The Sens have found an identity

The Ottawa Senators keep sending teams into tailspins.

When they made a comeback down 5-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs two weeks ago, columnist James Mirtle wrote that the Leafs needed a trade to fix the “complacency that kills them.”

Last week, two consecutive wins over the Montreal Canadiens ended with the firing of Canadiens head coach Claude Julien – a significant move that shocked many given Julien’s pedigree and Montreal’s hot start this season.

Ottawa then defeated the Calgary Flames, who have underachieved this season, by a convincing five-goal margin on Thursday. At that point, you had to wonder how Flames head coach Geoff Ward was feeling heading into a second consecutive meeting between the two teams on Saturday.

The Flames came out with a vengeance and won 6-3, but Ottawa had built a three-game winning streak before the loss – its longest of the season.

It took a while, but in these last two weeks, the Sens have announced themselves to the North Division, and teams shouldn’t overreact if they lose to them.

In terms of performance, the Senators are not the same team as early in the season. They’re only three points behind Vancouver for sixth in the division with a game in hand despite the horrid start.

It seems like they’ve found an identity.

“We were talking earlier in the year about having new guys, not having that pre-season,” said Senators assistant captain Erik Gudbranson after the 6-1 win against Calgary on Thursday night.

“Now this team’s starting to gel, guys are starting to get used to each other, guys are starting to figure each other out. That breeds confidence, that breeds togetherness, and you can tell that when we get scored against, we’re reacting with our heads up… That’s part of the growth of this team.”

Gudbranson, the hometown kid who grew up in Blackburn Hamlet, scored his first goal since being acquired by Ottawa this off-season on Thursday night.

Scoring for the Sens at home was a special moment for Gudbranson despite not having fans there to witness it – and he’ll be hanging on to that puck.

“That can go up in the cottage sometime. I’ll take a look at that later on in life, and I’m sure I’ll be very proud of that moment,” he said.

Stay tuned for an Ottawa Life Magazine exclusive feature with Gudbranson coming later this week.

‘The Drake’ is lighting it up

Drake Batherson looked ready to have a breakout season but struggled to find his scoring touch early on. Now, he can’t be stopped. ‘The Drake’ is on a five-game goal streak – only he and Jason Spezza have done so as under-22-year-old Senators skaters.

“I’ve been getting some looks, creating chemistry with Timmy [Stützle],” he said on Saturday.

“I’ve been getting shots all season, but they seem to be going in now, so I’ll keep shooting for sure.”

“He’s a high-end thinker,” said head coach D.J. Smith. “But more importantly is the kind of kid he is off the ice. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy that just loves playing hockey, I think he’d play for free.”

“No matter what, he likes being out there, and I think that’s what makes him a special player.”

Rest in peace, Brian Fraser

Ottawa lost a great fan and an even better person on Thursday night.

Brian Fraser, a former technical producer with 580 CFRA, died after a two-year battle with Leukemia. He was 26 years old.

Brian was courageous and inspiring throughout his battle with the disease. He remained positive, made it his purpose to bring nation-wide attention to the cause of blood donation, and touched many along the way.

Upcoming week:

Monday, March 1 vs Calgary (7:00 PM)

Tuesday, March 2 vs Montreal (7:00 PM)

Thursday, March 4 at Calgary (9:00 PM)

Sunday, March 7 at Calgary (9:30 PM)

Ottawa finishes its homestand with back-to-back games to start the week. It begins with another game at home against the Flames. Erik Brannstrom will be a healthy scratch, a head-scratching move since he’s shown so much promise since being called up from Belleville. Veteran defenceman Braydon Coburn will take his place in the lineup.

Montreal will get the chance to beat Ottawa with new head coach Dominique Ducharme behind the bench.

Then it’s back to facing the Flames, this time in Calgary, as the Senators embark on a five-game Alberta road trip.