• By: Dave Gross

SENATORS: A Week in Review – February 6-February 13, 2017

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

Images courtesy NHL.com

I'll give Bobby Ryan credit for doing his best, but presently his best is not good enough, and you have to wonder if it is ever going to get better.

Saturday night in Buffalo, the 29-year-old winger tied for the team lead in hits. So clearly the effort is there. He's working it.

But as most hockey geniuses will tell you, and while it's a lovely statistic, Ryan isn't paid to knock people around. Nope, that  $7.25 US million cap hit is intended to produce goals.

Outside of a nifty four-goals-in-four-consecutive-games run nearly two months ago, the New Jersey native's season has been mostly a bust. More alarming is the current trend – as the playoffs edge closer – Ryan has but one goal in his last six games.

His season numbers: 44 games played, 11 goals and 10 assists. Solid third- or fourth-line numbers, unfortunately Ryan isn't skating on the team's third- or fourth lines (um, think higher). He's also a major component of head coach Guy Boucher's power play group.

Through the grapevine the word is Boucher and the rest of the Senators' coaching staff are trying to get him to shoot more often. True enough, Ryan has but 72 shots on goal this season in those 44 games (for comparison, Washington's Alex Ovechkin has 202 in 51 games, while Ryan's teammate Mike Hoffman has 140).

But I wouldn't put it strictly down to Ryan being a shy shooter. Fact is he doesn't seem to be in position much of the time to get the chance.

And here's the real rub with his game – likely the reason Ryan isn't in position is because of his skating. The pinball pace of the NHL in 2016-17 seems to have left the former No. 2 overall pick in the dust.

Nobody can deny the game has quickened. Case in point I was in Pittsburgh in December and took in a Penguins game. Pittsburgh's lineup is rich in speed – particularly up front where all four lines zip. No plodders allowed in this bunch. You need to keep your head on a swivel to keep up as a fan in the seats.

Ditto for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two years ago (and even last year), the Buds were slugs. But the introduction of a slew of teenagers sporting wheels to burn signals a much-improved hockey team (and damn they're fun to watch).

Here in Ottawa, the Senators have brought in Ryan Dzingel – the guy skates like his last name suggests. And arguably the team's top forward, Kyle Turris, is as fluid as they come. (I know some are thinking – well heck, that Mark Stone is kinda' slow. Stone makes up for it with his smarts. He might not have the speed but there's not a more sound positional forward in the entire league. He knows where to be, even if it takes him a little longer the get there.)

So folks, that's the way the game is played now. Unfortunately for Ottawa's $7 million-dollar-man he hasn't shown an ability to keep up.

NOTES AND NOTIONS:  A couple of seasons ago, the Senators were saddled with a ton of afternoon weekend games which, to say the least, um, didn't go so well. For some reason, Ottawa could not find any kind of success with those early start times. Low energy efforts for the most part. This Saturday the Islanders visit for a 1 pm start. It will be interesting to see if Guy Boucher's high-pace attack maintains . . . After the Islanders, Ottawa will have three more afternoon delights before the regular season closes out in mid-April . . . For those keeping count: Ottawa has 32 games remaining – 14 at home and 18 on the road . . . Anyone else get the notion that Chris Neil is slowly being phased out and really isn't a Guy Boucher-type player. I know when Boucher was coaching Tampa, the sighting of an enforcer on his bench was rare indeed. Given the state of the game currently and the 'Boucher style,' I'd expect to see less and less of Neil as the playoffs approach (barring injury).

Tuesday: Florida 6, Ottawa 5
Thursday: Ottawa 5, Tampa Bay 2
Saturday: Buffalo 4, Ottawa 0

Tuesday: St. Louis at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Thursday: Dallas at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday: NY Islanders at Ottawa (1 pm)