Now all Filatov has to do is score

WINNIPEG — Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean liked the way Nikita Filatov played in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
He did “a lot of the things” the coaches would like to see him do when he has the puck. He skated well, created the odd chance, including a two-on-one he probably should have scored on, and even forechecked.
So that’s a start.
Now, though, the 21-year-old Filatov has to do what’s going to keep him in the NHL: put up goals and assists.
As part of the audition that will either see him earn a permanent spot on the Ottawa roster or pack his bags for a return to Russia, Filatov is occupying some pricey real estate on the first line with Jason Spezza and Colin Greening.
But the NHL is nothing if not Darwinian.
If Filatov doesn’t produce, someone else is going to get a chance in that spot. Players and coaches get measured by results. That point was soberly made again Monday when Carolina Hurricane coach Paul Maurice and Washington Capital coach Bruce Boudreau were fired.
So while he liked the way Filatov played on Sunday, MacLean added an important postscript.
“(Filatov) has to earn his way there,” he said.
“We’re given him that opportunity again. He’s earned it with the way he’s gone to Binghamton and worked on his game.
“He has the skill level of a top-six forward, and we don’t have a lot of that on our team, so we want to make sure we give him the opportunity to show that he can do it, and that he wants to.”
Filatov maintains he’s got the motivational part of the equation covered. Yes, he wants to do it. He wants to be in the NHL.
But what’s starting to worry him is whether he can. Score in the NHL, that is.
Scoring has come easily for him in the AHL, where he has seven goals and five assists in 15 games.
But he has yet to score a goal for the Senators in the NHL. During training camp, he had three assists, and in seven regular-season games, he has just one assist.
He said sometimes it can be a consolation, like it was on Sunday, to know that you’ve played a good game even if you don’t get a point.
But he’s at the point where he needs a goal or two, even if his game contains some mistakes.
“(Scoring’s) a big part of it, but hopefully it’s going to start working,” he said.
“I just don’t want to get stressed about it.
“I’m still thinking and hoping that I’ll start scoring and get some points.
“It’s a pretty different thing to feel confident (in the AHL) and to feel confident here. I feel confident here, also, but it’s a good league and goalies are extremely good.
“I’m not being really frustrated, but of course it’s a big thing and you need to score, especially when you’re playing with guys like Spezza and on the power play.”
Spezza started the season with Filatov on a wing, so the players are developing some familiarity and he feels they can make something of their emerging chemistry.
“Me and (Greening) have great chemistry and have played together now for a good chunk of last season and the start of the this year, so we read off each other really well,” said Spezza.
“If we can help (Filatov) find the back of the net and give him some confidence, we have a chance to be a good line.”
While Filatov might be a little nervous knowing that this trial is going to last only so long, Spezza isn’t. Lines get shuffled all the time. If this works, then everyone wins. So it doesn’t feel funny being part of this experiment.
“I think every line is in a trial period,” he said.
“If you have one or two bad games, you end up being switched anyway. So I won’t approach it that way.
“I think maybe for (Filatov) he may approach it that way. But for me, it’s just a different guy on the right side and we want to make it work as quickly as possible, and try to give our team success.
“If we can be a good line, and (Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and Nick Foligno) can be a good line, that’ll give us two No. 1 lines.”

What do you think? Leave a comment