Fast starts key as Ottawa Senators get contributions throughout lineup

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The past eight days, a terrific five-game stretch for the Ottawa Senators, could have been the turning point in a drive toward the playoffs.

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The emphasis is on “could have been.”

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But Senators fans know all too well that’s not going to happen.

With five straight wins – 5-2 over New Jersey, 5-3 over Edmonton, 6-2 over Buffalo, 2-0 over Chicago and the latest, 3-2 in Winnipeg Saturday – the Senators avoided doing many of the things that have made them mediocre much of this season.

There was good rebound control, their goalies played extremely well, defencemen stayed between the opposing player and the Ottawa net, the forwards backchecked. And, more.

You wonder, where has this been all season?

“Our start to the game,” Senators coach Jacques Martin explained to TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson Saturday. “When I look at those five games, we’ve had some good starts. Another component, our defensive play has been better. It’s tougher to get into our zone. Our defence has stood up more, there are better gaps. There’s help from the forwards coming back to help.

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“Also, we’re getting contributions from different people. (Saturday), we got a goal from (Ridly) Greig, we got a goal from (Boris) Katchouk. You’re getting production from your bottom six forwards; that’s really important.”

“Goaltending, defence, forwards, power play, penalty kill, everything’s really coming together,” said Greig. “It’s fun to play like that.”

“It’s the little things everybody’s been doing the past few games; you see the results we’ve had,” said Brady Tkachuk, who scored the game-winner against the Jets.

If you’re looking for a good reason why the Senators will be on the outside looking in come playoff time, how about this? Going into Saturday’s game in Winnipeg, they were 0-13-1 on the road against the Western Conference this season. Zero wins. That’s tough to bounce back from in the standings. 

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“I’ve seen the numbers of us (playing teams in) the Western Conference on the road this year, so (it was) nice to get the win (Saturday),” said Tkachuk.

The goaltending (Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg) has really stepped it up. Keeping the puck out of their own net has often dogged the Senators this season.

“We have full belief and trust in Korpy and Forsy; it’s nice to see them get rewarded,” said Tkachuk.

As the Senators play out the rest of their regular season – they’ve got nine games remaining – it’s already with an eye toward next year.

“(We’re looking) to keep the same kind of intensity and emotion,” said Martin. “There’s (been) a better commitment away from the puck, that’s been a big help. Our forwards are getting back quicker to help our D versus maybe hoping to get the puck back. They’re playing more of a 200-foot game. That’s been helpful.”

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There will be changes in Ottawa – it’d be a mistake to go status-quo – ahead of next season.

But, it’s good to talk about positives, something  we we haven’t been given much of a chance to do by the Senators, who, with a 33-36-4 record, are nearing the .500 mark.

Full credit to the effort the team has been showing.

“It’s been fun,” said Tkachuk, the team’s captain. “We want to keep building, keep working. Hopefully (Saturday’s victory) is one (win) of many down the stretch and into the future.”

On the other end of it Saturday, the Jets lost their sixth straight. They’re heading for the playoffs, but they’re also tumbling in the wrong direction. The home-town fans booed them off the ice after they were dispatched by the Senators.

After an off-day Sunday, the Senators practise Monday in preparation for a game in Minnesota Tuesday. The Florida Panthers are in Ottawa for a Thursday game. Ottawa is home to New Jersey Saturday, then hits the road for a Sunday game in Washington.

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