Ottawa’s fourteen year captain, Daniel Alfredsson, shocked fans this past offseason by opting to leave the club during the free agency window. During his tenure as captain, Alfredsson was nothing less than a hero to the Senators’ faithful. He led the team to the playoffs eleven times- including both Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals appearances- while happily accepting below market value because of the team’s financial woes.
Apparently Alfredsson was hurt when Ottawa offered him significantly less than he had been ‘promised’ for his final year, and he subsequently signed a six million dollar contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The move polarized the Senators’ fan base into pro and anti-Alfredsson camps, but the majority felt spurned by his decision to leave.
With last years’ realignment, Ottawa and Detroit are now in the same division which makes Wednesday’s game doubly important. The top three teams from each division automatically make the playoffs, so racking up as many points as possible against inter-divisional rivals is vital. And more importantly, it will be the first time Daniel Alfredsson laces up the skates against the team he spent the entirety of his seventeen year career with.
Mediocre start not what the Sens had in mind
By all accounts the Ottawa Senators massively overachieved in last years’ campaign. The team was second in Team MGL (Man Games Lost), which included (amongst a slew of others) lengthy injuries to stars Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Craig Anderson. With a roster that at times looked more like the Binghamton Senators than the Ottawa Senators, the team managed to both make the playoffs and also defeat Montreal in the first round. The embattled squad even earned the moniker ‘Pesky Sens’.
This year the Sens are off to a 3-3-2 start, good for only sixth place in the Atlantic division. Thus far, Ottawa is allowing a preposterous 39.4 shots against per game, while responding with only 31.5 per game of their own. This is a trend that will need to change if they hope to reach the postseason again.
Wings can take first place in conference with a win
Detroit seems to be enjoying playing teams in their own time zone for a change. Their 6-3-1 start has them in the lead of the Atlantic division, and they’ve done well against some very good teams in the process. The Wings have defeated Boston, ended Colorado’s bid for an 82-0-0 season, and last night held San Jose-who are averaging a league leading 4.33 goals per game- scoreless in a 1-0 shootout loss.
The aforementioned Alfredsson seems to like his situation with line mates Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Thus far, Alfy has 9 points in his first 10 games and looking worth the six million that he was signed for.
The Rancheros of the Rectangular Reservoirs ...goalies
Last year Ottawa’s Craig Anderson led the NHL with a sterling .941 sv% and an equally remarkable 1.69 goals against. However, this year his numbers are down across the board with a .925 SV% and 2.88 GAA. Ottawa’s success depends on him playing better.
Detroit’s starter Jimmy Howard was top ten in both major goaltending categories last year, and seems up to task again this season. Additionally, backup net minder Jonas Gustavsson is 3-0-0 this year, which will give the Wings confidence to give Howard some breaks.
Ottawa needs discipline and organization to turn season around
A large part of the Senators’ early struggles revolve around their special teams. They’ve taken the most penalties in the NHL thus far, and seven out of the twenty three goals the team has surrendered have come on the penalty kill. On the analytics front, Ottawa’s overall puck possession has been very poor- I know math, gross.
Ottawa’s top line has been the team’s bright spot offensively this year. Their big offseason acquisition, Bobby Ryan, has played well along side line mates Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Ryan was brought in to replace the scoring threat that Alfredsson represented and has done a good job.
The line opened with Ottawa as a +131 dog which could move in their direction to something like +140 or higher. Keep in mind that the Sens started the season on a pretty tough west coast swing, and that we’re only ten percent of the way into the season. Also, Detroit’s even goal differential is eyebrow-raising despite their place atop the standings.
Keep an eye on things. It might be a time to buy low on the Sens, especially considering they’ll want to say ‘hi’ to Alfredsson from their fans.