SENATORS: A Week in Review – March 6-March 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.
Feature photo Courtesy Andre Ringuette – NHL via Getty Images
Silver medals are nothing to sneer about, and in this case, Ottawa's Zack Smith is right on target to grab a little sliver of silver.
The Frank J. Selke Award "is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," writes NHL.com. Who better than Smith to garner the trophy, who just might be the Senators' most underrated player?
Well it's a cinch that Ryan Kesler in Anaheim – barring a late-season complete collapse – brings home the trophy. But Smith is not that far behind.
Kesler, the former Vancouver Canuck, kills penalties and wins draws (nearly 58 per cent when shorthanded) and does just about everything else exceptionally well that's required for consideration. There is not a better defensive forward in the NHL right now.
He's the best two-way forward in the game, as his 19 goals and 28 assists can attest.
But how about a little love for Ottawa's Smith. The soon-to-be 29-year-old has upped his game yet again this season. Last year Ottawa fans were tripping over themselves with plaudits as the Saskatchewan native banged in 25 goals (this season he's found the net 16 times and added 15 assists).
But more importantly – this season – the attention should get shoved to his defensive excellence. His faceoff percentage of 53 per cent is top-notch. Head coach Guy Boucher has noticed as Smith is a perpetual on-ice vision when the Senators are tucked in tight in a last-minute single-digit game.
And you have to give a nod to his overall growth.
Smith has never been a great skater, but along the lines of Mark Stone, his smarts generally put him in the right place at the right time. Attention to detail and responsibility represent the code of Boucher's system – Smith is a great fit.
Let's remember that when he was initially brought in to the organization, the expectations were pretty minimal: Tough player, might chip in a little offence, but not a terrific skater. Let's just say the window of opportunity was low level.
Give Smith credit. He's worked on his game aggressively and can now be considered an integral and key ingredient to Ottawa's success.
NOTES AND NOTIONS: Ottawa has clearly defined itself as a very dangerous team come this post-season. That win Monday night versus Boston was a statement game . . . Should we just go and give the Hart Memorial Trophy to Steven Stamkos? The Tampa Bay Lightning were perched to be one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses this season, but with Stamkos' absence (knee surgery in November) have simply foundered. Is Stamkos that valuable? At the very least, it's a helluva excuse for head coach Jon Cooper . . . If I am a Toronto fan and believe my club is going to make the post-season, I am concerned about the grit factor, as in the Leafs hardly have any barring fourth-line winger Matt Martin. Ottawa bulked up at the trade deadline with Alex Burrows and Montreal added Steve Ott, Jordie Benn and Dwight King . . . Tricky little road trip ahead for the Senators. They are in Dallas then Phoenix and then Colorado this week. All should be winnable games against non-playoff opponents. Hockey folks like to call these "trap" games in that it's hard to get up for the weaker teams . . . More hockey talk from yours truly this Saturday as I will sitting in for Liam Maguire on 1310NEWS. On the air from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Taking your calls. Guests will be spectacular as usual.
WEEK THAT WAS:
Thursday: Ottawa 2, Colorado 1
Saturday: Ottawa 3, Columbus 2
Monday: Ottawa 4, Boston 2
Wednesday: Ottawa at Dallas (8 pm)
Thursday: Ottawa at Arizona (9 pm)
Saturday: Ottawa at Colorado (7 pm)