In eight games since the trade deadline, the Ottawa Senators have been a completely different team, going 6-2-0 with two shutouts during that stretch.
This has largely been thanks to the re-emergence of Matt Murray in net, along with the youth beginning to take the first steps to become a winning team, but what has really changed causing this sudden surge?
Out with the old and in with the New
The trade deadline brought about change in Ottawa, with the Senators trading multiple pieces. This included Mike Reilly to the Boston Bruins, Brayden Coburn to the New York Islanders, and Erik Gudbranson to the Predators.
These were good moves by Pierre Dorion, freeing up space for the young Sens defensive core and giving them a good opportunity to play more minutes and in different situations, including on special teams.
The Emergence of the Youth
The Senators youth has finally been brought to the forefront of their recent win streak. The Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson line combining for 28 points in their last eight games. Which included a Josh Norris seven-game point streak with ten points in his last eight.
Alex Formenton and Shane Pinto have been excellent additions so far. With them being paired together on the same line and penalty kill they have been excellent on both fronts. Though not producing points they give that speed, energy, and electricity that every winning team needs.
Tim Stützle has had a rough time as of late in the second half of the season. Though he has three points in his last eight and has still been creating offense like no other. He has been a -2 during that stretch but he’s still the youngest on the team. And is still taking the strides to become that 1st line Centre/Winger that the Senators drafted him for.
Thomas Chabot has also seen a better streak as of late. With his ice time being brought down from 30 minutes a game to around a reasonable 25-27 minutes which isn’t much. But has done wonders for him. He now has six points in his last eight and is a +5 as well.
Artyom Zub has continued to impress everyone this year with his play. Being a +1 in the span with a goal to boot as well as being paired with Erik Brannstrom who is now being given top-four minutes, and has proven his claim to be a mainstay on the Senators blueline.
With three points and a +4 rating in the last eight, he is ready for the NHL now and no one can deny it.
Special Teams finally Special
The Ottawa Senators special teams this season have been lacklustre, to say the least especially the Power Play. But in the last eight, they’ve seemed to come alive with the Senators having a streak of four straight games with a Powerplay goal.
The penalty kill has been the real star of the show though. With Ottawa’s energy on the Unit seeming much grander with perimeter pressure on the opposing team’s defense enforced.
As well as an Attacking mindset when it comes to getting the puck out. Ottawa has its weapons ready even while a man down with guys like Connor Brown, Nick Paul, Alex Formenton, and Shane Pinto at the ready.
The Goalie Problem Solved?
The Senators since the start of the season have been plagued by bad goaltending all year long with Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg not living up to expectations. Matt Murray especially was quickly being called overrated and cooked by the media and fans with him posting a .879 save percentage and a near 4 GAA before the deadline
As well as going down with an injury. With that, the Ottawa Senators finally made a change concerning goaltending. They switched goalie coaches from Pierre Groulx and replaced him with Zach Bierk which as of right now seems to have done wonders for the Senators goaltending.
Since the trade deadline Matt Murray and the Ottawa Senators goaltending have come back to life with the team recording a 1.88 GAA in the span after the trade deadline good enough for 4th in the league. As well as two shutouts from the once again injured Matt Murray who now may be out for the rest of the season.
Any Playoff Hope Left?
Mathematically speaking yes the Ottawa Senators could very well still make the playoffs. But it’s an afterthought now with Montreal only needing one point to eliminate the Senators from the playoffs.
The Senators would need to go on a run resembling their 2014/15 season and win out the rest of their games. Montreal would just have to stop playing hockey for any chance at the playoffs.
But we need to look at the bright side. What we are watching right now is the future of our team. Our young guns are finally taking over, the defense has taken such great strides this year with Brannstrom and Zub and we’ve acquired stable goaltending for the future with the return of Matt Murray.
The Draft lottery looms, the Ottawa Senators still have tons of young prospects yet to break out or even make their NHL debut such as last year’s 5th overall pick Jake Sanderson who looks like an absolute beast for North Dakota.
As well as Free Agency this offseason. Does Ottawa go out and find another piece for a potential playoff push next season? Or do we bank on the prospects and players we already have? Only time will tell but one thing is for sure with this team. The Future is here and it is good.