Season of surprise
Senators defying critics so far
VANCOUVER • After 20 games, the Ottawa Senators are one of the National Hockey League’s pleasant surprises this season.
So far, they’ve proved wrong the critics (this one included) who picked them to finish well out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
In the end, that’s where they could finish, proving everyone right, but on Saturday they were in the No. 8 position in the East and the players were feeling good about themselves.
“I think we had higher expectations of ourselves than other people had for us,” centre Jason Spezza said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be too easy to score goals, but we knew that we were going to have good goaltending and good special teams. We feel like there’s no reason we can’t compete every night.
“It wasn’t going to be easy, but we have a hard-working group, a group that has bought in. I don’t feel like we’re ever out of games, except for those first couple early on.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, hang around and take one game at a time. It’s a cliché, but that’s how we have to approach it.”
Goalie Craig Anderson pointed to two early beatings — 7-1 by the Colorado Avalanche and 7-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers, both on home ice — that helped lead to a turnaround.
He recalled going through a similar moment in Colorado when the Vancouver Canucks — tonight’s opponent at Rogers Arena — came in and blew out the Avalanche.
“Sometimes you need a boot for a couple of games to kind of wake up a little bit,” Anderson said. “But we’ve got great leaders in our room to boost morale when things aren’t going right, a great coach who comes in and simplifies things, makes guys feel confident about their games, not ‘Whoa, here we go again,’ kind of mentality.”
“(Coach Paul Maclean) has really been great with the guys to keep them positive, keep their confidence up.
“It’s a strange game: It doesn’t matter if you win 6-1 or lose 6-1. The sun comes up the next day and you have to get better.”
Now, Anderson said, the key is to play consistent hockey and show that the Senators are not just the flavour of the month. It’ll be more difficult, though, because teams now know what to expect from the Senators. No more surprises.
“When we started off the season, we knew there were going to be some humps to get over, some bumps and bruises,” he said.
“But to be able to throw some games together after going through some adversity, it’s just the perfect way to build confidence.
“I think it’s just great for guys to get their feet wet in the first 20 games, and now it’s time for everyone to kind of pitch in a little bit more and give a little bit more, because, after the 20-game mark, teams knows their systems and who’s playing pretty well, so you’ve got to be there every night.”
NO LINEUP CHANGES
Maclean said Saturday he was not anticipating making any changes to the lineup for the game against the Canucks, which means Anderson should start in net and defenceman David Rundblad will sit as a healthy scratch.
Defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) continues to practise with the Senators, and centre Peter Regin (shoulder) continues to work with conditioning coach Chris Schwarz, but neither will be back in the lineup any time soon.
There is also no indication when right-winger Chris Neil (ankle) might be back.