could have me drooling.

Before I get to the links, if you want to go to a Senators game in December with us, click here for my post from yesterday. The current leading candidate is Vancouver on Saturday, 10 December but I will make a decision over the next few days. Email me at the address on my profile here after reading the post.

Links after the jump.

Tonight's game

  • Forward lines for tonight: Greening-Spezza-Zibanejad, Michalek-Da Costa-Alfredsson, Foligno-Regin-Neil, Smith-Konopka-Condra. Defensive pairings are: Phillips-Lee, Kuba-Karlsson, Cowen-Rundblad. (Ottawa Sun)
  • Craig Anderson returned to practice but will be a backup due to personal reasons. Alex Auld makes his second start. (Bruce Garrioch)
  • Game preview from James Gordon. (Senators Extra)
  • Everyone except Gordon predicts a 4-2 game tonight with four predicting a Flyers win by that score and three predicting a Senators win by that score. Gordon predicts 5-0 Philadelphia. (Senators Extra)
General Sens News
  • More on the Senators two rookie defencemen. They both enjoyed playing a lot of minutes on Saturday in Washington. (Ottawa Citizen)
  • If you take Paul MacLean at face value, he still feels Mika Zibanejad could stay in the NHL this season. If the Senators are to have a successful run in the next four games, it might tip the scales in favour of Zibanejad staying. (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Sergei Gonchar hasn't spoken publicly yet about his treatment at the home opener, but his agent is very surprised and finds it absurd. J.P. Barry agrees Gonchar has to play better, but strongly disagrees it is due to a lack of effort of caring, pointing to Gonchar's hard training over the summer. Senators coach Paul MacLean can't understand Gonchar being the focus of all the criticism either. Personally, I haven't noticed any lack of effort from Gonchar in the last three games. (Ottawa Sun)
  • Paul MacLean thought Nikita Filatov was one of the best players at the start of camp but that he didn't get better. Nichols takes a look at the different opportunities being given to Filatov as compared to Mika Zibanejad. (The 6th Sens)

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