Senators still an outside bet for NHL playoff berth after steady start

Expectations were low heading into the Ottawa Senators’ 28th NHL campaign and for the most part, things have gone pretty much according to the script as we pass the 30-game mark.

The Sens boast a 13-17-1 record, and sit second-bottom of the Atlantic Division with only the Detroit Red Wings beneath them.

Thirteen victories represent the exact same win total as they had at this stage last season, but tangible improvements have been evident, with penalty killing being a particular bright spot and faceoff win percentages seeing an upturn on both the offensive and defensive side.

Fans seem to have bought into the rebuild and are willing to be patient. Performances like the 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on December 9th will only aid that togetherness and show that this team is headed in the right direction.

Boston, the reigning Eastern Conference champions, are the favourites with NHL betting sites to go one better than 2018-19 and win the Stanley Cup this time around. But Bruce Cassidy’s team had no answer for the Sens’ speed and doggedness at the Canadian Tire Centre on Monday night.

Goaltender Anders Nilsson’s inconsistency has been a frustration this term, but the Swede was at his brilliant best against the Bruins, stopping 38 of the 40 shots he faced en route to securing his eighth win of the year.

Putting together displays like this on a regular basis is a tough ask for Ottawa’s young core. 2019-20 was always going to be viewed as a transition season, with the minimum requirements being more qualitative than quantitative — which eases the pressure on new head coach D.J. Smith.

Effort on the ice, exciting hockey, and furthering the development of prospects like Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson, and Logan Brown are all crucial elements at this stage.

The emergence of left wing Anthony Duclair has been a welcome bonus for the Sens. The 24-year-old arrived in Canada’s capital in June after leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets and has notched 22 points, just one less than the team’s leading scorer, Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Playoff hockey might be a bridge too far for Ottawa in 2020 but it might be too soon to completely write them off. The Sens need to up their power play conversion and avoid the troubles in front of goal that were damaging at the end of November, and then they could at least be an outside bet come March and April.

Canadian betting sites have odds on the Stanley Cup Winner, and you can grab Ottawa at +25000 if you’re a believer in the unlikeliest of turnarounds.

Before the beginning of the campaign, the Senators were +625 to make the playoffs, which was the biggest price offered on any team. This tells you all you need to know about the mammoth task ahead as the Sens look to transform themselves into a contender again.

The team is yet to prove the bookmakers wrong as they are stuck below .500 as it stands, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that they are trending upwards and that in 2020-21, those odds might look very different.

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