The Ottawa Senators are becoming the NHL’s version of Monty Python‘s Black Knight. You know, the one in the Holy Grail, who has all his limbs severed and insists it’s nothing more than a flesh wound?
After losing, in order, Jared Cowen, Jason Spezza, Peter Regin, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson and most recently, goalie Craig Anderson for a few days, no one would blame the Senators if they surrendered. But coach Paul MacLean and his staff are embracing the club’s plight by preaching a positive approach.
The second-year coach challenged his players with this simple edict; “Be who you are. Bring what you do to the table. Have a great work ethic and we will be fine.” “Fine” isn’t the word, more like “sensational.”
In their first game after Karlsson’s injury, the Senators appeared to suffer an emotional letdown at the ACC. They have reeled off five consecutive victories since then, including a stunning win that earned the club redemption in the “Battle of Ontario” rematch.
While many pundits are singing the praises of MacLean, Binghamton coach Luke Richardson deserves a few bouquets of his own. On any given night the Senators have iced a roster with as many as nine players who opened the season in the AHL.
Sens fans have grown accustomed to the blueline play of names such as Benoit, Borowiecki and Wiercioch. Now you can add 6-foot-4, 222-pound specimen Eric Gryba to that list. The Saskatoon native will not be mistaken for Karlsson, but as a replacement provides the club with a physical element comparable to that of Cowen.
Recent call-ups Dave Dziurzynski and Derek Grant have become role players for MacLean. The undrafted Dziurzynski is filling in capably on the left wing of Zack Smith and Chris Neil, and chipped in with his first NHL goal. Grant has become a key cog on the league’s third-ranked 88 per cent penalty kill.
However, the majority of the credit goes to MacLean, who has the Midas touch. Witness the recent benchings of Colin Greening and Mika Zibanejad just over a week ago; Greening has pocketed five points in the past five games, while Zibanejad has three points in four starts. MacLean said the pair required a “reset.
Where the Senators ultimately finish is anyone’s guess, but for now MacLean’s crew has plenty of bite and is definitely winning the battle of adversity.