The Canadiens face the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday for the second weekend in a row. This will be the finale of back-to-back games for the struggling Sens, who are in Buffalo tonight.
They head into tonight’s game with a 1-4-1 record. the same as New Jersey had prior to Thursday’s win in Montreal. But unlike the Devils, a talented club that had yet to find it’s (boring) rhythm, the Sens could be a team with some serious flaws.
On Wednesday, GM Bryan Murray met with the local media, told them he was talking to other GMs about trades and in the words of Ken Warren of The Ottawa Citizen, was “brutally honest” about his club through six games, Warren summarizing it as, “They can’t defend. They can’t hit. They
can’t stop the puck from getting past their goaltenders.”
That sunny assessment has its roots in Sens the defence corps, which no longer includes Anton Volchenkov but does include Erik Karlsson, who had been impressive last year as a 19 year old rookie with strong skating and puckhandling.
When Filip Kuba went down with a broken leg in training camp, it disrupted coach Corey Clouston’s plan to play him again with Karlsson. So Clouston had to split up his projected veteran pair of Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips and move each of them with a younger defenceman. He’s been forced to constantly shuffle his pairings and that hasn’t worked too well.
Gonchar is often out against the other team’s top forwards but he and Karlsson are tied with a team-worst minus-4. Karlsson’s once-poised style of play has gone missing and he seems tentative compared to last year.
Wayne Scanlan wrote in The Citizen that Karlsson “has looked complacent, showing more of a sense of
entitlement than initiative” and wonders if Karlsson is out of shape.
Third-year defenceman Brian Lee has been so shaky that Murray recalled journeyman David Hale from the AHL this week.
Another youngster, third line center Peter Regin, hasn’t produced up to expectations either. He’s only got an assist in six games.