• By: Dave Gross

SENATORS: A Week in Review – March 20-March 27, 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 photo by NHLI via Getty Images

You think you've got a handle on things, until you don't.

Last week this space was singing the praises of the Ottawa Senators, claiming they're a legitimate dark-horse candidate to win the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

The history and build-up was certainly there – Ottawa was tied with Chicago for the best record in the league since early February. A scheduled back-to-back with the Montreal Canadiens this past weekend and dates with Pittsburgh and Boston on the docket was a perfect opportunity for Ottawa to make some hay, and send a message that 'Hey, we've arrived! Look at us dammit!'

Well, let the hand-wringing begin.

The Senators just went through their toughest week of the season. Four games – two measly points. And the most troubling of the bunch is what we're heading into this week with – the Senators were totally owned by the Habs Sunday in Montreal. Yes, Carey Price made a Carey-Price-like spectacular save, but Ottawa was out-played and outside of that one blink, the all-world goalie wasn't tested much. Meantime Craig Anderson looked like a pinball machine on a number of occasions.

Not the expected or necessary result or effort at this time of year for a team lobbying and juggling for primary playoff position.

Unacceptable, really.

We by no means are throwing the baby out with the bath water here, but if you're going to suck-diddiliy-uck (Ned Flanders), mid-March ain't the right time. Ottawa can certainly rebound.

So now the real work begins.

Boston, Pittsburgh then Montreal – again – this week should get the juices flowing.

I don't buy it though.

Coach Guy Boucher's adherence to structure and responsibility for his skaters took a couple of lengthy months to sink in. But the players get it, and the recent pattern indicates it's a pretty smart group.

There's also too much depth (nods to you Pierre Dorion), solid netminding and talent here to panic.

Ottawa makes the playoffs. Take it to the bank.

How they get there and how they're playing when that happens is important. If the next week provides a couple of stinkers, it could be a short spring.

NOTES AND NOTIONS: Not mentioned much in the past few weeks: Ottawa is missing Mark Stone due to injury. And I mean, missing . . . The Ottawa power play (or lack thereof) is getting completely concerning . . . Has there been a more evenly (and hotly) contested trophy race than the one involving this year's Norris? You'll get no argument from this corner if either Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns grab the gold. Two marvelous seasons . . . Both Karlsson and Burns deserve nominations for the Hart Trophy as well . . . Since we're rolling on awards – Guy Boucher is sure to be a finalist for coach of the year . . . Wasn't this the year where Winnipeg was poised to break out? Big question: What happened?. . . How can a team that can throw Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie onto the ice hold a near 20-point lead for the last spot in the standings? All that great young talent and Colorado mails it in. Ugh.

Tuesday: Tampa Bay 2, Ottawa 1 (OT)
Thursday: Chicago 2, Ottawa 1
Saturday: Montreal 4, Ottawa 3 (SO)
Sunday: Montreal 4, Ottawa 1

Tuesday: Ottawa at Boston (7 pm)
Thursday: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday: Ottawa at Montreal (7 pm)