Ottawa - Sep. 27, 2011 - The Senators have a .500 record so far in pre-season (2-2-1) and if today’s game in St. John's is an indication of anything, it’s that the Senators will have to rely on strong goaltending and hard work to grind out some wins.
St. John’s Newfoundland was home to today’s Kraft hockeyville game between the Senators and the Winnipeg Jets. The atmosphere was fantastic for a pre-season game and the local fans were delighted to have two NHL teams in town. The Senators though, came out flat and often looked slow compared to the faster Jets. Alex Auld played a strong game in the nets and managed to keep the score closer than it should’ve been. Perhaps the quick turnaround from the back to back games against Montreal affected them.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
Brian Lee continues to have a strong camp and has solidified his hold on one of the seven starting spots on the Senators blue line. His confidence is growing with each game and I see a marketable improvement in the way he carries the puck. His vision is excellent and his pass last week to Zibanejad on the overtime goal against Boston was spectacular.
On the other end of the spectrum is Filip Kuba. Kuba continues to give up the puck in his own zone, often causing odd man rushes for the opponent and scoring chances. His pre-season play has been anything but steady. Unfortunately, he’s under a long term deal, so the Senators will have to keep him for now. I can’t see anyone else in the league trading for Kuba and picking up the final year of his contract which is around $3.7M/year. However, one has to wonder how long Coach Paul MacLean is willing to stick with a guy who continues to cough up the puck.
If I’m looking at the final roster spot right now it’s come down to a battle between Jared Cowen and David Runblad, with Cowen being the clear favourite up to this point. Not only has Cowen added some offensive firepower, but his play in his own end has been great. He continues to use his size to punish the opponent and his puck movement and vision of the ice has been the calibre you need to play in the NHL.
Smith, Michalek and Filatov
Milan Michalek has come out flying so far in training camp. Michalek missed 16 games last year due to an injury and never seemed the same when he came back into the line-up. This season, he seems to have recovered and is playing with renewed optimism.
Renewed optimism is the name of the game for Nikita Filatov too. A lot is being made of the fact that he hasn’t scored any goals yet, but I’m not concerned with that. His play has been excellent and he’s constantly buzzing around the oppositions net. Each time he’s on the ice he stands out and the puck seems to follow him. It’s not as if he’s not contributing offensively, Filitov has set-up his line mates for a couple of goals.
Zack Smith has also been impressive in camp so far. He’s contributed on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice and he’s added some toughness to a line-up that needs a little beefing up.
The Senators re-assigned forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the Gatineau Olympiques on the weekend. Pageau, who’s just 18 years old, had a fantastic rookie camp and I look forward to not only seeing his progress but seeing him back in a Senators uniform in the future.
I expect the Senators to cut a number of players in the next day or two. Once the dust settles we should have a good idea who is left fighting for the last remaining spots. In my next article, I’ll take a look at who is left and we’ll play coach again by picking who we think will make the squad.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments last week in relation to my article. Here is the best response which I thought I’d answer this time:
“In your opinion what is it going to take to bring the Stanley Cup to Ottawa? Do they have the right mix or are they still lacking in a strong goaltender.” - Terrance and Lianne Whiteman.
Answer - It’s going to be a number of years before the Senators will challenge for the Stanley Cup. At this point they’re in a rebuilding stage and although they seem to be heading in the right direction by getting younger, they’re still going to need to continue to get younger and to find some offensive talent. Defensively they just need to continue to develop the young talent that they have. The Stanley Cup though is still a long way off. However they do have a strong goaltender in Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner is a year or two away from being the franchise goaltender. So I think goaltending is the least of the Senators problems. - Greg Smith
Thanks for the comments. Remember if you’d like to make a comment and possibly end up in this article e-mail me at email@example.com