All eyes were on the Ottawa Senators to get a good start out of the gate this season. After dropping their first pair of games, the team opened their five-game homestand victorious in four straight.
However, the club has since lost five in a row and is in danger of being separated from its competition in the Atlantic Division.
The Senators’ goal from the outset was to play meaningful games in March and April. The team still can, but they need to right the ship sooner than later.
The team took a turn when Josh Norris went down with a left shoulder injury. And that’s not going to change any time soon with Norris out a minimum of three months. The centre is seeking another opinion and may still require surgery.
The 23-year-old potted 35 goals in 66 games last season, 16 on the power play, tied for third in the NHL.
Norris’ absence has been clearly noticeable of late. The Senators PP is 0-for-11 in its past three games and 3-for-22 in the six games he’s been on the shelf. The club’s PP unit has plummeted from being as high as eighth to 25th after Saturday’s 0 for 5 performance with the man-advantage.
Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith acknowledged his team’s 2-1 defeat Saturday at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers was due to a lack of urgency on the power play, “When the game’s on the line and we get a power play in the third period, we’ve got to find a way to put it in the net.”
Smith explained further, his PP units were, “Too slow, I just thought it was too deliberate. We’re looking for plays rather than playing fast, getting it to the net, recovering and getting it to the net. No matter who’s out there, when we’re good it’s “shoot, get it to the net, shoot, get it back.” And I just thought that we hadn’t done enough.”
The difference between winning and losing is minute. All Senators’ losses during this streak have been decided by a goal, at least late in games – with two being empty-netters.
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Leading his team and 12th league-wide (49) in shots on goal, DeBrincat is getting his opportunities to score. However, they’re just not going in for now. The Michigan resident’s 4.1 shooting percentage ranks third-lowest among all forwards registering 40 shots more. Only Florida Panthers’ Sam Bennett (2.4) and Seattle Kraken’s Oliver Bjorkstrand (2.1) rank behind DeBrincat.
Understandably, DeBrincat’s frustration is mounting, and said as much postgame Saturday evening, “I had some chances to put our team back in the game, tie it up. It’s definitely frustrating. Chances are coming. They’re just not going in the net. I feel like I’m letting the team down a little bit. But just come back Tuesday (vs. Vancouver), hopefully get one. See where it goes from there.”
It also didn’t help the club has been minus Artem Zub for the past four games after the defenseman sustained an upper-body injury. Zub not being in the Senators’ lineup over an extended period re-iterated the need for general manager Pierre Dorion to shore up his blue line – something he’s been attempting to do since the beginning of this past off-season.
For Claude Giroux, Saturday’s loss was extremely disappointing. Giroux opened the scoring against his former Flyers’ club, the team he served as captain for 10 seasons. The goal was career regular-season goal no.300.
While he was “Pretty pissed off,” the 16-year veteran chose to look forward and not dwell on the game, “We’re in a little hole, but I’ve been in bigger holes before and came out of it. Right now, I’m very frustrated, but not worried about it.”
The good news; Zub will likely re-enter the lineup Tuesday versus the Canucks which adds improved stability to the Senators’ back end.
The bad; the team can’t afford another possible loss this early in the 2022-23 campaign, one which the organization and its fans were hoping to see a marked improvement.
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