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Sens Offensive Surge

Last season the Ottawa Senators were the second lowest scoring team in the league.  They averaged 2.32 goals per game and finished third last in the East Conference.  This season they have seen an offensive improvement.  They have improved to 3.03 goals per game, which puts them seventh place in the league.  This moves the Sens to eighth in the East Conference.  It does not solve all the Sens problems as they still allow a lot of goals, the second highest goals against per game in the league, but it is a significant step in the right direction.

Last season only two Sens players exceeded 35 points.  They were Jason Spezza with 57 points and Erik Karlsson with 45 points.  Those two remain the Sens top scorers at 37 and 31 points respectively.  As long as they stay healthy both should easily exceed last year’s totals.  Six more players are on pace to exceed the 35 point threshold.  This gives Ottawa offensive depth that it did not have last year.

These six players are Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, Nick Foligno, Sergei Gonchar, Zach Smith and Colin Greening.  Michalek, Alfredsson and Gonchar are all NHL veterans who fell short last year in their offensive totals in part because of injury.  None of those three exceeded 67 games played.  Nick Foligno is taking a step forward in his fifth NHL season.  He should easily exceed his 34 point career best last season.  Zach Smith is having his first full season in his NHL career.  Last season he played 55 games and he should exceed that easily.  Colin Greening is officially still a rookie.  He played 24 games last season and the rookie threshold is 25. 

Last year was a case of the Sens hitting rock bottom.  Their veterans were unproductive and often hurt.  Their younger players were yet to develop.  As a result their offence fell apart.  This happened on a team with a weak defence and the bottom fell out in the standings.  The offence is better this season, as last year’s results are unrepeatable.  The defence is still in bad shape.  That will prevent the Senators from being a top team, but as long as the offence produces they won’t be in the race for the bottom either.

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Da lil Guy's avatar

The Sens have been a treat to watch this year. After last year’s firesale, most fans were readying themselves for a year filled with lopsided losses. If the team was to win at all, it was going to be on the back of Craig Anderson. Offensively, if we were going to get any production from anyone but Spezza and Karlsson, we thought it might be from Bobby Butler (if he was able to carry over some of the production from the last 24 games of last year).

This has not come to pass. Anderson has been average and Butler (2 goals, both in one game, from the fourth line) has been a ghost. The year started with some blowouts - a few in which the Sens battled back somewhat after going down early.

Good, fans thought - don’t mind losing as long as the young kids are trying and improving.

Not good enough for Paul MacLean, though.

MacLean knows what he expects from these guys, and he and his staff have put both the Veterans and young players in a position to meet those expectations.

I can’t say enough about Erik Karlsson - he’s so fun to watch offensively - but the real treat is how much better he’s become defensively. Although still a minus player (held over from those early season blowouts) he’s learned to be effective in his own end. That means the coach can play him 25+ minutes a night and not worry about exposing him to the opposition’s top lines. He’s flourished.

Nick Foligno was apparently getting a lot of mixed messages from the previous coaches asking him to ‘think the game better’. This year, he’s been asked to simplify and it’s working for him.

The most glaring defensive mistakes were coming from Rundblad. Most fans (still in ‘rebuild mode’) were more than happy to wait for him to round out. Hoping for another Karlsson. However, trading him addressed a long term organizational need for a number two centre…and for those screaming that the trade compromises the rebuild, it need only be pointed out that Kyle Turris becomes the youngest forward on the Sens roster.

Trading Rundblad now is addition by subtraction. I really think he can be great one day but he doesn’t belong in the NHL right now. At least not under the microscope as he was in Ottawa. The Sens defence becomes much more balanced as the defensively minded Matt Carkner steps in for Rundblad.

The Sens obviously aren’t a top team right now, but so far this season we’ve seen a major step forward and it gives reason to believe that things are going in the right direction.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 12/22/11 at 05:53 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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