There’s nothing like a trip to Toronto to cure what ails you and the Ottawa Senators are no exception. After all, it’s not playoff time yet.
In fact, it hasn’t been playoff time in the Centre of the Universe (TM) since The Dead Puck Era, a drought that looks almost certain to continue this spring.
Going into last night’s game against the Maple Leafs, the Senators were having trouble at both ends of the ice. They were having all sorts of problems generating offence beyond Daniel Alfredsson â€” who was supposed to be injured â€” and Milan Michalek â€” who was actually injured.
But much of their problems defensively and offensively could be traced back to the blue-line â€” that is until Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson notched back-to-back power-play goals in the second period.
And, boy, were they due.
Going into last night, the Senators had just three goals from defencemen, two from Erik Karlsson and one from Chris Campoli. Going into last night’s game, Gonchar had collected $946,236.56 of his $5.5-million salary for this season and had six assists and a minus-7 rating. To be sure, the Senators had to be expecting more from their marquee acquisition.
But, as a group, the Senators defence was limp. It was averaging just 6.5 shots per game going into last night, which was sixth-worst in the league.
By contrast, the Boston Bruins were leading the league and ahead of the Sens by more than three shots a game with 9.8.
The problem when defencemen don’t get any shots is that not only do the blue-liners not produce, but it affects the production from the forwards as well.
With so few shots from the blue-line, the forwards have fewer rebound opportunities and have less to show for their time in the offensive zone.
They work to go to the net and the puck often isn’t there because the defencemen aren’t getting it to them.
Filip Kuba, who could be in the lineup for the first time this season when the Senators host the New York Islanders tomorrow night, should help remedy the Senators’ troubles at both ends of the ice, but it certainly won’t be a cure-all.