For the last 2 weeks, the Ottawa Senators have gone 5-1 and the constant talk in the media from players, coaches and managers is what valuable experience the young guns are getting by playing against and spoiling the playoff picture for their adversaries.
What no one is saying, and they need to start saying, is that the Senators are still in the hunt for a playoff spot THIS YEAR. I know you may question either my sanity or my sobriety. However, hear me out. There is a method to my madness. Besides, it is a whole lot more fun believing the games matter than just sticking it to the Habs.
I know Tank Nation is probably cringing with every Sens win taking us further and further from the lottery odds for getting the number 1 pick. However, can you name who that consensus player is? Neither can I. Neither can the scouts. Also, how many Alpha Dogs can one team have? We are prospect rich. I would seriously entertain offers for that 1st round pick if I thought it would get me into the playoffs next year. That is a different article I am afraid. For now, we need a winning culture.
How are we going to make this happen? Well, I cannot stress this first point enough. We do not have any more games left against the Oilers. Montreal and Calgary play them twice each and Vancouver plays them four times. McDavid is shredding the league like Monterrey Jack and the Oilers want first place in round one. They just became our 2nd favourite team.
After that, it starts in goal. There is a new Hamburglar in town and his name is Marcus Hogberg. I know with a 4-7 record and a 0.876 save %, it is hard to imagine this guy could win out in his last 8 starts. However, Andrew Hammond was having a very pedestrian season in the AHL (7-13-2 and .898 save %) in February 2015 when Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner went down and he stepped in and went 20-1-2 and resurrected the Senators season and took them to the playoffs. Until that point, Hammond had never shown he could play in the NHL. Hogberg played 24 games last year and had very respectable numbers on a bad team (5-8-8 and 0.908 save %). Matt Murray has gone down. Anton Forsberg has gone down. Sound familiar?
Secondly, the Senators are hotter than the proverbial pistol right now. They do not need Hogberg to be great and steal games. They just need him to keep them in the games. It would be very easy to argue that, even if the Senators do not make the playoffs, they are clearly better than Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. A season start of 2-12-1 is tough to overcome.
Consider these facts:
Senators can max out at 54 points if they win out
The tie-breakers at the end of the season are
Regulation/Overtime wins. Senators trail 20-17 to both the Flames and Habs. However, we already established that the Senators were not going to lose anymore games. Put them down for 23.
Points in their season series excluding the first home game for the team that got the extra game. The Senators have already won the season series against the Flames regardless of the outcome of the last game. We lead the season series against Montreal with 2 games to play but we already established that we are winning those games. The Canucks won the season series 3-4-2. However, that extra home game was a 7-1 loss to the Canucks so it is actually a tie. This does not really concern me as they will not have as many regulation/overtime wins at the end of the season.
Goal differential will not help us. It will not matter.
Based on items in B, as long as none of the Canucks, Habs or Flames get more than 54 points, the Senators will advance to the playoffs.
The Oilers trail the Leafs by only 7 points and 3 if they win their games in hand. They are motivated to keep playing hard.
The Jets are a long shot to get 1st place. However, they could get 2nd place if the Oilers fall off. The Senators play them twice down the stretch and they may be sitting players or just gearing up for round one.
Now let us evaluate the teams we are trying to beat to 54 points.
The Senators just passed the Canucks in the standings by virtue of winning 3 of the last 4 games. I understand that Vancouver has 7 games in hand. However, they have 12 games to play in 19 days in May. It was a nice fairly-tale moment when they took 2 games from the Leafs after their long layoff. Any honest, observer could see that those wins were a case of amazing goaltending from Brayden Holtby and swiss cheese from Jack Campbell and David Rittich. They had no business winning those games and that schedule will be the death of them and their season. The Senators dominated the Canucks so thoroughly in their 3 victories, it is almost impossible to believe this team dominated them back in January. No Elias Petersson…no hope. If they get to 50 points, I will be impressed. We should want them to as they will be taking points from the Flames in the process.
Flames GM, Brad Treliving, sent a message to his own team by trading David Rittich and Sam Bennett at the deadline and not acquiring anyone who can help them now. The message is that this is not their year. That team quit on itself weeks ago and the coaching change to Darryl Sutter has not yielded any gains. They have lost Noah Hanifin for the season and he was playing better than he ever had. The Flames have two games in hand on the Senators and 8 remaining overall. That game against the Senators on May 9th will be the game that eliminates them. You heard it here first. They might get to 54 but the Senators have the tie breaker.
Do you have any faith in the Montreal Canadiens? They do not have their leader in Brendan Gallagher and it shows. Johnathan Drouin has just left the team for personal reasons and despite what Habs fans may say about that, he is better than anything they have to backfill. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is not a number one center, Shea Weber is finally looking his age and Carey Price is injured. Jake Allen is a capable but a Hamburglar he is NOT. They sit at 51 points. They will get to 54 and we will win the tie-breaker.
If you look at the remaining schedule, the Habs play the Leafs 4 times and the Senators twice. They do not play the Canucks or Flames to pick up points. The Canucks and Flames play each other 4 times. Of those 4, they play the last 3 to close out the season. By then, Vancouver will be a beaten team from their schedule and the Flames will have mailed it in.
Final Standings will be:
I know you think I am a few pucks short of a full bag. However, the Canucks are in the process of losing to the Leafs as I write this. The Senators will be waiting in Montreal while the Habs are losing to the Jets, which they are sure to do. Then the Senators will go out and take a tired and defeated Habs team to school on two full days rest. The Habs will have burned one of their games in hand. The Senators will have closed the gap to 7 points and the choke will be in full swing.
Doubt me or debate me. Commit me or hate me. See you in 3 weeks when my Doomsday predictions for the Canucks, Flames and Habs will make Nostradamus sit up and take notice.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey