It’s been nearly six years since the Ottawa Senators last reached the playoffs – a run that saw them advance to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. Now, after years of disappointment, the franchise has found a glimmer of hope to end its drought.
The Senators are just five points out of the final wild-card seed in the East with 19 games remaining, and need to leapfrog only two competitors: the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
So can the Senators become the fourth Canadian team to enter the playoff conversation, joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets? Perhaps. But the odds are stacked against him.
That’s something Ottawa’s skaters have probably become accustomed to by now, as less than three weeks from the March 3 trade deadline, the franchise appears destined for another spring without meaningful hockey. At 24–24–3 with 51 points on February 12, the Senators were much closer to the draft lottery than a playoff spot.
Then, out of nowhere, the club won both of their back-to-back versus the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders, generating much needed momentum and marking the start of their late season postseason push.
From there, the Senators scored points in seven of their next nine contests and began a five-game winning streak, including a back-to-back sweep of the Detroit Red Wings in late February.
Ottawa posted an impressive 8–2–1 record from February 13 to March 4, beating the Boston Bruins (10–0–0) and the Minnesota Wild (8–1–2). And it kept the Sens within just a few points of wild-card status.
Much of that progress was undone on Monday as the Senators’ playoff aspirations took a significant blow following an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. To make matters worse, the Penguins, Islanders and Panthers were each victorious on Tuesday night.
This recent setback now places the franchise in a challenging position, tied with Buffalo and Washington on 68 points, five behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card seed and six behind New York for first. it has dropped ottawa too Playoff odds 19.6 percentLowest level since March 2.
The encouraging news is that the Senators remain in the playoff race, especially since they have two games up on the Panthers and three games up on the Islanders.
Strength of schedule not in favor of Senators
The Penguins, who have played the same number of games as Ottawa (63), figure to account for one of the two remaining spots due to their favorable postseason odds (91.5 percent). With 73 points on 32-22-9, the Penguins are in pretty good shape, but it also helps Eighth Easiest Balance Program (as of Wednesday) league-wide.
While the Islanders only have 16 games left, they are one spot behind Penn with the ninth-easiest remaining schedule. Meanwhile, Ottawa features the toughest remaining schedule in the league.
Failing to capture two points on the rebuilding Blackhawks was a missed opportunity for the Senators – something that will likely hurt even further down the stretch, as only three of their 19 remaining contests are against teams with a sub-500 winning percentage. Are.
First up is Thursday’s showdown at Climate Pledge Arena versus the Seattle Kraken, who enter the bout riding a five-game winning streak. If that wasn’t enough, the Senators have a brutal stretch from March 14-25 where they will face Edmonton, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa Bay and New Jersey.
Ottawa’s next 10 games could ultimately decide its playoff fate. Anything less than a 5-5 performance would almost certainly leave the franchise with little hope of catching up to New York or Pittsburgh. And the team certainly can’t afford repeated slip-ups like Monday night.
What Ottawa needs from its roster
One thing the Senators have going for themselves is an active roster with the addition of star defenseman Jacob Chichrane, who is slated to help provide relief for overworked D-men like Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson. was acquired. So far he has done exactly that.
The 24-year-old, who already has a goal and two points in three appearances with Ottawa, notched up his first marker at the Canadian Tire Center with his grandfather, John, in attendance.
Claude Giroux’s leadership could also be a noticeable factor down the stretch, as the 35-year-old has nine seasons of postseason experience — the most ever on the team. But Giroux can’t carry the club alone. He needs others to step up.
Most recently in Ottawa’s case, Tim Stutzl leads in goals (nine) and points (17) since February 13. Captain Brady Tkachuk has also served as a reliable source of offense, tied for second to Giroux in goals (six) and points (14).
Secondary scoring will be key the rest of the way, though, as the Senators need consistent production from Alex DeBrinette, Drake Batherson, Derrick Brassard and Shane Pinto, who have added just six points over the last three games.
Goal scoring will also be a big part of the puzzle. With Cam Talbot sidelined for three weeks due to injury, the responsibility will now shift to Mads Sogaard, who has a 2.77 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in seven NHL games in 2022-23.
senators have done this before
Ottawa’s current playoff hopes may seem impossible, and it apparently is, but the franchise has pulled off the impossible before. This season’s roster is not the same as it was in 2015 coming into the playoffs winning 23 of their last 31 games. Nevertheless, both versions were similarly positioned prior to their respective runs.
The 2014–15 Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot on February 9 and were eventually overtaken by seven other franchises to finish with the wild-card seed. This year’s team may not climb as high as its predecessors, but history may be repeating itself.
As a franchise expected to introduce a new ownership group in the coming months, welcoming them with an unexpected playoff run would be the ultimate surprise.