When the season started, most hockey commentators had the Ottawa Senators pegged as an NHL bottom-feeder. That it hasn’t happened yet is a testament to the organization.
Head coach D.J. Smith is doing a good job of motivating his players and making solid decisions. Many Senators players have had breakout seasons. In fact, after a five-game losing skid between Nov. 25-Dec. 3, the Senators have a 5-2-3 record in their last 10 games.
After a 3-1 home win over the Buffalo Sabres in the team’s last game, Smith spoke about the game and the season saying, “We found a way and I think in a lot of our wins we find a way.”
On Dec. 29, the team plays the New Jersey Devils who just came off a tough-luck overtime loss when Devils defenseman Damon Severson’s accidentally sent a clearing attempt passed his own goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s been that kind of season for the Devils, who’ve already thrown in the playoff towel and moved Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes for prospects.
In this post, I want to keep Senators’ fans up-to-date on some of the news emerging from the organization.
Item One: Anderson and Hogberg Sharing the Net in Back-to-Back Games
Craig Anderson will be tending goal in Sunday’s game against the Devils. Anderson had a great game the Monday before Christmas against the Sabres, winning 3-1 and stopping 43 shots in the process. His season’s record is 6-8-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average (GAA) and .909 save percentage in 17 games.
Marcus Hogberg will be in goal for the Senators’ second game of the back-to-back on Monday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. Hogberg recently won his first NHL game and has a 1-1-2 record this season with a 3.10 GAA and .903 save percentage in five games.
Item Two: Hainsey Is Still Unable to Play
As noted in Bruce Garrioch’s tweet above, Ron Hainsey won’t be available to play against the Devils or the Penguins. He sustained a lower-body injury during the Dec. 19 game against the Nashville Predators and has already missed two games. So far this season, the defensive defenseman has eight points in 36 games, and averaged just under 20 minutes (19:41) per game.
Item Two: Brown Moved Back to the Minors
Logan Brown is going to be a solid NHL player, however, the Senators don’t believe he will be this season. Brown was reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Belleville Senators where he will receive more ice time.
Brown has shown flashes of brilliance, but this season with the big club he’s only scored a goal and seven assists in 23 games. The organization expects more – eventually. Brown has three goals and seven points in five games with Belleville this season, a decent team with a 19-12-1 record in 32 games.
Item Three: Beaudin and Jaros Brought Up from Belleville
With Brown returning to the AHL, two players are coming the other way. J.C. Beaudin and Christian Jaron were called up on Dec. 28.
Beaudin has an assist in 20 appearances with the Senators this season and, in eight games with Belleville, he’s scored a goal and two assists. Jaros has only played one game with Ottawa this season and scored a goal and nine assists in 21 games with Belleville.
Item Four: Ottawa Has 3 Prospects at the World Junior Championship
The Senators have three prospects skating in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championships – Shane Pinto (Team USA), Lassi Thomson (Team Finland), and Jacob Bernard-Docker (Team Canada). Pinto scored two goals and an assist in Team USA’s 6-4 loss to Canada on Dec. 26.
Interestingly, both Pinto and Bernard-Docker play for NCAA’s University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Pinto has eight goals and 14 points in 17 NCAA games. Ottawa chose him with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Bernard-Docker has three goals and 14 points in 15 NCAA games. He was drafted 26th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Thomson (whose father is Scottish) will act as Finland’s captain and has 10 points in 24 games with Ilves of Finland’s Liiga this season. He was drafted 19 overall by the Senators in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Item Five: Is Ennis Returning to Sabres Form?
Tyler Ennis has knocked around the NHL for the past few seasons, but he’s had success with three 20-goal seasons with the Sabres. At this season’s halfway point, he’s on pace to match those numbers.
Ennis has had an especially good December with four goals and 10 points in 11 games. He is one of my favorite NHL players and I hope he does well with the Senators. His bargain-basement contract and ability to play anywhere is good value for the team.
Item Six: Pageau Is Having a Great Season, But Will He Stay in Ottawa?
Jean-Gabriel Pageau didn’t have a strong 2018-19 season, but he’s responding nicely this year under Smith’s coaching. He’s second on the Senators in scoring with 18 goals and 28 points and is only trailing Anthony Duclair’s (with 20 goals and 30 points).
When Pageau scores his next goal, it will match his career-high set in 2015-16. He’s been especially hot over the past two months with 15 goals since Nov. 1.
Pageau will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Because the Senators won’t make the playoffs, rumor has it that the team might try to get something for him if they’re unwilling to re-sign him. He might have even more success playing with a team that could surround him with stronger players than the rebuilding Senators. I would like to see him stay in the nation’s capital; he’s a hometown player who offers the team stability through their rebuild.
What’s Next for the Senators?
There’s a good chance the Senators will win tonight’s game, although you can take nothing for granted in the NHL. The team has a really tough schedule with back-to-back games against Devils at home then the Penguins in Pittsburgh. They play the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first January games, and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 7.
If they can split those four games, it would be a great run for the team.