Washington Capitals Opponent Outlook: Ottawa Senators


Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators both are looking to improve on a strong 2014-15 season, which led to playoff appearances for both teams.

The Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators both enter the 2015-16 season with the postseason on their agenda. The Senators will compete in the improved Atlantic Division. They’ll look to prove that the incredible run that they went on over the final two months of the season to earn a playoff bid wasn’t a fluke. 

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The Ottawa Senators had a relatively quiet offseason. They did make a splash at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by trading young goaltender Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st overall pick. They also signed several key young players to extensions, such as Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, and Mike Hoffman. Erik Condra departed in free agency to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As a budget team, it wasn’t expected that the Senators would make a big signing in free agency. They also have a relatively young core. The Senators are much better off continuing to develop their own talent. Behind the incredible play of Andrew Hammond, the young squad was able to put up a good fight against the higher-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

They ultimately fell in six games in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team made history getting there, as they were the first team in NHL history to overcome a 14-point deficit in the standings and still make the playoffs.

This year’s Senators squad will be once again led by phenomenal defenseman Erik Karlsson, who led the team in points last season with 66. The Senators also got some promising play by Kyle Turris, who was thrust into the top-line center role after the team traded Jason Spezza following the 2013-14 season. One player that will need to step up for the senators this year is Bobby Ryan, who scored just 18 goals last year, while putting up 54 points.

Among some of the young talent that the Senators would like to keep developing this year is Mike Hoffman. Hoffman netted a surprising 27 goals last season, totaling 48 points. Mika Zibanejad was able to chip in 46 points, and Mark Stone had his breakout season with 26 goals and 64 points. He looks to have surpassed Ryan on the depth chart. Curtis Lazar is another young player to keep a close eye on, as well as Cody Ceci who will look to gain a more prominent role on the Sens’ blueline.

One of the biggest battles to keep an eye on here is the goaltending situation in Ottawa. They signed Hammond for the next three years. Craig Anderson is absolutely going to see some significant time in net. Neither of these two has been particularly impressive during the preseason. They should turn it around behind a full-strength squad.

Hammond had a world-beating run through the end of the regular season. It was Anderson who started four of the Senators’ six playoff games. In those games, Anderson posted an incredible 0.97 GAA and .972 Sv%. It just wasn’t enough for the team to crack Carey Price.

Hammond struggled mightily in his first postseason experience. He was still rewarded with a hefty contract for someone who started just 24 games last season. Unless one of Hammond or Anderson severely under-performs or greatly surpasses expectations, the two will split time in net to some degree. The Senators will be able to decide who to go with in the future as well.

The Washington Capitals faced the Ottawa Senators three times last season. The Washington Capitals won two of the contests, the first being on December 22nd in DC (a 2-1 victory). The other Washington Capitals win came on February 5th, this time at a score of 2-1 in Ottawa. The lone Ottawa victory in the season series came late in the season during Hammond’s heroic run, a 4-3 victory in overtime on home ice. Mike Green and Marcus Johansson led the Capitals in scoring over the season series with three points each. Kyle Turris and four other Senators led the Senators with two points each.

The Washington Capitals will once again face off with the Senators three times this upcoming season. The first encounter will come on December 16th in DC. The Senators will once again visit Washington a short time later on January 10th. The Washington Capitals make their lone trip to the other nation’s capital on March 22nd.

The Washington Capitals may be further ahead of the curve than the Senators in their quest for the Stanley Cup. However, Ottawa is a team that could surprise some people if they can carry last season’s late success into this season. If the young players can continue to impress and the veterans can produce their fair share, the Senators will find their way back to the playoffs.

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