• By: Dave Gross

SENATORS: A Week in Review – January 9 – 15, 2017

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

Feature image by Andre Gagne.

What the math tells us is simple: The Ottawa Senators season and hopes for a playoff spot will live or die in the next 15 days.

Hope the team enjoyed its lengthy (mandated) holiday break because the next week and change is going to be a buzz-saw.

Ottawa will play eight games in the next 15 nights.

And what makes this even more of an intriguing proposition is who those games are played against.

First on the docket arrives here Thursday in the form of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As of this filing, the Pens are not slowing down – they've banked five consecutive wins and sit second in the conference, just behind Columbus. Sidney Crosby is enjoying likely his best season to date – and that's saying a lot isn't it. Not only does his 26 goals lead the NHL, his overall play and leadership is top of the table too.

Up next: Hey, does anybody else recall the Battle of Ontario?

Well, it's been kind of a doormat the past five or so years, but rejuvenation has arrived.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Senators will hook horns twice during the next 15 days, and for the first time in a long time, the games carry relevance. Face it, both franchises have more or less sucked wind the past few years. Ottawa seems to have righted its wrongs and in spite of missing their top goalie for much of this season, the Sens are perched in a playoff spot.

The Maple Leafs (they'll visit Ottawa this Saturday night) appear – finally – to be on the right track. They remain shaky behind their blueline but on the attack there are few more creative and fewer that skate as well. The Leafs are the most entertaining team to watch in hockey. Add to that, coach Mike Babcock has this rookie-rich club knocking on the post-season door.

Photo Credit: Andre Gagne

The middle of the month doesn't get easier for Ottawa. The Sens head to St. Louis, then – hey, did we mention Columbus? – it's a visit to the home of the Blue Jackets. The Blues remain the Blues, meaning big-tough-talented and defensively sound (although this year the goals-against are a bit high). The Jackets are the story of the first half. Who knew John Tortorella could resurrect his coaching career with such aplomb?

So no easy task on the road next week – which wraps up with a trip to Toronto a week from Saturday.

Also on the ticket: The Senators host Columbus, Washington then Calgary to wrap up the eight-in-15.

And when you think Washington, you generally think "Ovechkin" and "goals." You can add "defence" this time around. The Caps have surrendered the least amount of goals (83) in the entire NHL.
Calgary won't be pudding either. After a terrible start to the season, the Flames have turned it around and sit seventh in the Western Conference.

Ottawa's road to inevitability starts Thursday night.

Strap on the seatbelt. This is going to be quite the ride.

Photo credit: NHL.com

Saturday: Washington 1, Ottawa 0
Sunday: Ottawa 5, Edmonton 3

Thursday: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday: Toronto at Ottawa (7 pm)