Watching the Senators of late has been agonizing - how could a team go from being considered a threat to the Montreal Canadiens of the 70's to a .500 team so quickly?
Their play harkens back to that fateful 05-06 season when they exploded out of the gate with a 27-6-3 record by January 1st. That team featured a high octane offense led by Alfredsson, Heatley, Spezza and Havlat and had a stud defense with Chara, Redden, Phillips. Dominik Hasek was the goalie and "Sugar" Ray Emery was the backup.
That team was destined for greatness until they decided to coast their way to the playoffs. Inconsistent play and poor defensive breakdowns after the Olympics ensued and it appeared most nights that they thought their record would scare most teams.
Then the injuries started to pile up...
- Hasek injured himself at the Olympics
- Alfredsson injured his hip
- Chara hurt his hand
- Phillips was hurt
- Redden had personal issues to deal with
Emery was forced to be the starting goaltender for the remainder of the season but there was always controversey surrounding Hasek and his return. Line juggling was the order of the day as Murray tried to find the right combinations.
On many nights the Sensators would roar out to a 2 or 3 goal lead only to lose the lead and the game.
In the first round of the playoffs they cruised by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 but game one of the Sabres series showed that the team had lost it's ability to play defensive hockey at all. The Sabres capped the series by scoring the series winning goal in Overtime shorthanded.
If you compare that team to this season's edition you can be scared to see the similarities....
The Sens destroyed everyone most nights to begin the season. Their defensive play was superb and their offense was lighting it up. And then the controversy began when Emery was able to play again.
While the play of Martin Gerber was great, as soon as he realized that Emery was ready to go his play started to falter and he lost his confidence. The team never gave him the green light as the number one and as a result the Senators have no clue which goaltender is the right one or if they can carry the load.
And now the injury bug is back. Volchenkov then Spezza then Heatley then Alfredsson got hurt in succession. The defensive zone play is horrible, leads are given up frequently. The leader of their defense (Redden) doesn't appear to want to play at times.
Line juggling to find the right combinations has left Paddock feeling perplexed. Now the team is constantly fighting at practice and there seems to be nobody stepping up to take a leadership role.
Maybe this is all just coincidence but doesn't it feel like 05-06 all over again?