It took three series, four number one goalies, two Vernia winners, and a game seven double overtime, but the Ottawa Senators are done for the year.
What we know from watching this team play for the last two months is they are right there at the cusp of winning it all. Craig Anderson isn’t just the best goalie no one talks about, he’s the best player no one talks about. There might be two other goalies in the NHL who could have taken the team this far, I would quibble at three, and laugh uprorariously at four or more. We know a healthy Bobby Ryan is still at worst among the twenty best shooters in the NHL.Ryan displayed whim of steel and the drive of an freight train delivering goals, hits, overtime game winners, and most of all leadership to a Senators team that no one picked to make it any further than round two.
Erik Karlsson has put any and all reasonable doubts into the grave. Is the the best defender in his own zone? No. Is he the skating tire fire he was there through his first four years? No, not even close. His scoring we’ve all come to expect, what many people will have noticed is that he does his best defensive work out at the top of the defensive zone as teams are still working their way in. The fact that he carried the team this far is amazing, add in the heel fractures and you’re talking about the story of player who will be well remembered ten, twenty, and thirty years after his last game.
Guy Boucher pulled off another maestro level concerto. In fact given the roster he had to do it with, what he did was the equivalent of playing world class concert piano while missing three fingers on one hand. The Senators roster had two viable top four defensemen in Karlsson and Phaneuf, two more filling that role, of you squinted hard enough in Methot and Ceci, and aside from Anderson, Ryan, Turris, and Pageau not much else anywhere on the ice. Any time you have to name a guy who would play third line or below on twenty five teams in the NHL as a top three force among your forwards over the course of a three round playoff run you have a seriously, critically deficient roster and only your coach is keeping it afloat.
That’s why this summer Eugene Melnyk needs to step up and add talent to this roster. Guys like Joe Thornton and TJ Oshie who have played demanding systems before and desperately want to win a Cup would slide right into the roster. Carl Alzner would shore up the backend. Can they land all of those players? Likely not. Will they need to make major moves over the next twelve months to be cap complaint two October’s from now? Absolutely. Kyle Turris, Cody Ceci, Zack Smith, and Mark Stone are all due contracts in that time. J.G. Pageau is going to get paid somewhere this summer. And the window for Anderson, Karlsson, Ryan is not getting wider.