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SportsThe Boys Are Back in Town

The Boys Are Back in Town

The Boys Are Back in Town

SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.


What they're selling, I am not buying.

It's pundit prognostication open season and once again the Ottawa Senators aren't even in the scope.

Flip on the TV, check out a national newspaper . . . Ottawa is being picked as a playoff-bubble team.

Don't get it.

Not buying it.

In fact from this corner, the thinking is the Senators - if healthy - contend again for top spot in the Atlantic with the Tampa Lightning.

Let's roll through the lineup and find out why.

GOALTENDERS:

When you think 'underrated' you think 36-year-old Craig Anderson.

You know the saying folks - like fine wine . . .

Last season despite missing a portion of the season tending to his ill wife, Anderson posted 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

Can you recall a time when he's had two poor outings in a row? Didn't think so.

Think Anderson, think composure.

Backup Mike Condon was a savvy re-signing by GM Pierre Dorion. Without Condon last season - during Anderson's absence - Ottawa is questionable for the post-season.

It's one of the best 1-2 tandems in the league.

DEFENCEMEN:

Here's a nice blend of experience, grit and fresh legs.

Oh, and a guy named Karlsson.

At this posting, where Erik stood as far as getting back to 100 per cent following off-season foot surgery was undetermined (or unrevealed). But as he's proven in the past, Karlsson is something of a physical freak and re-animates faster than the average skater.

While I'm not ready to crown the Senator's captain as best-player-in-the-game (see who in News, Notes and Notions below), he casts a large shadow, for such a small frame.

Marc Methot is gone but Ottawa has plenty of backfill in Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Freddy Claesson, add-on Johnny Oduya and Chris Wideman.

Mark Borowiecki provides needed muscle, and while suffering through a tough-at-times pre-season, 20-year-old Thomas Chabot has infinite potential.

FORWARDS:

A deep and talented collection.

Once they get the contract situation resolved, Kyle Turris (who could become a free agent if he's not re-signed by the Senators before next July 1) and the Senators can continue to progress.

I expect a big season from the 28-year-old (hell, it IS a contract year) who posted a career-high 27 goals in 2017. The thing about Turris though goes beyond the numbers, he's a complete hockey player.

Others to like?

Mark Stone. As good defensively as offensively, this is a smart, smart hockey player. He should improve the numbers too after turning (just) 25 in the spring.

Another of the mid-20s gang, flashy Mike Hoffman should jump up even further. Expectation? Thirty-five goals.

Bobby Ryan. Reportedly reported to camp in the best shape of his life, Ryan rescued a poor regular season with a sensational playoff.

Want speed? How about Ryan Dzingel and Derick Brassard.

Want defence from the offence (besides Stone): Try J-G Pageau, Tom Pyatt, Zack Smith and newcomer Nate Thompson.

Want prospects? Here's Logan Brown and here's Colin White and Alex Formenton.

It is a hefty, rich group.

HEAD COACH:

Hard to believe Guy Boucher's only been around these parts since May of 2016.

As a first-term guy (pun intended), Boucher led his team to within a goal of the Stanley Cup final.

It took some time to get the skaters playing the Boucher system but it took and stuck. It might not be the flashiest of strategies but that system paid huge dividends.

NEWS, NOTES AND NOTIONS: Two teams that intrigue? The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. My gut tells me the Habs are in for a let-down this coming season. The addition of C Jonathan Drouin will be key. He's unquestionably talented but unproven, especially as a No. 1 centre. The defence isn't terribly mobile and Shea Weber is a year older. We'll see . . . The Leafs won't be sneaking up on anyone this year and when you're touting the likes of Ron Hainsey as a top-pairing d-man, you're in trouble. Auston Matthews will be just fine, but remember, this is a team that was ridiculously blessed with great health last season. A repeat of that good fortune is remote (in this day and age) . . . Interesting opening set for Ottawa. The Senators host Washington then Detroit, then it's off for a three-game swing through the west - Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. A win against the Canucks is mandatory. The Flames have improved in a number of areas and have a 'Nashville' feel to them, while the Oilers are getting considerable media love as a Stanley Cup favourite . . . A reason to feel old - Sidney Crosby turned 30 in the off-season . . . Speaking of "The Kid," cool story this past month. The Penguins have this promotion where they'll pick a season-ticket holder and have one of their players or a coach show up to deliver the tickets at the fan's home. My friend Chris McLaughlin received a phone call from the organization and set up a time and date for the delivery - with no idea who was bringing the tix. When Chris opened his front door one day last month, there stood Sid - tickets in hand. The greatest-player-in-the-game spent a good chunk of time with Chris and his family during his visit. USA Today's Kevin Allen was also on hand to document the story. "Immediately I went from Carter Rowney or Josh Archibald delivering our tickets, to the greatest player in the world. I didn't have much to say, as I was completely in awe with excitement," said Chris. Priceless.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Thursday, Oct. 5: Washington at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday, Oct. 7: Detroit at Ottawa (7 pm)

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