SENATORS: A Week in Review – January 23-30, 2017
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column
looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators
hockey written by #OLMSports Dave Gross.
Regardless if you're a fan of the Ottawa Senators or not, you have to be mighty appreciative of this latest run during - arguably - the most important point in the schedule.
Folks like to finger the NHL's second-half as being the most challenging. Teams generally play tighter, smart, responsible hockey. It can be a grind and if you're not prepared to excel at 'the little things,' you're not going anywhere.
So far? A superb showcase from the team that many pegged as a playoff question mark. I think we can all dispense with the question. Ottawa is rolling right now and it doesn't seem to matter much who the Senators tackle.
Last week in this space, we postulated that the last two weeks (and a bit) in January would determine the ultimate end result for the Senators.
As we glance back, the road looks pretty damn smooth.
How's this? Ottawa hits the road for three straight and waltzes home with six points.
And it's not like they were facing the Washington Generals (um, apologies for the Harlem Globetrotter reference, but I think you get the gist). Guy Boucher's club tops St. Louis (impressive), then Columbus (even more impressive, this year) and rounds it out with a comeback win in Toronto against the hugely fresh-faced but immensely talented Maple Leafs.
Plaudits all around.
Sunday's home return against the Blue Jackets was a shinny lover's dream - goals, mistakes, breakaways, defensive breakdowns, crummy netminding, beleaguered grimaces on both Boucher and Columbus bench boss John Tortorella's mugs . . . and fun . . . boy, was that fun.
The Jackets snared the two points but Ottawa still nailed down that one 'loser' overtime point in the 7-6 loss. If you've ever experienced Disney's Rock n' Roller Coaster, this was hockey's version.
Bottom line through all of this is Ottawa is excelling when the time is right.
There have been marked improvements in a number of areas.
Boucher has - finally - his guys playing into his system: Neutral-zone possession, rapid transition game and attention to detail.
Hell, he even has wild thing Mike Hoffman buying into a defensive thought mode.
He won't challenge Patrice Bergeron for the Selke (top defensive forward) but at least Hoffman's awake in class.
NOTES AND NOTIONS: Can I explain to you how much I despise the shootout? Likely not. Great hockey games resolved by a parlor trick. Boucher admitted after the Ottawa shootout win over Toronto that he's on board with this analysis. He said he doesn't even watch . . . Interesting to see what Ottawa does towards the trade deadline. The determinate loss of Clarke MacArthur leaves a void, and an unexpected one. The winger and his teammates were shocked doctors indicated he wasn't ready to return from concussion . . . Auston Matthews will be a star but right now the Leafs' rookie worth watching the most for your entertainment buck is Mitchell Marner . . . Rumblings continue that former Hull Olympiques boss (Memorial Cup in 1997) Claude Julien is likely to get dumped by the Boston Bruins. As of this filing, he's still on board. Firing Julien is atypical of how ridiculous the NHL can be. Outside of 3-4 players, Julien has very little to work with. Yep, that's his fault. Firing the coach because the rest of the management team can't do its job is a broken record . . . Following next weekend's all-star break, Ottawa gets back to work on Tuesday, Jan. 31 when the Sens visit the Florida Panthers.
WEEK THAT WAS:
Tuesday: Ottawa 6, St. Louis 2
Thursday: Ottawa 2, Columbus 0
Saturday: Ottawa 3, Toronto 2 (shootout)
Sunday: Columbus 7, Ottawa 6 (overtime)
Tuesday: Washington at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Thursday: Calgary at Ottawa (7:30 pm)