• By: Dave Gross

Playoffs in Ottawa? Might be Asking too Much

As of this morning, the Ottawa Senators sit seven whopping’ points out of a playoff spot with little real estate ahead of them available for coasting or letdowns or easing off of the pedal.

No breaks, and no respites are available. Period.

Here we are on December-freakin’-6th and the entire season hangs in the balance . . . every day, every game, until the year goes definitively one way or the other.

It’s a tightrope to be sure.

So, how did they get here? Well the schedule-creators certainly didn’t help as exhibited by the fact Ottawa’s played a minimum of two less games than everyone else in the National Hockey League.

The schedule disparity is so large that the (first of many) team(s) ahead of the Senators – the Columbus Blue Jackets have skated through seven more games than Ottawa.


Given that the season is just three months old, it’s slap-in-the-forehead ridiculous.

Meantime, Ottawa’s done more than its fair share to add to the current standings’ dilemma and misery. Solid, complete-game wins like the one Tuesday against the New York Rangers have been rare.

Against the Rangers, who some claim have legitimate Stanley Cup dreams, Ottawa successfully sported the kind of netminding it’ll need if indeed there’s any kind of hope. That hasn’t been the case on most nights.

Injuries are an easy excuse and one only the most tired and draining in the fan base love to use.

But enough about all that because the matter at hand is the matter at hand at this juncture. That being: Is overcoming a seven-point disadvantage at this point doable?

It’s immense, no doubt, but is it doable?

And if so, which/who among the seven or so clubs ahead of Ottawa is a candidate for ‘bumping?’

Let’s dig a little deeper and look, team-by-team, at the Jeopardy challengers. (Bracketed number indicates points-ahead as of Dec. 6th).

COLUMBUS (+1): Come on, are you kidding? If Ottawa can’t collect a few of those points during its seven-games-in-hand campaign, start packing the bags for Quebec City. These Jackets are unfashionable (and these pretzels are making me thirsty).

BUFFALO (+2): As ugly as it has been in Eastern Ontario, Western New York’s right with you buckaroos. Maybe even more so. The Sabres sport a much-worse record than the Senators (Buffalo’s skated in six more games) and it’s been a nightmare recently with four consecutive regulation-time losses. I don’t see the Sabres as an easy tackle though, especially with the return of giant sniper Tage Thompson from a nine-game absence.

MONTREAL (+5): How many of you in Ottawa engage in a stomach growl at the idea of having a Martin St. Louis-type as your head coach? He’s certainly the golden boy in Montreal; a fan and media favourite. The Habs have zero heat on them this season. Their blueline seems like it sports an average age of 16 and the bulk of Montreal’s stars-on-arrival are young. Having played five more games than Ottawa, this is a youthful, youthful, youthful hockey team that’s passable for your Senators . . . at least for this season.

PITTSBURGH (+5): If there’s one ‘good’ thing you can say regarding the Penguins, it’s they’re rich in experience. AKA: Old. Not sure what to make of these birds. Sid’s having another huge season, Geno’s been great and Jake Guentzel’s doing Jake Guentzel things, but after that bunch of goodies remains a ton of questions. Ottawa has four in hand on the Pens so keep your eye on this one. A definite possibility for a pass.

NEW JERSEY (+5): In a word – not happening. Ok, that’s two words but you get the gist. The Devils are finally starting to find it after a morose start. Ottawa has three games in hand for those of you still counting, not that it matters here.

WASHINGTON (+6): If you’d told me – as you’re prone to doing — that the Washington Capitals would be four games above .500 whilst Alex Ovechkin was checking in with a mere five goals through 22 games . . . well, blow me over with a hand fan. Ottawa has two games (that’s all??) on the Caps. I’d still rank this one as a certain ‘pass ‘em’ if the Senators get their game right.

TAMPA BAY (+6): The Bolts have been terrible as of late. With God’s gift to goaltending, Andrei Vasilevskiy back in the fold, we don’t see that continuing. The support group isn’t as sturdy as in previous years, but the stars are still here. Can’t see Ottawa getting past John Cooper’s coop.

NY ISLANDERS (+7): The Islanders are like that coffee stain on your white shirt – just won’t go away. Seems that year-after-year Lou Lamoriello’s under-talented group finds a way. The league’s best goaltending duo helps. An Ottawa pass? Unlikely.

TORONTO (+8): You get the Leafs in ‘your’ building tomorrow night. (Put it on the long list of away games for Ottawa coming up). Does Ottawa have a hope in hauling in the Buds? Not a chance Bud. With just two games in hand, the Senators won’t be passing by Toronto for a playoff rung.



Thursday, Dec. 7: Toronto at Ottawa (7 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 9: Ottawa at Detroit (7 pm)



Photo: Courtesy Sportsnet