Can the Ottawa Senators turn their NHL season around?

The month of October commencing the 2019-20 NHL regular season was hard going for the Senators, who managed to start their campaign with just three wins and an overtime victory out of 11 games. Such results immediately seemed to suggest that for the third year in a row, making the playoffs would be out of their reach, having already missed out in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.

Nevertheless, team performances were improving towards the end of the month and carried over into the start of November, which has proven to be a far more successful month. While it’s fair to say that results have still been a mixed bag, the Senators have managed to string back-to-back wins together for the first time this season, beating LA Kings and Carolina Hurricanes on the road.

However, the Hurricanes soon exacted their revenge by thrashing the Senators 2-8 just two days later in Carolina, inflicting the heaviest defeat of the season so far on the team coached by D.J. Smith. “We’re just going to move on” was all he could muster in reaction to that result. But move on they did, as his team beat New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, only to be sliced to a 4-2 defeat by the Sabres in Buffalo.

Continuing a run of games against fellow Atlantic Division rivals, results took a turn for the better on the road. The Detroit Red Wings were beaten, then a hard-fought overtime victory followed in Montreal against the Canadiens. Another win against the New York Rangers would bring the first trio of consecutive wins this season, for the suffering Senators.

The Rangers were strongly tipped to beat the Senators by many of the leading online bookmakers, who offered minus odds in the American betting format which favored a win for the visiting side. However, the Senators proved they should never be underestimated and especially in their own backyard, coasting to a comfortable 4-1 victory at the Canadian Tire Centre, extending their unbeaten run of form at home through November.

Back on the road, unfortunately, stretching out the winning run proved impossible against the Carolina Blue Jackets, as the Senators slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat, failing to score for only the second time this season. As the Ottawa Sun highlighted following the game, “the effort was there,” quoting the post-match reaction from D.J. Smith, given the team had created 25 scoring opportunities, yet failed to take any of them.

After 24 games Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the leading scorer with 13 goals. Impressively, 10 of those came during a red-hot run of 7 consecutive scoring games for the 27-year-old in November, who looks well on the way to achieving the best scoring season of his career. Meanwhile, Anthony Duclair has contributed 10 and Brady Tkachuk 8 goals during the campaign so far. Hardly spectacular, but the team would be struggling even more without their vital contributions.

While this is a young team and one that does have some highly skilled skaters on the roster, it’s also a team that has yet to realize the potential on the roster. Games have turned against them at key moments, when a little more resolve defensively or a tad more accuracy could have made all the difference. Finding that certainty and matching it with consistency, undoubtedly, will be the challenge in the months to come for D.J. Smith at the Senators.