Oh, Senators. Folks say a rose by another other name smells just as sweet but whether you (correctly) call them the Kanata Sens or the more PR friendly Ottawa Sens, they still stink. Old stars, underachieving stars, foot soldiers who think they're stars because they marry stars, overachieving kids and a head-shaking goaltending platoon ... not a very good situation there. And yet they made the playoffs. Ain't that something?
Ottawa used an insane 13-1 run just ahead of the Olympics last winter to position themselves in the postseason before bowing out in six games to the Pens. That they took them to six games was no small wonder considering they couldn't settle on a starting goaltender. Brian Elliott looked like the man with 29 regular season wins but went 1-3-1 with one no-decision in his last six games. Pascal Leclair kept up his injury-prone ways but came in for Elliott and nearly saved the series against the Pens. Add in young Swedish stud Robin Lehner and Mike "I'm only related to Mmmaaarrrtttyyy when facing the Rangers" Brodeur this season and you have some fantasy-league frustrations. And seriously, how can you root for a team that can't help your fantasy team?
Familiar Foes: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev are all back - with Alfredsson and Kovy are both coming off surgery ... as are Milan Michalek, Chris Campoli and Filip Kuba. Kuba, btw, may have to go under the knife again as he just got hurt in camp. Nick Foligno might actually choose this year to break out and become better than his father ever was but that is a sizable 'might'. The two professional pain in the asses Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil somehow have not worn out their welcomes in Ottawa (they actually love them there! ugh!) and big Matt Carkner is becoming a folk hero with his pugilistic ways, even if it means he gets his ass handed to him by Colton Orr with some regularity.
N00bz: Kuba's absence would really hurt if the Sens hadn't signed Sergei Gonchar. So they may have lost the series against the Pens but they took one of their best assets. Ottawa can slot Gonchar alongside Chris Phillips and have one helluva first-line pairing on defense. Aside from Sergei, the Senators were pretty quiet on the free agent front but they did take Corey Locke away from the Rangers. As I ranted here throughout last season, I don't think the mighty mite got a fair shake and can add some scoring in the right NHL situation.
Last Year: Saturday, October 3rd 5-2 Ranger win; Saturday, November 14th 2-1 Ranger shootout win; Thursday, January 14th 2-0 Senators win; Tuesday, March 2nd 4-1 Ranger win
This Year: Friday, October 1st at MSG and Saturday, October 2nd in Ottawa preseason. Sunday, December 5th at MSG; Thursday, December 9th in Ottawa; Friday, March 4th in Ottawa; and Thursday, March 24th at MSG.
What They Mean To Blue: Hopefully they will mean one less team that will challenge the Rangers for a playoff spot but I doubt that. Probably the biggest impact the Senators will have are in those last two preseason games - they can hone the Rangers' edge heading into the season or they can grind it down and send the Blueshirts stumbling into the season. If Torts can't build line combinations and chemistry it could very well be the latter. Fingers crossed.