Loss doesn’t cloud Sens’ bigger picture

Loss doesn’t cloud Sens’ bigger picture
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Sometimes, it really is hard to see the big picture.
When a terrible Toronto Maple Leafs team saunters into Scotiabank Place, steals the show and embarrasses the Ottawa Senators organization — I’m not just talking about the no-show from the Senators’ top players, but also another no-show from Senators fans during Saturday’s 3-1 loss — it’s easy to lose sight of how shockingly successful the team’s season has been.
The energy level might have been low, as coach Paul MacLean suggested after the team played consecutive games on home nights and three games in four days, but the pride didn’t kick in on the ice and in the seats, either.
Ultimately, though, the game will be forgotten (outside of Leaf Nation, at least) when the Senators are in the playoffs in a few weeks time and when the boatload of future prospects are brought in to get a taste of big-league excitement and conditioning.
More on the present in a moment. But let’s pause to remember that only a few months ago, this season was supposed to be all about setting the groundwork for the future.
In the next few weeks, much of that future will be here. Jakub Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, Robin Lehner, Mark Borowiecki, André Petersson, Stéphane Da Costa, Stefan Noesen, Shane Prince and Jean-Gabriel Pageau — who all figure to play some type of role in the next wave of the team — could all be witnesses to the postseason, depending on how long their current teams stay alive in their respective seasons in North America and Europe.
“The thought is that the most obvious ones, if we’re playing for any length of time, we would bring them here as Black Aces and let them work out here,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the Citizen on Saturday. “We’ll give them a little bit of time with our strength-and-conditioning team.”
Lehner, Borowiecki, Petersson and Da Costa might expect to be here once Binghamton of the American Hockey League ends its season on April 14, which falls somewhere in the middle of the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Stone, Noesen, Prince and Pageau will start the playoffs with their respective Canadian Hockey League teams in the next week or two, but if their clubs are bounced early, the Senators will give them a first-hand look at NHL playoff fever.
Then there’s the case of Swedish stars Jakub Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, both of whom are in the midst of the Swedish Elite League playoffs.
Zibanejad, who turns 19 on April 18 and is already pencilled in to start the 2012-13 season with the Senators, will be back once Djurgardens is done. Silfverberg, named Swedish league MVP after scoring 24 goals and 30 assists in 49 games, will come overseas once his season with Brynas is complete.
The Senators have oversold young players in the past — defenceman David Rundblad quickly comes to mind — but Murray is cautiously optimistic about Silfverberg.
“I’m not going to suggest he’s a star or anything like that, but he’s a very good player. He’s a high-level kid. He’s got skill. He’s a responsible player. It looks like he’s got some real good offensive ability, so he’s got to be a candidate to be on this team (next season),” Murray said.
In the unlikely event that the Senators go on an extended postseason run and suffer a series of injuries, there’s also a remote chance that one of the youngsters could see action.
“You never know that,” Murray said. “If there’s a need or an opportunity for them, I don’t think we would be reluctant to put them in, but that’s not the goal.”
Silfverberg is a top candidate to play for Sweden at the world championship in early May and it’s possible that Zibanejad and or Lehner could join him.
All of that provides promise for the fans wondering where the Senators could be in a year or two.
As for the current situation, Murray and MacLean are banking that Sunday’s day off allowed their players to re-charge for the stretch run to the playoffs.
His leaders look tired. Daniel Alfredsson hasn’t scored in his past 10 games. Jason Spezza has one goal and four assists in his past nine games. It’s no coincidence that the Senators’ power play has scored in only one of its past eight games, going only 2-for-24 during that stretch.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Spezza understated after the loss to the Maple Leafs. “We’re not quite as sharp as we were two or three games ago. We had a little more poise before and now that we haven’t scored, we’re pressing a little bit and forcing shots and getting a few too many blocks. For us, it’s time to take a breath and look at what we did right and talk about what we did wrong.”
Fatigue can’t be an excuse from here on in. Compared to their rivals, the Senators have plenty of down time during the final three weeks of the regular season. Perhaps the biggest bright spot is they don’t have to deal with the mental block of playing the Maple Leafs.

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