the league, Craig Anderson was poised to take Ottawa on another run to the playoffs. But his stats dropped drastically along with the play of his defenders and on the heels of a tough playoff series with the Penguins. Anderson’s .911 save percentage and 3.00 GAA were his worst performances since the 2005-06 season. But fans were comforted by the fact that goalie-in-waiting, Robin Lehner, was in the wings. Unfortunately, his numbers were even worse in the 36 games he played. Ottawa showed faith in both goalies by giving them each a threeyear contract extension in the offseason, and the front office has made it clear that there’s an open competition for playing time. They’re confident that having two goalies worthy of a number one spot is a good problem to have. Power Play The Ottawa Senators’ power play finished in the middle of the pack last season. An 18.5 percent success rate ranked them 14th in the NHL, but it’s not a new concern for the Senators. Last season was the best season the unit has had since 2008-09. Replacing Spezza will, of course, be the major issue. He has nine power-play goals in 75 games last season and he scored 90 goals and 362 power-play points in his eleven year run with the Senators. It’s more responsibility for Karlsson as he transitions into the face of the team. He set up many of the plays finished by Spezza from the point, assisting on 26 power-play goals. Those plays will mostly end up on the sticks of MacArthur, Turris and Ryan. The three forwards combined for 20 power play goals last season and that number should go up this year. Penalty Kill The team’s penalty kill was dreadful last season. Just one year removed from being the stoutest team in the league, Ottawa’s kill rate fell to 80.9 percent and ranked 22nd in the NHL. To compound the problem, Ottawa was completely undisciplined and served far too many penalties. Their 320 times shorthanded and 61 goals allowed both ranked secondto last in the league. Head coach Paul MacLean has vowed to turn the unit around and the first glimpses Erik Karlsson into his plan include using Ryan on the penalty kill. Ryan has expressed interest in finding his role with the team, and this could give him a chance to get more ice time. Andre Ringuette/NHL/Getty Images The acquisition of Legwand will also give a bit of new energy and leadership to the group. Defensemen Methot and Cowen will contribute again, and both MacArthur and Turris play a significant role in killing penalties. Three Questions 1. Can the Senators recover from losing another team leader? With Alfredsson and Spezza gone, this is completely Erik Karlsson’s team. He is the best defenseman in the league in the offensive zone, and there is plenty of talent around him to be a strong offense once again. The Senators are more worried about the defensive end where they have faltered. If Karlsson can inspire that group to tighten up, Ottawa will be a tough team to beat going forward. 2. Will Craig Anderson bounce back after a poor year? Anderson had a career year in 2012-13 and the Senators hoped to carry that momentum into last season. But after a tough playoff exit, Anderson came out flat and never recovered. That great season was no fluke. Anderson has been a top goalie for a while, and Ottawa expects big things from him this year. 3. Can Paul MacLean get Ottawa under control? The Senators were undisciplined last season and it const them. Their margin for error will be even smaller this season without Spezza. If the team’s penalty kill units see as much ice time as they did last season, Ottawa will have to make a remarkable improvement to stay competitive. MacLean’s job depends on getting this group of talented player back on track. Prediction With Erik Karlsson on the blue line, the Senators have a chance to win every night. Unfortunately, their defense is not good enough as a whole to sustain that. But if Craig Anderson plays better and the team continues to rack up the points, the Ottawa Senators will be competing for a wild card spot this season.
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